SA urged not to deport Ugandan doctor

2014-02-19 15:03

Rights groups have urged South Africa’s government to halt the deportation of a Ugandan doctor and gay rights activist over fears that he will be at risk if he is sent home.

Paul Nsubuga Semugoma, a medical doctor who has lobbied against Kampala’s tough pending anti-homosexuality legislation, was detained in South Africa on Monday by immigration officials.

Six rights groups issued a statement calling on South Africa’s government not to expel Semugoma, saying he was “wanted” in Uganda for his “activism” around gay issues.

“The human rights situation in Uganda has deteriorated, and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community is particularly vulnerable at this time,” the groups said.

“Paul is at risk should he be deported to Uganda,” they said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced that he would sign into law a controversial anti-gay bill, passed by parliament in December, that would see homosexuals jailed for life.

Marcus Low of the Treatment Action Campaign said Semugoma had “been a very active opponent of the homophobic law”.

“He would definitely be in danger if he returned to Uganda now because of the current climate and because he is openly gay and openly critical of the homophobic law,” said Low.

The rights groups planned to go to court today to seek Semugoma’s release after immigration officials refused to let him go yesterday despite a court order to do so.

Semugoma was detained at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International airport when returning from neighbouring Zimbabwe.

He applied for a South African work permit in 2012. After the application was declined twice, he was given a receipt for travel by the home affairs department.

“Paul was allowed to travel using his official passport and a receipt from the department,” said the rights groups.

“After several trips in and out of South Africa, Paul returned from a meeting in Zimbabwe earlier this week and was arrested.”

Semugoma has volunteered at the Anova Health Institute Johannesburg, which focuses on HIV, for three years.

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