Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was beaten up and briefly knocked unconscious as he attempted to stage a citizen’s arrest of the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel in Brussels today, Monday 5 March 2001.
As Mr Tatchell tried to arrest the President on charges of torture under the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, he was punched and kicked by Mugabe’s bodyguards, who knocked him to the ground three times.
Belgian secret service agents stepped aside and gave the President’s security men free rein to beat Tatchell until he blacked out and fell into the gutter outside the Hilton Hotel.
Two Zimbabwean agents, believed to be members of Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), threatened to have Tatchell traced and killed: “You are dead”, said one. “We will find you and kill you”, said the other.
“The assaults on me by the President’s bodyguards highlight the brutal nature of the Mugabe regime”, said Mr Tatchell.
“This protest was an attempt to remind Mugabe that sooner or later he will be arrested and put on trial for torture and other human rights abuses, such as the massacres in Matabeleland and the terrorisation of the judiciary and political opponents”.
“I am lucky to escape with a beating. If any Zimbabwean had staged this protest in Harare, they would have been shot”, added Mr Tatchell.
Belgium has incorporated the 1984 UN Convention into its domestic legislation. According to Belgian law, the authorities are under a legal obligation to arrest any person, present in Belgian territory, who has committed or authorised acts of torture anywhere in the world.
As President Mugabe was walking through the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, after a meeting the EU Commissioner, Poul Nielson, Mr Tatchell slipped between his bodyguards and tried to effect a citizen’s arrest. He approached the President saying:
“President Mugabe, you are under arrest on charges of torture. Torture is a crime under the United Nations Convention Against Torture 1984. You authorised the torture of Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka”.
Mr Tatchell was unable to say anything more, as he was grabbed around the throat by four of the President’s bodyguards who pushed him into a corner of the hotel lobby, punching and kicking him to the ground even though the President had by this time passed, and despite Tatchell offering no resistance and posing no threat to the President. Journalists and photographers were also manhandled.
With President Mugabe momentarily stuck in the hotel’s revolving door, Mr Tatchell ran through the emergency exit to confront him outside on the pavement. But he was grabbed around the neck by two Belgian secret service agents who pushed him backwards and slammed his head against the plate glass window of the Hilton Hotel.
While these agents were holding him, two members of President Mugabe’s entourage came up to Tatchell. They threatened to track down and kill him. One went to punch Mr Tatchell in the face, but seeing the Belgian agents desisted. The Belgian secret service men then let go of Tatchell and walked away, giving the two Zimbabweans a free had to punch Mr Tatchell around the head and body, knocking him to the ground.
The Zimbabweans then turned their wrath on the journalists, pushing and shoving them out of the way. The BBC reporter was grabbed by the throat.
While the President’s bodyguards sought to get him into his limousine, Mr Tatchell ran around behind the melee, and stood in front of the limousine as it attempted to leave – forcing the President’s car to halt.
Within seconds, one of the President’s bodyguards got out of his vehicle and punched Mr Tatchell in the side of the head, knocking him unconscious and into the gutter.
The Presidential motorcade then sped off for Mugabe’s meeting with the Belgium Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt.
After recovering, Mr Tatchell went to the Prime Minister’s office in Rue Lambermont, determined to confront Mugabe again.
While waiting outside, he was filmed by the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). “For our records”, they told him.
As Mugabe was about to leave the Prime Minister’s office, his bodyguards and CIO agents came out into the street. The Zimbabwean agent who had punched Tatchell in the face outside the Hilton Hotel and threatened to kill him, pointed out Tatchell to his colleagues. He then started to walk straight towards Tatchell, reaching under under jacket, as if he had a gun.
The Belgian uniformed police on duty made no attempt to stop the menacing response of the Zimbabwean agents.
“At that moment, I was in fear of my life. I thought the Zimbabwean agent might have a gun and might shoot me”, said Tatchell, who backed away.
As Mugabe left, Tatchell shouted: “Mugabe, Murderer! Mugabe, Torturer!”
Keith Goddard of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) says last October’s OutRage! protest against President Mugabe has had huge positive benefits.
When we first heard about OutRage!’s attempt to arrest President Mugabe of Zimbabwe during his annual shopping expedition to London late last year, none of us realised the massive impact it would have back here in Zimbabwe. Four months later, the incident is still being referred to with amazement and admiration by the media, opposition politicians and, of course, by gays and lesbians.
What is really heartening is the way the OutRage! protest has raised the credibility of GALZ within the general human rights movement in Zimbabwe. Because OutRage! highlighted the torture of Zimbabwean journalists and the genocide in Matabeleland – as well as abuses against the gay community – the media and mainstream human rights groups in this country took the protest very seriously. They began to realise the links between Mugabe’s attacks on gays and his other human rights violations. As a result, GALZ’s voice has been heard loud and clear, and with greater respect than ever before.
Far from damaging the lesbian and gay community or setting back the struggle for gay equality, OutRage!’s attempted citizen’s arrest of President Mugabe has produced many benefits.
It is true that two gay men and one lesbian were assaulted by off-duty policemen who accused them of ordering the attack on Mugabe. OutRage! cannot, however, be blamed for these attacks: the responsibility lies squarely with the perpetrators of this violence and the anti-gay rhetoric of the President, which has had a devastating effect on our community. In 1995, Mugabe referred to lesbians and gays as “worse than dogs and pigs” and undeserving of “any rights at all”. He has called for the arrest of anyone parading publicly as a homosexual.
Far outweighing any negative consequences of OutRage!’s actions, we have witnessed over 300 press articles, news items, letters, radio phone-in programmes and cartoons relating to the OutRage! “arrest” of Mugabe. Many of these have also included mention of gay human rights issues. Most notably, GALZ was, for the first time, invited to appear on national television. Never before has the State allowed GALZ to speak uncensored.
Another breakthrough was a Sunday Mail feature about Herbert Mondhlani, a professional black Zimbabwean gay man. This was the first occasion that the state-controlled newspaper admitted that black lesbian and gay people exist independently of the white gay community.
Although GALZ did not order the OutRage! protest and had no prior knowledge of it, we were deluged with letters of congratulations. Members of the public phoned GALZ to add their voice of approval. Many ordinary Zimbabweans who contacted us –gay and straight– expressed great disappointment that OutRage! did not succeed in getting Mugabe arrested and put on trial.
Comments on the OutRage action by the Zimbabwean public indicate the declining popularity of Mugabe. They see their President and his wife enjoying a rich lifestyle on the backs of impoverished Zimbabweans. Peter Tatchell caught the general mood here perfectly when he said: “It is sickening the way he [Mugabe] comes to London to buy luxuries at Harrods while millions of Zimbabweans are living in poverty”.
Mugabe’s bizarre reaction to the OutRage! protest has only served to further damage his public standing. His claim that the protest was a plot hatched by Tony Blair’s “gay gangster” Government, MI5 and OutRage! has highlighted the deteriorating state of our national leadership. Even hardline supporters of Mugabe have been hard put to swallow such an extraordinary suggestion. Thanks to OutRage!, Mugabe is more discredited than ever and GALZ has won new respect and allies in the human rights movement in Zimbabwe.
OutRage! is claiming a legal and moral victory after all charges against the “Mugabe Three” –Chris Morris, Peter Tatchell and Alastair Williams– were dropped at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court, London, on Friday, 10th December.
The vindicated defendants walked free from court, jubilantly displaying placards with the words: “Stop Torture! Arrest President Mugabe!”.
“If the President returns to Britain, we will arrest him again”, said Chris Morris. “Next time, he won’t get away. We’ll make sure that he ends up in detention, just like General Pinochet.”
In court, the magistrate publicly berated the Crown Prosecution Service for its inept mishandling of the case. Legal costs and expenses were awarded to all three defendants.
OutRage! describes the withdrawal of the charges as a humiliating climb-down by the Crown Prosecution Service.
“The charges have only been dropped to spare politicians the embarrassment of hearing us present evidence about crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe, which was a key part of our defence,” said Morris.
“It is a shameful abuse of the criminal justice system that our case has been spiked by diplomats, rather than being heard in court.
“We want to know why the police assisted Mugabe’s get-away and ignored the evidence we presented to them at the scene, which shows that President Mugabe’s government is guilty of grave violations of human rights”, said Morris.
Codefendant Alastair Williams added: “The abandonment of the prosecution confirms that we should never have been charged in the first place. It is a vindication of our citizen’s arrest of President Mugabe.
“The official reason given for dropping the case was ‘insufficient evidence’. But the Crown had lined up 18 police officers to testify against us, and had 15 minutes of film footage from Sky News.
“The real reason was not insufficent evidence, but that the evidence favoured our defence. It did not substantiate the charges against us, and confirmed the legality of our actions.
“The prosecution was axed for the political motive of not embarrassing the police and Government. They were terrified that our trial would have established that torture is illegal under British law, thereby paving the way for the arrest of any torturer who sets foot on British soil”, said Williams.
According to Peter Tatchell, the other defendant in the “Mugabe Three” prosecution:
“This case highlights the double standards of the British Government and legal system. General Pinochet has been arrested for human rights abuses, while President Mugabe is allowed to come and go as he pleases, despite his government’s equally grisly abuse of human rights.
“Mugabe’s human rights record is arguably worse than Pinochet’s: the massacres in Matabeleland, torture of journalists, press censorship, violent suppression of peaceful protests, and his attacks on the gay community.
“It seems that Britain has one rule for left-wing African tyrants and another for right-wing Latin American despots.
“Britain has signed and pledged to uphold the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, which is enforceable in British law under Section 134 of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act.
“If the Government is unwilling to enforce this legislation in a consistent and uniform manner, perhaps it would be more honest to annul Britain’s ratification of the 1984 Convention and openly tolerate the use of torture by the Mugabe regime.
“What was particularly sickening about Mugabe’s visit to London was that this so-called “socialist” and “Marxist” had come here to go shopping at Harrods, while millions of his fellow Zimbabweans are living in poverty and on the verge of starvation”, said Tatchell.
OutRage! campaigner Peter Tatchell has received a death threat in response to his attempted citizen’s arrest of the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, on charges of torture and the abuse of gay human rights.
The death threat appears to originate from Zimbabweans, as it is headed with the national colours of Zimbabwe.
It was posted from within Britain and included Mr Tatchell’s full home address and postcode. The letter arrived in the post on Saturday 20 November.
Mr Tatchell had earlier been tipped off that Mugabe’s agents in Britain may try to kill him in revenge for his citizen’s arrest of the President.
The death threat refers to President Mugabe and goes on to say:
“were (sic) out to get you, and stab your filthy queer body to death…DEATH TO ALL HOMOSEXUALS. Now run to the Gay police and beg for protection, because your (sic) going to need it”.
The death threat has been reported to Southwark police, who are now mounting an investigation and advising Mr Tatchell on enhanced security precautions at his already heavily fortified flat in south London.
The death threat was initially reported to PCs Quinton 444 and Denley 977 at Southwark Police Station in Borough High Street (020-722.214.171.124). Mr Tatchell’s safety and protection is being handled by WPC Frost at Rotherhithe Police Station (020-126.96.36.199).
Responding to President Mugabe’s assurance at the Commonwealth Summit that gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell would be welcome to visit Zimbabwe, Mr. Tatchell says he hopes to take up the President’s offer early next year.
“I want a meeting with the President to urge an end to human rights abuses, and to support his call for Britain to help fund land redistribution”, said Mr. Tatchell.
“The President is wrong to suggest that myself and OutRage! are part of a British-government conspiracy to sabotage his government’s land reform programme. We agree with President Mugabe that Britain has a moral duty to help remedy the injustices of the colonial era by providing financial aid for a buy-back of white-owned farms.
“Providing President Mugabe will guarantee my immunity from arrest and agree to meet me, I will go to Zimbabwe early next year. I hope to persuade him to drop his antigay crusade and to include a ban on discrimination against homosexuals in Zimbabwe’s new constitution”, said Mr. Tatchell.
“I would gladly have afternoon tea with the President. I don’t hate him. It is his homophobic policies that are objectionable. I would much prefer Mr. Mugabe to be a friend of the gay community, instead of an enemy.
“A calm, reasoned meeting with the President might help remedy his misunderstandings about gay people and encourage him to adopt a more enlightened policy on gay issues.
“I am prepared to forgive and forget, providing Mr. Mugabe starts respecting the human rights of all Zimbweans. He must take tough action to end the use of torture, censorship, detention without trial, and the suppression of strikes and peaceful protests.
“Despite our disagreement on human rights issues, I support President Mugabe’s request that Britain help fund a land reform programme, including a buy-back of white-owned farms. But this funding must be conditional on the Zimbabwe government ending human rights abuses and stamping out corruption.
“There need to be guarantees that land reform will benefit impoverished rural communities, and not be squandered in corrupt handouts to Mr. Mugabe’s cronies”, said Mr. Tatchell.
Mr. Mugabe made his offer that Tatchell would be welcome to visit Zimbabwe at the Commonwealth Summit in Durban on Friday, 12th November, as reported in the London newspaper, The Independent, on 13th November.
At a preliminary court hearing on Friday, 19th November, Mr. Tatchell and two OutRage! colleagues, Chris Morris and Alastair Williams, pleaded “not guilty” to public disorder charges arising from the citizen’s arrest of President Mugabe on 30th October, when they ambushed the President’s car, forcing it to halt and allowing Mr. Tatchell to open the car door and grab Mugabe by the arm.
Tatchell told the bewildered President: “President Mugabe, you are under arrest for torture. Torture is a crime under international law.”
The three OutRage! defendants who have been dubbed the “Mugabe Three” are expected to stand trial early next year.
The citizen’s arrest was the third year in a row that Mr. Tatchell has confronted President Mugabe over gay human rights abuses.
Last year, he got into the ante-room of the President’s apartment at the St. James’s Court / Crown Plaza Hotel in London, before being stopped by security guards. He was sent away with the promise that the President would meet him the following day: but Mugabe then cried off, pleading a busy schedule.
In 1998, Mr. Tatchell breached security at the Africa at 40 conference in London’s Central Hall Westminster, challenging Mugabe face-to-face as he was taking tea with other African leaders and the conference organisers. Ejected by Special Branch officers, he was threatened with arrest, but never charged.
Following the Pink Paper’s leading front page article, (Friday, 12th Nov.), GALZ, Gays and Lesbians in Zimbabwe, have written the following letter to remove any doubt about their position on the attempted arrest of President Mugabe on the 30th October and the resultant positive developments.
Note, as just one example, that: “Zimbabwe television (ZTV) is inviting representatives from GALZ to appear as panelists on a discussion programme next Tuesday. The topic is the incident in London and other issues. This is a first and it is a major opportunity for us to be heard. The invitation comes in direct response to the OutRage! incident.”
The Pink Paper
12th November, 1999.
The article “Gays attacked in Zimbabwe after OutRage! stunt” dangerously misrepresents the situation it sparked in Zimbabwe. Gross distortions of this nature, especially by the foreign press, play straight into the hands of our persecutors who delight in painting gays and lesbians as liars and alarmists. It is difficult enough to be lesbian and gay in this country without the foreign press feeding fuel to our enemies.
The GALZ ’state of emergency’ was called in reponse to a single incident involving attacks on two gay men, not ‘a number of gay men’. It was isolated and not part of ‘a series of attacks,’ as the Pink Paper claims. The statement that “there were other reports of attacks on gay men by the police across Zimbabwe” is a total fabrication and certainly did not emanate from this office. Furthermore, nobody was sexually assaulted.
Our state of emergency meant that those who were in the public eye were asked to stay in phone contact with each other until the temperature cooled down. The emergency was called off when it was understood that this incident did not constitute the start of another gay-bashing campaign.
Violence against lesbians and gay men is increasing in urban areas as a general trend. But the ‘damage’ to the lesbian and gay community in this country stems directly from President Mugabe’s antigay rhetoric which has had a devastating effect on us: the blame for the violence must rest squarely on the shoulders of Mugabe and his lackeys, not on the independent actions of foreign groups.
Human Rights defenders tire of being blamed for violence which they have not committed. The OutRage! incident simply brought into sharp focus the human rights abuses of the Harare regime. Just because it would be dangerous for such style of action to take place in Zimbabwe does not mean that it is not allowable in an open and democratic society. Remember too that GALZ was blamed by the authorities and the state-controlled media for causing the violence during the 1995 and 1996 Zimbabwe International Book Fairs even though it was this organisation that was the victim of threats, and thugs trashed the GALZ stand. People who speak out against direct action and plead for gradual change talk the language of the abuser. Generally, people do not give over social space unless forced or if they see it is in their own self interest to do so.
A black lesbian was beaten up a couple of days ago not as a result of the OutRage! ’stunt’ but because she had been seen on television giving evidence to the constitutional commission. Gay men are sometimes beaten up outside nightclubs because people here have been taught to hate gays and gangsters have been given licence to taunt and harass us.
The white gay community would have been the least affected by the action of OutRage!. White gay men are not the target of gay bashers; they are targets of blackmailers. GALZ is unaware of the human rights activities of Paranoid ‘Rufus’.
Many Zimbabweans have relished the humiliation of the president in London. They have derived immense satisfaction from seeing the Almighty on high brought low. The President’s cage was seriously rattled and he is still smarting with indignation. His subsequent rantings that it was a plot orchestrated by Gay Gangster Blair and MI5 have been met with appropriate scorn and ridicule.
The OutRage! incident sparked a diplomatic row but only in the sense of helping a smouldering situation burst into flames. It put into perspective the abuse of lesbians and gay men within the context of broader human rights abuses in this country. For too long, our government has dined out on international declarations and covenants to which it is a signatory. The chickens have come home to roost and the Commonwealth and other international bodies are now calling for genuine compliance with human rights treaties and not mere rhetorical compliance. If our political leaders do not make a genuine effort to uphold the liberties of our people, they can only expect local and international pressure to intensify. Torture and genocide are serious matters for the attention of the international community; they are not minor domestic matters.
As I pointed out in my telephone conversation with David Northmore, the London incident has led to a number of positive outcomes. Even as I write, Zimbabwe television (ZTV) is inviting representatives from GALZ to appear as panelists on a discussion programme next Tuesday. The topic is the incident in London and other issues. This is a first and it is a major opportunity for us to be heard. The invitation comes in direct response to the OutRage! incident.
A reporter from the Daily Mail is here at the moment interviewing three black members of GALZ as part of her research for an in-depth article about their lives. All the local newspapers, even the state-controlled media, are now falling over themselves to print our stories. We are being heard for the first time and the old rhetoric of unAfrican, unBiblical is being drowned by a human rights chorus shouting accountability. In the Thursday, 11th November edition of the Financial Gazette, which normally passes over gay issues, there are no less than nine articles, letters and features on issues of gay and general human rights as well as the deteriorating relationship between Britain and Zimbabwe. In total, since Sunday, 31st October, GALZ has collected no less than 58 newspaper articles on the subject of lesbian and gay issues and the diplomatic incident in London. It has also sparked a heated debate – people are talking.
The action of OutRage! has strengthened our credibility within the general human rights movement in Zimbabwe. Tatchell mentioned the torture of the journalists and the genocide in Matabeleland. GALZ’s reaction to these comments have been heard, acknowledged and won us friends.
Publicity is our best secret weapon. The recent limelight comes directly in the wake of the OutRage! action and, for that, we thank Peter Tatchell and his crew.
Programmes Manager, GALZ.
OutRage! has condemned as “shameful appeasement” the British Government’s expression of “regret” to President Mugabe over his citizen’s arrest by OutRage! members during a visit to London on the 30th October.
The words of regret were expressed to Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister in a phone call by Peter Hain MP, Minister of State at the Foreign Office in London.
“Instead of regretting our protest in defence of human rights, the Foreign Office should have apologised to the people of Zimbabwe for failing to arrest President Mugabe over his government’s violation of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
“Despite being presented with evidence that the Zimbabwe government condones torture, the Metropolitan Police and Attorney-General allowed Mugabe to go Christmas shopping at Harrods and then fly back to Zimbabwe.”
Mr. Tatchell, who arrested President Mugabe during the OutRage! ambush of the President’s motorcade in central London, is a former Labour parliamentary candidate, who fought the Bermondsey by-election in 1983. He has written to the Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Tatchell’s letter urges Mr. Blair to initiate moves at next week’s Commonwealth Summit in South Africa 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”.
Meanwhile, Tatchell has revealed that he campaigned in the 1970s in support of ZANU’s “Chimurenga” to overthrow white minority rule in Zimbabwe.
“During the 1970s, when I was a student, I supported ZANU’s war of liberation, fundraising to buy medical supplies for ZANU’s fighters in the bush”, said Tatchell.
“The President has betrayed ZANU’s ideals of social justice and human rights. Mugabe is Ian Smith with a black face. It is sickening the way he comes to London to buy luxuries at Harrods while millions of Zimbabweans are living in poverty”, he said.
Mr. Tatchell detailed the citizen’s arrest of President Mugabe and condemned human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean government in an interview on NETWORK AFRICA, which was broadcast to Zimbabwe by the BBC World Service last Monday morning, 8th November 1999, at 3:30 and 5:30 hours GMT.
Peter Tatchell, Chris Morris and Alastair Williams of OutRage! were arrested for their involvement in the citizen’s arrest of President Mugabe. They were held in police cells for 7 hours (until Mugabe had left Britain). Released on police bail, they are required to report to Belgravia police station in London on Tuesday, 16th November at 10 a.m., when they will be informed whether they are to be prosecuted.
The Prime Minister,
10, Downing Street.
9th November, 1999.
Dear Tony Blair,
COMMONWEALTH SUMMIT 1999
HOMOPHOBIC PERSECUTION & OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN ZIMBABWE
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.
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. 020-188.8.131.52). — 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!)
PHOTOS + VIDEO: Simon Bebbington (ISF reporter)
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.
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”.
OutRage! urges activists concerned about the persecution in Zimbabwe of Keith Goddard of GALZ on trumped-up charges to send letters of protest to:
Zimbabwe High Commission, 429, Strand, London WC2.
President of Zimbabwe,
The President’s Office,
Post Bag 7700,
Dear Robert Mugabe,
You will recall that we met over coffee at the “Africa At 40″ conference at Central Hall Westminster last October. During the 1970’s, I was involved in fund-raising and political campaigning on behalf of ZANU. You thanked me for my efforts in support of the War of Liberation.
I raised with you the issue of lesbian and gay human rights, expressing my concern that homosexual people in Zimbabwe were being harassed and threatened, and that your own past antigay comments had fuelled the atmosphere of intolerance.
When I asked you to reconsider your public hostility to lesbian and gay people and their human rights, you said that homosexuals in Zimbabwe would not be persecuted. You even said, in response to my questioning, that you “may” be willing to meet with lesbian and gay organisations to discuss their concerns.
These responses were, to my pleasant surprise, much more conciliatory than your earlier public pronouncements. I had hoped that you might eventually commence a dialogue with lesbian and gay Zimbabweans.
It is therefore with great sadness that I learn of the continuing harassment of the human rights group, Gays & Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ): in particular the arrest of GALZ leader, Keith Goddard, on charges of forced sodomy – despite the police possession of evidence that the alleged “victim” had been attempting to blackmail and extort money from Goddard.
Knowing Keith Goddard personally, it is inconceivable that he would ever use sexual force or pressure. He is a most gentle, considerate man, to whom any form of coercive sex would be abhorrent.
Personally, and on behalf of the lesbian and gay human rights group OutRage!, I urge you to intervene to ensure that these absurd, unjust and uncorroborated charges against Keith Goddard are dropped.
Mugabe launched yet another attack on homosexuals on 22-April-1998, and criticised the World Council of Churches which, he claimed, intended to discuss homosexuality during its international assembly in Harare in December this year.
In an emotional eulogy at the home of Charles Chikerema, the late editor of a Government newspaper, The Herald, who died on 21 April, President Mugabe said that homosexuality was evil and was not justifiable by any means.
“Animals in the jungle are better than these people because at least they know how to distinguish between a male and a female,” said Mugabe, speaking in the Shona language. He repeated his views –which caused international controversy several years ago– that homosexuality was completely unacceptable and neither African nor Christian.