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- — 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-
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”.