SA urged to halt Ugandan gay activist deportation

2014-02-19 14:46

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Johannesburg - Rights groups urged South Africa's government on Wednesday to halt the deportation of a Ugandan doctor and gay rights activist over fears that he will be at risk if 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."

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

Marcus Low of the AIDS activist 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 he's openly critical of the homophobic law," he said.

Detained

The rights groups planned to go to court on Wednesday to seek Semugoma's release after immigration officials refused to let him go on Tuesday, 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 lost twice, he was given a receipt for travel by the Department of Home Affairs.

"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 Johannesburg-based Anova Health Institute, which focuses on HIV, for three years.

Read more on:    yoweri museveni  |  uganda  |  gay rights  |  east africa
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