1999 November

PM urged to expell Zimbabwe from Commonwealth

The Prime Minister,
10, Downing Street.

9th November, 1999.

Dear Tony Blair,


I am writing on behalf of the gay human rights group OutRage! to request that, during the Commonwealth Summit in South Africa, you initiate moves to expel Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth and to suspend British aid to Zimbabwe, until such time as Robert Mugabe’s government halts its attacks on the gay community and other abuses of human rights.

The expulsion of Zimbabwe is recommended by the prestigious London-based Foreign Policy Centre, of which you are a patron.

The Zimbabwean government has long flouted international human rights conventions: from the massacres in Matabeleland in the 1980s, to the ban on gay participation in the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in 1995 and the torture of journalists Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka earlier this year.

President Mugabe’s government stands accused of murder, torture, censorship, detention without trial, bans on strikes and protests, and the violent suppression of peaceful dissent.

The President has denounced lesbians and gays as “sexual perverts” and “beasts”, who are “worse than dogs and pigs”. Rejecting calls for homosexual human rights, he said: “We don’t believe they have any rights at all”. He has warned gay people to leave Zimbabwe “voluntarily” or face “dire consequences”.

Since his inflammatory comments, homosexuals in Zimbabwe have been beaten, arrested, framed on trumped up charges, fire-bombed and threatened with death.

Your government is committed to an ethical foreign policy. We ask you to give this policy effect by cooperating with other Commonwealth leaders to isolate Zimbabwe and deny President Mugabe the trade and aid on which his government depends for its survival.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell.

Gay protests twice disrupt Portillo’s victory press conference


Tatchell gives TV interview, after result of ballot is announced , 2-November-1999. ©1999 John Hunt/OutRage! London

OutRage! has condemned the selection of homophobe and hypocrite Michael Portillo as Tory candidate for Kensington and Chelsea.

“Selecting a homophobe like Michael Portillo is the moral equivalent of choosing a racist”, said Peter Tatchell.

“The Conservatives would not consider picking someone who advocates discrimination against black people, yet they have consciously chosen a candidate who endorses discrimination against lesbians and gay men.

“It shows that the Tories remain the party of bigotry and intolerance.”

Two members of OutRage! twice breached security and slipped through a heavy police guard to disrupt Michael Portillo’s first press conference as candidate, at Kensington Town Hall on Tuesday, 2nd November.

Just moments after Portillo had been selected as Tory candidate for Kensington and Chelsea, Fernando Guasch of OutRage! sneaked into the press conference and shouted: “Hypocrite! Homophobe! Bigot! You support laws that you yourself break”.

Then another OutRage! member, Ben Evans, got within eight feet of Portillo and asked him: “Mr. Portillo, how do you reconcile your homosexuality with your homophobia?”.

Both men were violently ejected fron the press conference by police and security staff.

Afterwards, as Mr. Portillo tried to evade protests and the media by leaving the Town Hall via a back exit, his car was halted at the top of the ramp leading out of the underground car-park.

OutRage! activists brandishing placards emblazoned with the words “Portillo – Liar! Hypocrite! Criminal!” ran in front of his car, causing it to halt and prompting Mr. Portillo to duck his head in a bid to avoid being recognised.

“These protests are a foretaste of what Mr. Portillo can expect over the coming weeks. We will harry, embarrass, ridicule and shame him wherever he goes”, said Mr. Tatchell.

OutRage! has attacked Mr. Portillo over his decision to enter and exit Kensington Town Hall via the back entrance. “Unlike the other candidates he was too cowardly to face the media and a dozen gay-rights protesters”, said Mr. Tatchell.

The by-election, caused by the death of Alan Clark, will be held on the 25th November.