AMSHeR Celebrates Dr Paul Semugoma’s Release and Commends the Solidarity of Allies and Partners!

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[Johannesburg] – The African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR] celebrates the release of Ugandan HIV/AIDS gay rights activist, and AMSHeR Board member, Dr. Paul Semugoma. We commend the efforts and solidarity of allies and partners leading up to the release of Dr. Paul Semugoma. South African immigration officials held Dr. Semugoma in detention from the 17th of February 2014 until his release yesterday evening from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is despite a High Court ruling by Judge Mabuse calling for Dr. Semugoma’s immediate release on the 18th of February 2014.

Local, regional and international human rights, LGBT, HIV organisations including other civil society organisations and individual activists rallied in support of Dr. Semugoma through a vigorous and highly visible “Free Paul” campaign and called for the South African government, in particular its Department of Home Affairs, not to deport Dr. Semugoma to his country of birth.

Should Dr. Paul Semugoma, have been deported to Uganda, he would have faced State condoned violations of his human rights including violence, assault, arbitrary arrest by state police and/or harassment due to the stand that he has publicly expressed on many occasions to Ugandan stakeholders against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This is especially in light of the country’s degrading situation of human rights for men who have sex with men [MSM] and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] persons and the reportedly impending ascension into law of its Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the President, Yoweri Museveni.

“It is a travesty that the Department of Home Affairs should act in total violation of the rule of law by choosing to ignore Judge Mabuse’s ruling even more so considering the potential backlash awaiting Dr. Semugoma, who is openly gay, should he have been deported. It would have been simply unacceptable for a country that has been internationally applauded for its progressive Constitution and equality laws that are protective of sexual minorities to deport an openly gay man to a country infamous for intolerance and hatred of sexual minorities, especially at this time given recent developments in Uganda. We are very pleased that Dr. Semugoma has been released, but also strongly feel that the government of South Africa should consistently lead by example and uphold the equality and protection of the human rights of LGBT persons!” said Tendai Terrence, AMSHeR Communications Officer.

While appreciating the Department of Home Affairs decision to release Dr Paul and grant him a visa, AMSHeR urges the South African government and in this particular case, the Department of Home Affairs to respect and obey the rule of law without waiting for pressure and to particularly protect minority groups within its borders from unfair discrimination. The Government must also hold public officials and state institutions to the highest standard of decorum and discipline; erring officials regardless of position must be subject to the rule of law.

Background

 

On Monday, 17 February 2014 at 1400HRS Dr. Paul was detained by South African immigration upon his return from a business trip to neighbouring Zimbabwe. The reason for his detention at immigration is alleged to be because he did not have a valid permit to grant him access into the country. However Dr. Semugoma’s partner, who was travelling with him at the time informed us that Dr. Semugoma was in possession of a valid letter from the Department of Home Affairs that was to serve as an immigration pass while Dr. Semugoma awaited his South African visa to be issued by the Department of Home Affairs. Further, in the matter between Dr. Paul Semugoma and the Minister of Home Affairs on the 18th of February 2014, High Court Judge Mabuse issued a court order compelling the Minister of Home Affairs to interdict and immediately release Dr. Paul Semugoma. The Depart of Home Affairs however failed to comply with this ruling and continued to disobey the rule of law.

On Tuesday 19 February 2014, Dr. Semugoma was presented with a one-way ticket to Uganda as immigration officials tried to force him on a flight despite the High Court ruling demanding his release. His vocal opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from when it first came to light placed his life in grave danger in Uganda and Dr. Semugoma moved to South Africa where he has been living for the last three years.

For further enquiries contact –

African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR]: Kene C. Esom, +2711 482 4630, kene@amsher.net