Archive for May, 2008
The closing of Lambda would be a devastating blow for the European LGBT emancipation movement.
A leading gay rights organisation has been ordered to dissolve itself by a court in Turkey.
A department of the Istanbul Governor’s office responsible for non-governmental organisations alleged that the group, Lambda Istanbul, violates Turkish laws on morality.
They claimed that Lambda violates both the Penal Code, as an association in violation of “law and morals,” and Article 41 of the Turkish constitution, which is concerned with “the peace and welfare of the family.”
Lambda Istanbul was founded in 1993 and registered as an association in May 2006.
The city government of Isatabnul claimed that the association’s statute was immoral and although the prosecutor initually rejected the claims citing freedom of association.
The city government then appeal to court and there have been a number of hearings, the most recent today in the Beyoglu 3rd Civil Court of First Instance.
The group said in a statement: “The way we see this process is that LGBT organizations that currently exist either in practice or as registered entities in Turkey are trying to be pushed out of the legal domain.
“Instead of accepting their existence and protecting their basic rights, the state authorities choose to condemn LGBT people, by depriving them of their right to association.”
Lambda Istanbul will appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal. They are the first gay rights group to be closed by any member or candidate member of the European Union.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement:
“A Beyoglu court today ordered the dissolution of Lambda Istanbul in the ongoing case brought against them.
“An HRW representative was at the court and witnessed the hearing.”
“Lambda will take the case to the Court of Appeal (Yargitay) but it represents sustained, prolonged, and legally indefensible harassment of a human rights organisation.”
Lambda Istanbul aims to “support all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to adopt equality as a value”.
It has actively lobbied for legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Government officials have made similar legal moves to shut down other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organisations in Turkey but failed.
Kaos GL, based in Ankara, faced a demand for closure from Ankara’s deputy governor, Selahattin Ekmenoglu, in 2005. The closure petition was dismissed by prosecutors.
The chairman of Dutch gay rights group COC, Frank van Dalen, says that closing Lambda Istanbul would be against non-discriminatory guidelines issued by the European Union and against the universal right to free speech.
Turkey is a candidate country for EU membership, but concerns about human rights are one factor frustrating negotiations.
The closing of Lambda would be a devastating blow for the European LGBT emancipation movement, according to COC.
Mr Van Dalen has called on the Dutch government to not support Turkey’s application for EU membership until “basic human rights are fully respected by Turkey.”
A memorial to the thousands of gay men who died in Nazi concentration camps will be officially dedicated today.
It is being constructed opposite the main Holocaust memorial for Jewish victims in Tiergarten Park in Berlin at a cost of 600,000 euros (£450,000).
The government agreed to the design earlier this year, four years after the memorial was agreed in principle.
Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen have designed a grey concrete slab, with a window to allow visitors to view a video.
There will be a video which show either two men kissing, Berlin’s first memorial to the Nazi’s gay victims.
Its design echoes Peter Eisenman’s Berlin memorial to the Nazis’ Jewish victims, a vast field of more than 2,700 slabs.
The German parliament approved the construction of the memorial in December 2003.
Between 5,000 and 15,000 gay men were held in concentration camps by the Nazis as members of an “anti-social group.”
Historians estimate that 60% of them died while incarcerated.
After the war gay men were not recognised as victims of the Holocaust and many were re-imprisoned by the authorities because of the sexuality.
They were denied the reparations and state pensions available to other groups. In 2002 the German government formally pardoned homosexuals imprisoned by the Nazis.
As well as an estimated six million Jews, hundreds of thousands of Roma people died in Nazi concentration camps. A memorial to them will be constructed later this year.
Many of you know that violence against foreigners, primarily other Africans, has broken out in South African townships, with killings and mayhem in the Johannesburg area, and less violent, but potent harassment happening in Cape Town. As of this morning more than 50 people have been killed and over 20,000 displaced from their homes.
In Cape Town, probably 10,000 or so people have fled their homes to the safety of police stations, churches, committee centres. The city has opened up 4 refugee camps as well over the weekend.
Though they are not refugee rights or relief organizations, the Treatment Action Campaign and the AIDS Law Project here in Cape Town have been leading the civil society response to the crisis. The office building where TAC, ALP (ARASA and Sonke Gender Justice) share offices has been turned into gigantic relief operation led by TAC and ALP.
Hundreds of people have streamed through the offices volunteering their help, packing up blankets, food, and other essential supplies to bring out to the refugees. In addition, TAC and ALP are providing much of the political leadership in this emergency pushing the city and the province to work together. Tuesday there will be a big anti-xenophobia rally at St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town.
It’s hard doing the work we do – fighting the epidemic when the world seems to want to move on to “bigger” issues, to leave AIDS behind.
What I find truly extraordinary is that even despite our struggles, AIDS activists here in South Africa have stopped what they are doing to help their fellow men and women in this crisis. TAC and ALP staff and volunteers, and those with the other organizations, and the many individuals who have stopped by the offices are special people – they give us all hope that our struggles against AIDS, and for social justice for our communities will some day become a reality…
TAC is spending down quickly and needs donations, please go to http://www.tac.org.za/community/donate to see how you can help.
AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
c/o AIDS Law Project
Westminster House, 4th Floor
122 Longmarket Street
Cape Town, 8001
Le Camerounais homosexuel Paul Patience Nguimbous, sans papier depuis 2005, pourrait être expulsé «sans délai» si l’Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (Ofpra) rejette la demande d’asile qu’il déposera lundi 26 mai, révèle à Têtu l’Association de reconnaissance des droits des personnes homosexuelles et transsexuelles à l’immigration et au séjour (Ardhis). Interpellé le 13 mai dans la région de Lille (Nord), Paul Patience Nguimbous est actuellement placé en rétention administrative au centre Lesquin de Lille.
Le tribunal administratif de Lille a rejeté mercredi 21 mai son recours visant à annuler un arrêté de reconduite à la frontière malgré les preuves de répression des homosexuels camerounais rapportées par divers associations et médias. L’Ardhis explique que le jeune homme de 29 ans, «inscrit au Parti socialiste», était arrivé dans l’Hexagone en 2001 pour ses études mais aussi pour vivre tranquillement son orientation sexuelle, passible de cinq ans de prison dans son pays.
Homosexual acts are banned in Cameroon, and are punishable with up to five years in jail according to Section 347 of the country’s penal code.
See also :
New York, May 22, 2008
In a strongly worded letter to Gambian President Yahyeh Jammeh, Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) condemned statements by the West African leader ordering homosexuals out of the country, threatening hotel owners who rented rooms to gay and lesbian people, and threatening summary executions. Ettelbrick also called for the repeal of Gambia’s antiquated sodomy law, inherited from its days as British colony. (See below for the full text of the letter.)
A former army lieutenant, Jammeh overthrew the democratically elected government of the Gambia in 1994, while the Gambian President was on a visiting U.S. warship. Since 1994 there have been many well-documented examples of human rights violations in Gambia perpetrated against journalists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition. These have included arbitrary arrests and detentions, expulsions and extra-judicial executions. In 2007 President Jammeh announced that he had developed a “miracle cure” for HIV/AIDS.
In February 2008, a number of Senegalese gay men were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in nearby countries, including the Gambia, as a result of a campaign of persecution of lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender people that included arbitrary arrests, violence by mobs, and media attacks.
IGLHRC will be inviting other groups and individuals to take action against homophobic statements by the Gambian head-of-state in the next few days.
23 May 2008
President Yayeh Jammeh
Private Mail Bag
Banjul, The Gambia
I write on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to express our concern and outrage over reports that you have given gay men and lesbians twenty-four hours to leave the Gambia, or face “serious consequences”. Reports in the Daily Observer indicate that you have warned landlords, hotel owners and others who might rent dwellings to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people that they must expel gay men and lesbians from their dwellings.
President Jammeh, your statements are in direct violation of your country’s own Constitution and compromise Gambia’s adherence to several international and regional human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Gambian Constitution states that “every person shall have the right to liberty and security of the person.” The African Charter, in Article 2 states that “every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.”
Your statements tell the people of Gambia that it is acceptable to turn away its neighbors who are need. Article 12 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, of which your country is a signatory, states that, “every individual shall have the right, when persecuted, to seek and obtain asylum in other countries in accordance with laws of those countries and international conventions.” Any gay or lesbian person, be they a Gambian national or a refugee from a neighboring country, has the right to the protection of the Gambian government, not its enmity. By threatening hotel owners who rent rooms to LGBT people, you are further denying individuals the rights to housing and security and ordering business owners to discriminate based on their fear of government reprisal.
You were also quoted, President Jammeh, to have threatened “to cut off the head” of any homosexual caught in the Gambia. The ICCPR and the African Charter condemn extra-judicial executions and political killings. The Yogyakarta Principles, signed by several prominent African jurists, have made clear that “everyone has the right to life” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life, including by reference to considerations of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Your threats are creating an environment of fear and persecution in your country.
Gambia hosts the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and several key human rights non-governmental organizations. As such, you have a special responsibility to move above your personal moral or religious beliefs and recognize that while viewpoints on homosexuality may differ in the Gambia, your country is committed to a human rights regime that includes the basic human rights of all minorities. Intolerance and hatred are distinctly unspiritual values denounced by the Bible, the Koran, and all other major religious texts.
President Jammeh, we ask that you immediately retract your statements and make clear to the Gambian public that violence against any segment of the population will not be tolerated. We will be vigilantly monitoring the human rights situation in the Gambia, with particular focus on the treatment of LGBT Gambians, to ensure that your statements do not escalate levels of violence. Thousands of visitors come to your country each year from Africa, Europe and North America and experience the warm and open hospitality of the Gambian people. Our belief is that the Gambian people are accepting and tolerant of differences, be they linguistic, ethnic or sexual.
Furthermore, we ask that you begin the process of repealing Article 144 of the Criminal Code of 1965, which calls for the imprisonment of people convicted of consensual homosexual acts for up to 14 years. This law, inherited from the British penal code, is no longer acceptable in a modern society, respectful of human rights and values.
Blaming sexual minorities for the problems of the country is a strategy that has been tried in other countries. Gay and lesbian people are not your problem or your enemy. They are your sons and daughters, the teachers of your children, the pastors of your churches, the leaders of your mosques, the seller of tomatoes in the market. We are everywhere, making contributions everyday to the development of our countries.
Gambian authorities must respect and protect the human rights of all those living within the country’s borders, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
We look forward to your rapid response.
Paula Ettelbrick Executive Director
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
EveryOne Group: “A memorable success we share with the Radical Party and Nessuno Tocchi Caino (Hands off Cain). Thanks to an extraordinary campaign the regulations for granting asylum in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe have been changed. We succeeded because we refuse to accept unjust laws that ignore the value of human life”.
Seyed Mehdi Kazemi, the 20-year-old Iranian homosexual, a member of EveryOne Group who risked deportation to Teheran on several occasions (where he would have suffered imprisonment, harsh corporal punishment and probably been hung) has obtained asylum in the United Kingdom. He received notification of the decision from the Home Office on Monday May 19th, 2008. The boy had attempted to escape deportation to Teheran from the United Kingdom by fleeing to Canada, but he was stopped on the German border and transferred temporarily to Holland, a nation usually in favour of granting asylum to Iranian homosexuals. But on February 26th a flight was arranged from Amsterdam to London and it seemed that once back in the UK Mehdi risked deportation to Teheran again. “They were days of great worry as we attempted an amazing nonviolent struggle”, say Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau of EveryOne”, “days in which we fought side by side with the Radical Party and the association Nessuno Tocchi Caino, literally inventing a new way of battling for human rights, drawing into our battle the world’s media, hundreds of associations and thousands of activists. Our first step was to block the deportation, appealing to the sense of justice of the Dutch government which agreed to review Mehdi’s case. In the meantime we also upset the expulsion system of refugees in the United Kingdom – an unjust system which was taking place among indifference and the silence of the media. Then with our friends from the Radical Party we presented a report-appeal to the European Parliament that showed without a doubt that Mehdi had a right to asylum and that serious abuse was being carried out by the Home Office itself”. The European Parliament approved an urgent resolution for Mehdi Kazemi’s case, a resolution that was also signed by 142 MPs from the British House of Commons and 62 Lords. Europe and the United Kingdom itself finally recognised the need to change the procedure for evaluating and granting refugee status and political asylum. “It was a resounding defeat for the persecutory policies of Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith,” say the leaders of EveryOne, “a defeat that marked the decline in their star – but for the rights of refugees, the gay community, for activists throughout the world, for the minorities in Iran and countries where freedom is denied, it was a victory to remember”. But the real good news for young Mehdi (whose partner Parham was murdered by the executioner in Iran) arrived on May 19th. The British Embassy in Rome, on behalf of the British Government, wrote to EveryOne Group, communicating their joy for an event that no one believed possible when we first began the campaign against the deportation of homosexual refugees from the UK, and saved from deportation (thanks to the worldwide success of the Flowers Campaign) Pegah Emambakhsh. “How can a group like yours, without funding or protection from powers high up, expect to change the attitude of one of the most powerful governments in the world?” they said. We won because we believed in what we were doing, because we refused to accept the logic of inhumanity and death.
We won because we refused to give up, because in the event of Mehdi being deported, we were willing to fly to Teheran to demonstrate with placards, appealing to the executioners to spare the lives of Mehdi and Pegah (whom we trust will also receive good news very soon) and all the innocent people condemned to death due to unjust laws that cancel out the value of human life.”
While they celebrate this news, the members of EveryOne flourish copies of the email received from the British Embassy: “We are extremely happy to communicate this news: today in London a final decision was reached on Seyed Mehdi Kazemi’s case. After a re-examination of the case and in light of the new circumstances, as requested by the British Home Secretary, Mr Kazemi is now free to remain in the United Kingdom”.
Gambia’s President declares war on gay community. Speaking last Thursday at a victory celebration held at the Buffer Zone in Tallinding, President Jammeh said that a legislation “stricter than those in Iran” would be introduced very soon.
By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk • May 19, 2008
In 2007 President Jammeh announced that he had developed a “miracle cure” for HIV/AIDS
Gay men and lesbians must leave the country within 24 hours or face “serious consequences,” the President of Gambia said on Thursday.
President Yahya Jammeh turned on homosexuals and foreigners in an address at a victory celebration rally in Tallinding.
The Daily Observer reported that the President had issued:
“An ultimatum to homosexuals, drug dealers, thieves and other criminals, to leave The Gambia or face serious consequences if caught.
“The President equally warned all those who harbour such individuals to kick them out of their compounds, noting that a mass patrol will be conducted on the instructions of the IGP and the director of the Gambia Immigration Department to weed bad elements in society.
“Any hotel, lodge or motel that lodges this kind of individuals will be closed down, because this act is unlawful.” he said.
“We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country.”
“He stated that a law is in place regarding this unlawful acts tougher than the Iranian laws and warned those involve in this infamous activities to desist from them.”
President Jammeh also claimed that foreigners are taking the benefits of investment and “all stores belonging to Gambians and rented to forigners would be seized.”
Gambia, a mostly Muslim country of 1.7 million people, punishes homosexual acts, even in private, with up to seven years in prison.
A former British colony, the country has been ruled by President Jammeh since a bloodless coup in 1994.
Last year he horrified scientists by announcing that he had developed a “miracle cure” for HIV/AIDS.
Hundreds of Gambians lined up to be “cured” by President Jammeh, who treats his patients by rubbing a mysterious herbal paste into their ribcages and then instructing them to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas.
The therapy is administered repeatedly over several weeks.
According to Mr Jammeh, AIDS sufferers are cured within “three to thirty days.”
The President announced his alleged cure in January to a gathering of perplexed foreign diplomats.
“Whatever you do there are bound to be sceptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof,” he said.
“Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It is a declaration. I can cure AIDS and I will.”
Government radio and TV addresses publicised the treatment, which Jammeh provides for free.
It has the backing of the Gambian Health Ministry.
Mr Jammeh refuses to disclose the ingredients of his herbal concoction, saying only that the treatment uses seven plants – “three of which are not from Gambia”.
His official website claims that patients have experienced a “marked improvement” in their health as a result of the treatment and scoffs at critics who dispute its efficacy.
Home Office homophobia on asylum.
Five reforms to ensure justice for LGBT refugees, International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO)
London – 19 May 2008.
“Britain’s asylum system is homophobic. The Home Office is refusing asylum to genuine lesbian and gay refugees and sending them back to countries where they are at risk of arrest, imprisonment, torture and even execution,” said Peter Tatchell of the gay human rights group OutRage!
“The government seems more interested in cutting asylum numbers than in ensuring a fair, just and compassionate asylum system. It is failing gay refugees who have fled savage persecution, including death squads, vigilante attacks and attempted so-called honour killings,” he said.
He was speaking at Amnesty International headquarters on Friday 16 May 2008, at an event celebrating the worldwide International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), which was jointly hosted by Amnesty International and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.
Here is the text of Peter Tatchell’s speech, followed by examples of lesbian and gay asylum claimants who have suffered homophobic mistreatment by the Home Office:
“Since 1999, the Labour government has repealed most of Britain’s anti-gay laws and introduced new legislation to recognise same-sex partnerships and protect gay people against discrimination.
“These positive gay rights measures are being undermined by Labour’s failure to tackle the homophobic and transphobic bias of the asylum system.
“We need urgent government action to implement five key policy changes to ensure a fair hearing for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) asylum applicants:
“First, all asylum staff and adjudicators should receive sexual orientation and transgender awareness training. They currently receive race and gender training but no training at all on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. As a result, they often make stereotyped assumptions: that a feminine woman can’t be a lesbian or that a masculine man cannot be gay. They sometimes rule that someone who has been married must be faking their homosexuality.
”Second, the government should issue explicit instructions to all immigration and asylum staff, and to all asylum judges, that homophobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum. The government has never done this, which signals to asylum staff and judges that claims by LGBT people are not as worthy as those based on persecution because of a person’s ethnicity, gender, politics or faith.
”Third, the official Home Office country information reports – on which judges often rely when ruling on asylum applications – must be upgraded and expanded to reflect the true scale of anti-LGBT persecution. At the moment, the government’s documentation of anti-gay and anti-transgender persecution in individual countries is often partial, inaccurate and misleading. It consistently downplays the severity of victimisation suffered by LGBT people in violently homophobic countries like Pakistan, Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Cameroon, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.
”Fourth, legal aid funding for asylum claims needs to be substantially increased. Existing funding levels are woefully inadequate. This means that most asylum applicants – gay and straight – are unable to prepare an adequate submission at their asylum hearing. Their solicitors don’t get paid enough to procure the necessary witness statements, medical reports and other vital corroborative evidence.
“Fifth, the Home Office needs to issue official instructions to asylum detention centre staff that they have a duty to stamp out anti-gay and anti-trans abuse, threats and violence. Many LGBT detainees report suffering homophobic victimisation, and say they fail to receive adequate protection and support from detention centre staff. These shortcomings need to be remedied by LGBT awareness training to ensure that detention centre staff take action against homophobic and transphobic perpetrators, and that they are committed to protect LGBT detainees who are being victimised.
“Labour’s claim to be a LGBT-friendly government rings hollow when it continues to fail genuine LGBT refugees. We must insist on an asylum system that is fair, just and compassionate – for LGBT refugees and for all refugees,” said Mr Tatchell.
“Nowhere is the ridiculous nature of discrimination more clear than in this local Court case”
Gibraltar’s Equality Rights Group GGR has welcomed the start of a hearing in the local courts today of a complaint by a lesbian couple against the Gibraltar Housing Department.
“It is a measure of GGR’s commitment to reasoned change through our democratic institutions that not only have we worked – and will continue to do so – for legal and responsible change to come about through parliamentary and judicial routes in our community, but we will not cease from insisting on it,” Chairman Felix Alvarez said today.
“It is ridiculous and backward in this day and age in a situation of housing shortage that two people in a committed relationship should be required by government to apply for and obtain two separate housing units when they, in fact, wish nothing more than to live together. The only reason why the Housing Dept are refusing to accept to place one of the partners as a joint tenant is the fact that they are lesbian.
“Nowhere is the ridiculous nature of discrimination and prejudice more clear than in this case. It’s time the Gibraltar government became reasonable, stopped being on the defensive, and helped create an atmosphere of responsible dialogue in order to lead to what the majority of people in Gibraltar consider today to be fair and reasonable treatment of sexual minority fellow citizens.
“As Chairman of GGR I have said it so many times that I have lost track. But I will not tire from repeating it: I am willing to sit around the table with government in a spirit of reasonable understanding.”
At the same time, Mr Alvarez took the opportunity to comment on the recent statement issued by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers regarding GGR’s complaint on age of consent legislation in Gibraltar.
“Statements from the Committee of Ministers are only published after consensus has been reached. The fact that the Committee clearly signalled that a change in the age of consent in Gibraltar must be effected in the ‘near future’ in order to make equality in consent between gays and heterosexuals a reality, is significant. It signals the UK’s clear endorsement.
“GGR is confident of information it has received that meetings between government and Foreign & Commonwealth Office officials have been taking place in order to reach agreement about the manner and timing of these changes. GGR clearly welcomes developments on this front and looks forward to further announcements. We shall, nonetheless, be keeping a vigilant eye on progress on this matter,” the statement ended.
Dans une dépêche encore consultable en ligne et datée du 13 mai 2008, le site internet iranien d’information Entekhab révèle la condamnation à mort de quatre garçons tout juste majeurs. Originaires de Mashad, ils ont été reconnus coupables du viol collectif dans le désert de deux adolescents âgés de seize ans. Aucun des quatre condamnés n’a passé l’âge de 23 ans. Ils auraient avoué le crime lors de leur procès et la cour suprême a confirmé la sentence.
En 2007, selon un décompte effectué par Têtu, 27 Iraniens ont été exécutés pour des faits liés à l’homosexualité. Les associations de défense des droits de l’homme dénoncent le manque de clarté qui accompagne les mises à mort. Il est impossible de savoir si ces hommes sont des criminels ou si les accusations de viol sur mineur servent, en fait, à masquer une répression sanglante de l’homosexualité, interdite par le code pénal iranien.
Depuis le début de l’année 2008, la presse iranienne a annoncé la condamnation à mort d’au moins sept hommes pour «viol homosexuel», toujours selon des informations recueillies par Têtu.