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Prominent Ugandan doctor, LGBT rights activist detained in South Africa

Thursday, February 20, 2014
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Human rights activists are calling on the South African government to release a prominent Ugandan doctor and LGBT rights activist who is being held in an immigration detention facility at OR Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg pending further deportation proceedings.

Dr. Paul Semugoma

Dr. Paul Semugoma

Dr. Paul Semugoma could face imprisonment in his native Uganda for his outspoken advocacy for LGBT rights if Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signs the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which provides for a sentence of life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality, as well as punishment for those convicted of being supportive of LGBT people.

Ugandan political analyst Kenneth Wamayi said Wednesday that deporting Semugoma would be “a very poor decision.”

“This is at a time when President Yoweri Museveni is gearing up for elections. He will ensure that Semugoma gets arrested, charged and sent to jail to rot,” reported South African news outlet The NewAge SA.

Semugoma was arrested and detained on Monday after arriving from Zimbabwe with an expired visitor’s visa. Local advocacy groups had immediately sought his release and obtained a court order from the South Gauteng High Court.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs claimed that the government was not ignoring the court’s ruling, instead had placed an immediate appeal of the decision and was acting within its own authority.

“The order was granted without the Department of Home Affairs having had representation in court in line with the audi alterem partem (hear the other side too) rule,” Home Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said. “In this regard, Dr Semugoma‘s visitors visa has expired and it is on this basis that entry into South Africa has been denied.”

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“I am not surprised the SA government under leadership of President Zuma is disobeying a court order,” said San Francisco human rights attorney and activist Melanie Nathan, a native of South African. “Zuma through his appointment of known homophobe Jon Qwelane as SA Ambassador to Uganda and the roaring silence of both he and Qwelane on the anti gay bill is indicative of their support of state sanctioned homophobia.”

“Zuma, as head of the only country in Africa with a full equality constitution should release him (Semugoma) along with a statement condemning the bill,” Nathan told LGBTQ Nation.

Semugoma fled Uganda after his colleague David Kato, was murdered in 2011 for gay rights activism.

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