Ugandan gay rights activist struggles to stay

Ugandan gay rights activist struggles to stay


Written by: Kevin Smith

After enduring torture and imprisonment in Uganda and hardship in detention at Harmondsworth removal centre, a gay rights activist is still struggling to stay in the UK.

After enduring the loss of family members and extreme persecution in his native country, mistreatment, detention and abuse in the UK, as well as a previous attempt to have him deported, Kizza Musinguzi, a gay rights activist from Uganda is once again struggling for his right not to be sent back to a country that has openly stated that he ‘will be crushed’ if he returns.

Kizza’s family has been a target of persecution in Uganda for supporting democratic reforms. His father, after seeking to contest a parliamentary seat in a constituency that was held by a government minister, was murdered in 1997. His mother and sister, who were working with the opposition movement, the Reform Agenda, were arrested in September 2001 and haven’t been heard of since. Then Kizza himself was arrested in 2004 and endured four months of imprisonment during which he was tortured and raped.

After arriving in London, Kizza was detained in the Harmondsworth removal centre from May to November 2005, during which time he alleges that staff racially and homophobically abused him as a ‘n****r’ and ‘batty boy’. He alleges that he was denied medical treatment for the effects of rape and torture, he had to go through the asylum system without legal representation, he says his asylum papers and asthma inhaler were confiscated and he was subject to an unwarranted internal anal examination, and an attempt was made to deport him without his being served with a removal order.

Kizza’s lack of solicitor and knowledge of the UK legal system, along with his detention and his inability to gather evidence to support his asylum claim, meant that he failed at every hearing. He was forced to represent himself in an appeal against refusal of asylum and to write his own application for a statutory review of his case.

On 21 September 2005, despite the fact that Kizza alleges that he was never served with a removal order and that a fresh claim for asylum had been submitted based on new evidence, the Home Office attempted to deport him. He was narrowly saved through the intervention of Labour MP, John McDonnell, who stopped the deportation just as Kizza was about to be put on a plane at Heathrow airport.

Now with legal representation, Kizza has applied for judicial review and is out of detention. Neither entitled to any state benefit, nor allowed to work, he is dependent on the solidarity of the social network he has developed since being in the country. ‘Despite of all I have been through I am hoping to make something of my life and become an engineer’, Kizza said. ‘I am determined to make my life better. I thank God every day for a new day and the lovely people around me who have helped me through tough life threatening situations.’ He has campaigned in the UK to promote awareness of the human rights abuses and persecution of sexual minorities in Uganda.

Kizza’s ambiguous legal status puts him in a very precarious position, both financially and in terms of his safety. If deported, he could meet a horrific fate on his return to Uganda. A government minister in Uganda wrote in a national newspaper in May 2006 that if he returned he ‘will be crushed’.

Related links

You can support Kizza’s fight to remain in the country by writing to your local MP, or by signing his online petition to the Home Office here.

Find out more about the persecution of sexual minorities in Uganda here.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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