1998 March

OutRage! proposes amendments to the Human Rights Bill

Amendments to outlaw discrimination against gay people and people with HIV are being proposed by OutRage!

The proposed amendments are to the Human Rights Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.

“If amended to include an explicit ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, this Bill would do more for gay equality than any other single legislative reform”, said John Hunt of OutRage!.

“It would enable many different forms of homophobic discrimination to be overturned in the British courts. The gay-only offence of gross indecency, for example, would be declared illegal”, added Hunt.

OutRage! is extremely concerned that few lesbian and gay organisations seem to realise the huge potential benefits that would result from a successful amendment of the Human Rights Bill.

“We plan to get a backbench MP to table an amendment, hopefully with Government support”, said Hunt. “But most other gay groups, including Stonewall, seem to be doing very little. We would appreciate their support.”

The Human Rights Bill incorporates the European Covention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law. It will enable violations of the Convention to be overturned in the British courts, without the need for lengthy and expensive appeals to the ECHR in Strasbourg.

“The European Convention does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or medical status. This means that the incorporation of the Convention into UK law may not be sufficient to protect lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV against unequal treatment.

“It all depends on how judges choose to interpret the Convention’s crucial anti-discrimination clause, Article 14. In the past, they have decided that Article 14 does not outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation”, noted John Hunt.

A copy of the Human Rights Bill amendment follows.

Proposed amendment by OutRage!

Introduction
1.-(3)
(a) Article 14 of the Convention shall be interpreted to prohibit any form of discrimination on any grounds whatsoever, including but not limited to the grounds set out in Article 14.

Explanation

  1. The European Convention of Human Rights was drafted half a century ago, when there was very little acknowledgement of the rights of the disabled, lesbians and gay men and other excluded social groups. It needs modernising. The Human Rights Bill should be amended to guarantee explicitly equal treatment and non-discrimination to everyone.
  2. The European Commission and the Court of Human Rights have often interpreted the non-discrimination provisions of Article 14 as being limited to the stated grounds when, in fact, Article 14 is meant to be read as comprehensive and all-inclusive. To remedy this misinterpretation of Article 14, the Human Rights Bill needs to make explicit Article 14’s prohibition of all forms of discrimination, including very obvious omissions such as age, disability, sexual orientation and medical condition.
  3. Age, disability and sexual orienation are straightforward. The insertion of the term medical condition is in order to prohibit discrimination against people with illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, and against people on the basis of their genetic make-up, (a likely area of serious discrimination in employment and insurance, unless it is outlawed).
  4. This amendment does not amend the European Convention of Human Rights. It amends the Human Rights Bill. Moreover, it is merely interpretive, attempting to ensure that Article 14 is interpreted in the comprehensive, all-inclusive manner that was originally intended by the drafters of the Convention.

Further Information: PETER TATCHELL, Tel. (+44)-171 403 1790

YouthSpeak is also campaigning to include a specific reference to lesbian and gay equality in the Bill, and fighting off amendments from the House of Lords which say that the churches should be excluded from legislation, in case they are forced to support gay marriage and ordain gay priests.

Letter to President Menen of Argentina

Barbaric ‘Experiments’ by Nazi Dr. Værnet, War Criminal

The President,
Republic of Argentina,
Balcarce 50,
1064 Buenos Aires,
Argentina.

12th March, 1998

Dear President Carlos Menen,

We are writing to request the help of your government to discover the fate of the Nazi doctor, Carl Værnet, who fled to Argentina after the war and was last known to be working in the Buenos Aires public health department in late 1947.

Dr. Værnet was a pro-Nazi Danish citizen who served in the SS, conducting barbaric medical experiments –including castration and forced hormonal implants– on gay concentration camp prisoners at Buchenwald and Neuengamme.

Unlike other Nazi doctors, he was never put on trial at Nuremberg, and was allowed to flee to Argentina soon after the war was over.

Dr. Værnet’s role in the medical abuse of gay prisoners is documented in the archives at the International Tracing Service at Arolsen (example: ITS Arolsen, book 36, folder 405). It is also cited in the books The Pink Triangle by Richard Plant (Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh 1987) and Hidden Holocaust? by Dr. Günter Grau (Cassell, London 1995).

It is our formal request that the Argentine government conduct an investigation to determine what happened to Dr. Værnet. Is he dead or alive? Could you please furnish us with this information? A good place to start looking would be the records of his employers, the Buenos Aires health service.

OutRage! is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of lesbian, gay and bisexual human rights worldwide.

Dr. Værnet committed acts which are, according to our understanding of international law, crimes against humanity.

We would greatly appreciate your government’s assistance in discovering Dr. Værnet’s fate. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell

Letter to Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark

Barbaric ‘Experiments’ by Nazi Dr. Værnet, War Criminal

The Prime Minister,
Statsministeriet,
Christinsborg,
Prins Jorgens Gaard 11,
Copenhagen 1218,
Denmark.

16th March, 1998

Dear Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen,

We are writing to request the help of your government to discover the fate of the Nazi doctor, Carl Værnet, who fled to Argentina after the war and was last known to be working in the Buenos Aires public health department in late 1947.

Dr. Værnet was a pro-Nazi Danish citizen who served in the SS, conducting barbaric medical experiments –including castration and forced hormonal implants– on gay concentration camp prisoners at Buchenwald and Neuengamme.

Unlike other Nazi doctors, he was never put on trial at Nuremberg (Nürnberg), and was allowed to flee to Argentina soon after the war was over.

Dr. Værnet’s role in the medical abuse of gay prisoners is documented in the archives at the International Tracing Service at Arolsen (example: ITS Arolsen, book 36, folder 405). It is also cited in the books The Pink Triangle by Richard Plant (Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh 1987) and Hidden Holocaust? by Dr. Günter Grau (Cassell, London 1995).

Dr. Værnet’s gruesome experiments on gay internees are also cited in the German documentary film Wir hatten ein grosses ‘A’ am Bein (We Were Marked With A Big ‘A’), directed by Elke Jeonrond and Joseph Weishaupt, and made for NDR. in 1991 by Mediengruppe Schwabing Filmproduktion.

According to our information, which remains incomplete, at the end of the war Dr. Værnet was interned in the British-run Alsgade Skole prisoner-of-war camp in Copenhagen.

On 29th May 1945, the chairman of the Danish Medical Association sent the Ministry of Justice an affidavit signed by a Danish police officer who had been incarcerated in Buchenwald. This affidavit identified Værnet as having been a serving SS officer. The report from the chairman of the Danish Medical Association was, apparently, ignored by the Justice Ministry in Copenhagen.

In the autumn of 1945, the British handed over Dr. Værnet to the Danish authorities. What these authorities did with him at this stage remains unknown. Was he placed in a Danish prison? Or was he moved to hospital for the treatment of his alleged heart problem? This, too, demands an investigation and an answer.

On 2nd January 1946, the Danish Medical Association received a letter from Dr. Værnet’s lawyer, informing them that he had resigned — apparently in a bid to preempt the Association’s plan to have him struck off for his wartime activities,

It is known that Dr. Værnet was eventually transferred to hospital, on the grounds that he was allegedly suffering from a heart complaint, (which may well have been fictional in order to facilitate his release from detention). When did this transfer take place? Who authorised it? What independent medical report, if any, confirmed his heart condition?

Dr. Værnet is said to have told fellow doctors that his heart trouble could only be treated in Sweden. Astonishingly, despite being accused of perpetrating war crimes, Dr. Værnet was allowed by the Danish authorities to travel to Sweden.

In Sweden, he made contact with the Nazi escape network, which spirited him away to Argentina, probably in late 1946 or early 1947.

On 19th November 1947, the Copenhagen newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, carried a letter from a Danish exile living in Argentina which reported that Dr. Værnet was working in the Buenos Aires health department.

It is our formal request that the Danish government explain:

  • Why was Dr. Værnet never put on trial on charges of war crimes, alongside other Nazi doctors?
  • What explanation is there for the way the Ministry of Justice ignored the serious allegations made by the Danish Medical Association concerning Dr. Værnet’s wartime activities?
  • Who authorised him to leave prison unguarded and attend hospital for treatment without supervision?
  • How did Dr. Værnet –a former Nazi SS officer accused of war crimes– get official permission to travel to Sweden for medical treatment?
  • Was there any disciplinary action taken against those who allowed him to leave prison and go to hospital and, later, to leave Denmark for Sweden?
  • What action has been taken by the Danish government over the last 50 years to track down Dr. Værnet and bring him to trial on charges of crimes against humanity?
  • Is he now dead or alive? If he is still living, what action does the Danish government propose to take to put him on trial?

OutRage! is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of lesbian, gay and bisexual human rights in Britain and worldwide.

Dr. Værnet committed acts which are, according to our understanding of international law, crimes against humanity.

We would greatly appreciate your government’s assistance in discovering Dr. Værnet’s fate. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell

Muslim fundamentalists threaten to kill gay activist

Islamophobia conference ends in violent uproar

Islamic fundamentalists tried to beat up a gay man and threatened to kill him at a London conference on “Islamophobia”, designed to promote understanding and tolerance of Muslim values, and attended by Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders.

The conference declaration claimed that “Islam is wrongly and unjustly portrayed as barbaric, irrational, primitive, sexist, violent and aggressive”.

During the question and answer session, OutRage! activist and former Muslim of Pakistani descent, Muhammad Khan(*), asked the panel of speakers how negative attitudes towards Muslims among gay people could be overcome, given that Islam advocates the burning alive of homosexuals.

Most of the conference turned on Muhammad. He was surrounded by over a hundred Muslims who screamed abuse and threatened to kill him. “I thought I was going to be lynched”, he said. “Some were trying to hit me. It was only the intervention of the stewards that stopped them.”

None of the Muslim, Christian or Jewish leaders on the platform intervened to calm the situation or condemn the violence. One, Imam Abduljalil Sajid, a Muslim cleric and member of the Runnymede Trust, shouted that Muhammad had no need to ask what Muslims thought of homosexuals: all he had to do was look at the audience’s reaction. The violent scenes led to the abandonment of the conference.

Held at King’s College, London, on Wednesday, 18th March, the conference on “Islamophobia — The Xenophobia of our Times” was sponsored by the Islamic Foundation. It was organised by the Federation of Students’ Islamic Societies (FOSIS) and the University of London Union. — ULU has an anti-homophobia policy that was clearly violated.

As well as Imam Sajid, the speakers included:

  • Siva Ganeshanadanan, President of ULU;
  • Dr. Richard Stone, Chair of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality and spokesman for the Runnymede Trust;
  • Muhammad Risaluddin, leader of the inter-faith Calamus Foundation;
  • Rev. John Webber, advisor to the Bishop of Stepney.

None of the speakers defended Muhammad’s right to ask a question or spoke out against the homophobic insults.

“Muslims want tolerance for themselves but not for lesbians and gays”, said Muhammad Khan. “They condemn Islamophobia, while zealously promoting hatred and violence against homosexuals.”

(*) Name changed, given the violence which exists amongst the fundamentalist community.

Home Office Support for LGBT Select Committee

Home Office Minister Mike O’Brien, MP, has expressed support for the idea of a House of Commons Select Committee report on discrimination against lesbians and gay men. He said it would be a helpful way forward, setting out proposals for law reform, which the government would then consider.

Mr. O’Brien made his comments during a 45-minute meeting at the Home Office on the 11th March with OutRage! campaigner Peter Tatchell.

OutRage! is currently pressing the Home Affairs Select Committee to produce a report on antigay discrimination, and sent a proposal for law reform to the Committee’s chair, Chris Mullin MP, on the 2nd March.

“The Minister’s support for a Select Committee enquiry is very encouraging”, commented Peter Tatchell. “Mike O’Brien seemed convinced this would be a useful way to proceed.

“My impression was that the Government will give very serious consideration to a report recommending equality.

“An investigation by the Select Committee could help revive the stalled campaign for lesbian and gay human rights. It would be the most significant report on homosexual issues since the 1957 Wolfenden Report.

“Any recommendation to repeal discrimination would have great authority and impact. It would generate major news coverage and increase pressure on the government to enact law reform.

“We envisage the Select Committee inquiry would be comparable to the Wolfenden Report in its prestige and consequences — although we want its remit to be wider than sexual offences law. It could help set the political agenda and give a new impetus to the campaign for equality”, said Peter Tatchell.

Further Information: PETER TATCHELL, Tel. (+44)-171 403 1790

Major Gay Rights Groups Unite in Campaign Forum

Ten of the nation’s most important gay rights groups have joined forces in the fight for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality.

27 members from major organisations met on Saturday, 7th March, at the King Edward VI in Islington, and voted unanimously to work together to launch a new national offensive for human rights.

The groups and individuals involved are deeply concerned that the campaign for equality is being stalled by recent set-backs in the British and European courts and by the unwillingness of the new Labour Government to repeal discriminatory laws. Two recent examples are the failed case of Lisa Grant (see European Court Press Release), and the prosecution of the Bolton 7.

The group’s immediate objectives are:

  1. To organise a national standing forum within the next month. All sections of the community will be invited to participate to decide collectively the way forward against homophobic discrimination.
  2. To give notice to the Government, all political parties and all Members of Parliament that the continuing denial of lesbian and gay human rights is intolerable, and that we are no longer prepared to be treated as second-class citizens. The Government can expect to be fought in the courts, in Parliament, by peaceful demonstration, and by direct action at every opportunity.
  3. No Government would allow such discrimination against women or ethnic minorities. The denial of equality to lesbian, gay and bisexual people is unacceptable.

To ensure that this year’s Pride march is organised as a political demonstration as part of a much larger campaign for homosexual human rights, as we have seen in the recent success of the countryside campaign.

The groups represented at Saturday’s meeting want to unite with other lesbian and gay rights groups across the continent to build a Europe-wide campaign for lesbian and gay equality, with the aim of achieving legislative change in the European Union.

For too long, the enemies of equality have exploited the fact that lesbian and gay organisations fight individually for their own aspects of the cause. This forum plans to unite small and large organisations in a coordinated campaign.

It is not intended to tell groups how to operate, but to act as an opportunity for the exchange of information and to coordinate campaigning. It will enable both small and large organisations to pool their efforts so the maximum pressure can be applied to the enemies of human rights.

Merck concedes Animal Research delayed Protease Inhibitors for HIV

The pharmaceutical giant Merck has conceded that development of a potent protease inhibitor drug for the treatment of HIV was halted in 1989, after the company tested the drug on rats and dogs and they all died.

There is, however, no evidence that the drug would necessarily have had the same damaging effect on people with HIV, given the huge physiological differences between humans and other species. (Penicillin, for example, kills guinea pigs but cures people.)

Merck’s current protease inhibitor, crixivan, did not begin clinical trials until four years later, in 1993. Meanwhile, worldwide, tens of thousands of people with HIV had died.

Merck also acknowledges that animal studies were not needed in the development of protease inhibitors. The drugs were computer-designed and safety-tested using cell cultures and biochemical assays.

These admissions come in a letter from Merck’s Vice-President, Bennett M. Shapiro, published in the December 1997/January 1998 edition of the British HIV magazine, Positive Nation.

Shapiro’s letter was in response to an article in the November 1997 issue of Positive Nation by Peter Tatchell. In the article, Animal Magic is Science Fiction, Tatchell alleges that animal-based HIV research is scientifically flawed and has undermined the development of a cure and a vaccine for HIV.

In a letter in the February 1998 issue of Positive Nation, Tatchell debunks Merck’s defence of its animal research work.

Report on Legal Discrimination against Lesbians and Gay Men

Chris Mullin, MP,
Chair,
Home Affairs Select Committee,
House of Commons,
London.
SW1A 0AA

2-March-1998

Dear Chris,

I am writing on behalf of OutRage! to formally request the Home Affairs Select Committee to prioritise a report on legal discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

This is the fourth request we have made to the Select Committee in the last eight years. While your Conservative predecessors routinely rejected our request, we hope you will agree to this much-needed and long-overdue inquiry.

We are aware that the Select Committee has produced three reports on race issues over the last decade, but has not once investigated the equally serious issue of legal discrimination against lesbians and gay men.

We are, for example:

  • denied the right to marry and to any alternative legal recognition of our partnerships;
  • banned from membership of the Armed Forces;
  • penalised by insurance and mortgage companies;
  • turned down for consideration by many fostering and adoption agencies;
  • discriminated against in pension and inheritance rules;
  • threatened by punitive sexual offences laws that criminalise consenting gay sex and apply only to gay men;

and we can lawfully be

  • sacked from our jobs,
  • evicted from rented property,
  • refused service in shops, restaurants, and other places of leisure and entertainment

– without any form of legal redress.

If the legal inequalities suffered by homosexuals were inflicted on black people, no one would have any hesitation in condemning that as apartheid. Homophobic discrimination is a form of sexual apartheid. It involves one law for heterosexuals and another for homosexuals. We are treated as second-class citizens, being denied many of the basic human rights that heterosexuals take for granted. This is intolerable in a supposedly civilised, democratic society.

A report by the Select Committee would have great prestige, authority, and impact, exposing the vast extent of homophobic discrimination and demonstrating the need for law reform. By promoting public awareness and debate, you could encourage changes that would dramatically improve the lives of millions.

OutRage! has drafted a six-point programme for lesbian and gay law reform, which sets out our priorities. As you will see, many of our proposals, such as the Unmarried Partners Act, would also benefit heterosexuals.

OutRage!’s programme of reform could provide a useful basis for the issues considered by the Select Committee. –

  1. The repeal of all gay-only sexual offences for which there is no heterosexual equivalent, and all crimes without victims –including the offences of buggery, gross indecency, procuring, soliciting– and their replacement by a new sexual offences code that makes no distinction between male and female, heterosexual and homosexual.
  2. A new Unmarried Partners Act, giving legal rights to all unwed couples, both gay and straight, including: legal recognition as next-of-kin; joint guardianship of any children; the inheritance of pensions, life insurance, and property on the death of a partner; and entitlement to company fringe benefits that extend to employees’ spouses, such as health-care cover.
  3. Equalisation of the age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, to reduce the criminalisation of young people involved in consenting sex, and to remove the legal obstacles to earlier, more explicit and effective sex education in schools. The best way to safeguard young people’s sexual welfare is by education and empowerment.
  4. A comprehensive Equal Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and incitement to hatred on any grounds, including sexual orientation, gender identity, race, sex, religion, age, national or social origin, marital status, disability, and medical condition, (to protect people with HIV).
  5. The replacement of Section 28 with new legislation, requiring schools to stamp out homophobic bullying in schools, to promote pupils’ understanding and acceptance of gay people, and to ensure that AIDS awareness lessons encompass information about safer sex for lesbians and gay men. We envisage this initiative as part of a wider statutory obligation on schools to promote tolerance and combat all forms of prejudice and bullying, including on the basis of race, gender, disability, religion, and physical appearance.
  6. An end to the ban on homosexuals in the armed forces, as part of a package of democratic reforms –such as the overhaul of the court-martial system– to enhance the civil and human rights of all service personnel.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell.