1999 October

Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe detained on charges of torture by gay rights protesters


Tatchell, accompanied by Williams, about to open the car door: just before the driver moves forward, forcing the photographer onto the bonnet.

OutRage! members today attempted to make a citizen’s arrest on the notoriously homophobic President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, in a bid to prevent him from committing further acts of torture, (Saturday, 30th October).

Shortly before midday today, Mugabe and his retinue were stopped by OutRage! activists who attempted to arrest him, on account of his homophobia and human rights abuses against the people of Zimbabwe.

Mugabe is on a two-day private visit to London. His mini cavalcade was stopped as he left the St. James’s Court Hotel in Buckingham Gate, London SW1 this morning to go shopping at Harrods. As the presidential car left the hotel courtyard, it was surrounded by protesters, who informed Mugabe that he was being subjected to a citizen’s arrest to prevent the further commission of acts of torture in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe has denounced lesbians and gays as “sexual perverts”, “beasts” and “worse than dogs and pigs”. Rejecting calls for homosexual human rights, he has said: “we don’t believe they have any rights at all”.

Since his comments, lesbians and gays in Zimbabwe have been beaten, arrested, framed on trumped-up charges and threatened with death. In 1995, the human rights group Gays And Lesbians of Zimbabwe was banned from exhibiting at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair and the following year GALZ members were attacked and threatened by government stooges, forcing them to flee the Book Fair.

OutRage! accuses Mugabe of inciting anti-gay hatred and of condoning murder, torture and detention without trial.

Peter Tatchell opened the car door, grabbed President Mugabe by the arm, and said: “President Mugabe, you are under arrest for torture. Torture is a crime under international law.”. Turning to the President’s security officers, Tatchell told them: “Call the police. The President is under arrest on charges of torture”.

Tatchell remonstrated with Mugabe, citing the torture of Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka, journalists on The Standard newspaper in Zimbabwe. According to Amnesty International:

“Military interrogators beat both men all over their bodies with fists, wooden planks and rubber sticks, particularly on the soles of their feet, and gave them electric shocks all over the body, including the genitals. The men were also subjected to ‘the submarine’ – having their heads wrapped in plastic bags and submerged in a water tank until they suffocated”. (Amnesty International news release, 21-January-1999).

The demonstrators were about to call the police, and ask them to inform the Attorney-General of Mugabe’s detention, as required by UK legislation. However, before this could be done, police arrived from a neighbouring demonstration (on the pros and cons of allowing corporal punishment in schools).

Misinterpreting their duty, the police detained the OutRage! protestors, removing one from the bonnet of the car, and allowed the two cars to drive off. Three of the protestors (Peter Tatchell, Chris Morris, and Alastair Williams) were forcibly arrested and are currently being questioned at Belgravia Police Station, (tel. 020-73.21.67.29). — Tatchell was kept lying on the ground until the arrival of a police van, whilst Morris was held, choking, by the neck.

John Hunt, one of the demonstrators, explained: “We were attempting to arrest Mugabe under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which allows for the arrest in Britain of any person who commits an act of torture anywhere in the world, as defined in the UN Convention Against Torture 1984, (to which Britain is a signatory).

“We call on the Attorney-General to fulfil his legal obligation to arrest and prosecute President Mugabe on charges of torture, before he returns to Zimbabwe from Heathrow at 7 p.m. this evening.”

Although highlighting Mugabe’s attacks on the lesbian and gay community, OutRage! is also drawing attention to his authorisation of bans on strikes and demonstrations, censorship and closure of the press, restrictions on trade union rights, and his defiance of the judicial rulings against human rights abuses.

“Mugabe has got away with human rights abuses for years”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!. “The time has come to show him that he cannot torture and abuse people with impunity. On the evidence of the torture suffered by Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka, the Attorney-General has a legal duty to authorise the arrest, detention and the prosecution of Mugabe”.

“Mugabe is a violently homophobic tyrant who is implicated in the torture, murder, disappearance and imprisonment without trial of thousands of people. To allow him to go shopping in Harrods without attempting to call him to account for his crimes against humanity would be a dereliction of Britain’s obligations under international law”, said Tatchell.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell (OutRage!)
Tel.: +44-20-74.03.17.90
Email: peter@tatchell.freeserve.co.uk
PHOTOS + VIDEO: Simon Bebbington (ISF reporter)
Tel.: +44-1628-54.25.54
Fax: +44-1628-68.05.78
Mobile: 07778-30.76.36
Email: isf@abel.co.uk

UPDATE, 31-October-1999

Zimbabwean Government officials have lodged complaints with the Metropolitan Police over an alleged assault on the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, and alleged criminal damage to the President’s limousine. The complaint follows yesterday’s ambush by OutRage!.

In response to this complaint, the police are considering charging one of the demonstrators, Peter Tatchell, with assaulting the Zimbabwean President, following Tatchell’s attempted Pinochet-style arrest of Mugabe on charges of torture under British and international law.

UPDATE, 7-November-1999

Mugabe has now accused the British Government of setting “gay gangsters” on him over his controversial land reforms, and is claiming that Tony Blair’s administration are using “gangster tactics”.

Portillo Protest at Tory Selection Meeting

Portillo confronted at Chelsea Old Town Hall

On arriving at the meeting of the Tory Kensington & Chelsea Selection Committee on the evening of Tuesday, 26th October, Michael Portillo was challenged by OutRage! protesters to defend his homophobic stance whilst a member of the previous Government.

Portillo, visibly unnerved by the verbal confrontation, hurried with head well down for a rear entrance of the Chelsea Old Town Hall where the preliminary selection meeting was being held. At no point did he respond to any of the stentorian questioning about his past record by Peter Tatchell.

Since publicity in “The Times” on 9th September about Portillo’s admission of gay sex in his youth, his hypocrisy, cowardice, and selective honesty were exposed by his former lover, Nigel Hart, (Monday, 13-September-1999). Doubts about Portillo’s integrity were also voiced by fellow former Tory minister Lord Tebbit, (an unexpected bedfellow in an OutRage! campaign).

Invitation to join protest at Kensington Town Hall on 2nd November

JOIN our protest against Michael Portillo’s homophobia and hypocrisy, on Tuesday, 2nd November, 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., at Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, W8, (opposite High Street Kensington tube).

Urge your organisation / friends / local gay group to join in. Bring your banner. Make some placards.

We will be picketing the Tory candidate Selection Meeting as party members arrive to cast their votes to choose the Conservative candidate to fight the forthcoming by-election.

OutRage! plans to erect a large billboard outside the Town Hall with the slogan “Portillo Screws Queers! Homophobe!”.

We will also display placards emblazoned with “Portillo: Homophobe! Hypocrite! Unfit As MP”, in bid to persuade local Tories that Portillo is unworthy to be their candidate.

Join our anti-Portillo protest for lesbian and gay rights. Let OutRage! know if you will be joining us: 020-74.03.17.90.

“Allowing the hypocritical homophobe Portillo a chance to be voted back into Parliament will do no one any favours”, said John Hunt of OutRage!.

“Although various influential Conservatives have derided his mock honesty, Portillo remains on the now reduced selection list: and, as a former Minister, is considered by many observers to be the most likely to succeed as Conservative candidate.

“We want Kensington and Chelsea Conservatives to reject the untrustworthy Portillo. He consistently voted in favour of discrimination against homosexuals, and –by virtue of last month’s European ruling on gays in the military– is now internationally recognised as having abused human rights during his period as Secretary of State for Defence.

“Portillo supports Section 28 and an unequal age of consent. He does not respect universal human rights: and is therefore unfit even to be a candidate to sit in a modern, democratic Parliament”, said Hunt.

Call for Action to combat Homophobia in the Military

OutRage! exhorts the military to “educate its members in human rights and to challenge homophobic attitudes during recruitment and training programmes”.

The mere “suspension” of disciplinary action against gays in the military is “inadequate, cowardly and unprincipled”, since the ban on gay recruits remains intact and homophobia is still rampant in the ranks.

The Armed Forces are being urged to “crack down on homophobia to combat the harassment and victimisation of homosexual personnel”.

The call from OutRage! exhorts the military to “educate its members in human rights and to challenge homophobic attitudes during its recruitment and training programmes”.

OutRage! is also calling for “homophobia to be made a disciplinary offence under the military code”.

It is urging “action against homophobia” as part of “a comprehensive initiative to eradicate ALL forms of prejudice from the Armed Forces and to end the victimisation of recruits from minority communities”.

“The Armed Forces should reflect the democratic, humanitarian values they exist to defend”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!. “The military’s toleration of homophobia, racism and other prejudices is unacceptable.

“Human rights’ awareness should be a central part of army education, as it was during the Second World War. Unless the Armed Forces respect the human rights of their own members, they cannot be relied upon to defend the human rights of the British people.

“Service chiefs justify their opposition to gays in the military with the claim that homophobia is rife in the ranks. But they are refusing to take any action to counter queer-hating attitudes.

“What is needed is an educational campaign, similar to the military’s current efforts against racism, to promote understanding and support for gay soldiers, sailors and air crews”, said Tatchell.

OutRage! has also condemned the Labour Government’s “suspension” of the ban on homosexuals in the military as “inadequate, cowardly and unprincipled”.

“Any Government with integrity would have responded to the European Court’s ruling by ending the ban on gays immediately. The mere suspension of disciplinary action against homosexuals is a half-hearted measure”, said Tatchell.

“It maintains the ban on lesbians and gay men joining the military. The continued exclusion of homosexual recruits leaves a key element of the Government’s homophobic defence policy intact.

“Before the 1997 General Election, Labour promised to end the prohibition on homosexuals in the Armed Forces. Within two weeks of coming to power, Tony Blair’s Government ditched its pre-election pledge.

“For the last two and a half years, Labour has fought tooth-and-nail in the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights to maintain the military’s right to discriminate against lesbians and gay men. If it were up to Labour, the military witch-hunts would continue. It is only because of the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that the Government has done this partial U-turn”, said Tatchell.

OutRage! to intervene in Portillo selection

OutRage! is planning to intervene in the selection of the Conservative candidate for Kensington, and in the Kensington by-election, to highlight Michael Portillo’s “hypocrisy, homophobia and failure to tell the full truth about his homosexuality”.

The gay rights group is making elaborate plans to embarrass Michael Portillo and the leadership of the Conservative Party.

According to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!: “As his former lover Nigel Hart has revealed, Portillo’s account of his past gay relationships is not the whole story. He has presented a dishonest version of his homosexual experiences.

“Portillo asserts that his gayness was a passing dalliance, when he was a ‘young person’, during his student days at Cambridge. But according to Nigel Hart, he was having sex with Portillo until Portillo was 27, long after Portillo left university. — Portillo’s public version is evidently false.

“Nigel Hart’s account of his ‘eight-year affair’ with Portillo contradicts Portillo’s claim that he has never had a ‘full relationship’ with a man.

“Michael Portillo’s homosexuality should not be used to bar his selection as a Tory candidate for Kensington. It is his hypocrisy, homophobia and economy with the truth that renders him unfit and unworthy to hold public office. How can the people of Kensington trust a candidate who has given a misleading account of his life?

“The issues OutRage! will be highlighting in the Kensington selection and by-election are homophobia, hypocrisy, trust and integrity. On all four issues, Mr. Portillo is not a fit and proper candidate.

“Michael Portillo is a hypocrite and homophobe. Despite his own gay relationships, he has consistently opposed gay human rights and has never shown any sympathy or support for the gay community.

“Although taking a hard-line stand on law and order, Portillo broke the law by having gay sex with Nigel Hart at the age of 19, at a time when the homosexual age of consent was 21. Michael showed no respect for the law in his youth, but he now supports an age of consent law that criminalises 16 and 17 year old gay men. This is further evidence of his hypocrisy and double-standards.

“Since coming out, he has not recanted his past support for discrimination against homosexuals. This shows that his claimed conversion to sexual tolerance and to the caring, liberal wing of conservatism is a fraud.

“Portillo not only voted for Section 28. He also voted against three amendments to protect and support vulnerable young lesbians and gays, effectively endorsing the isolation and victimisation of homosexual teenagers.

“On 15th December 1987, Portillo voted against amendments that would have allowed local authorities to:

  • discourage anti-gay discrimination and protect the civil rights of homosexuals;
  • provide counselling, advice and support to vulnerable, isolated lesbian and gay pupils;
  • permit schools to teach awareness of different sexual orientations.

“Portillo’s vote against these three amendments shows him to be an unreconstructed hardline homophobe. Since Section 28, he has never expressed an ounce of regret for the way he voted.”