Racist, homophobic and sexual abuse by Home Office staff alleged.
Detained and denied medical treatment for five months.
Harmondsworth condemned as “an often lawless place where the human rights of asylum seekers are systematically abused without redress”.
London – 29 September 2005
Ugandan gay rights activist Kizza Musinguzi, aged 25, was jailed by the Ugandan government for his gay human rights work and subjected to four months of forced labour, water torture, beatings and rape, from May to September 2004.
The Home Office wants to deport him on the grounds that it claims this abuse does not constitute persecution. It says Mr Musinguzi is a not a legitimate asylum seeker and does not qualify as a genuine refugee.
In Harmondsworth asylum detention centre in west London, Mr Musinguzi alleges that staff racially and homophobically abused him as a “nigger” and “batty boy”, denied him medical treatment for the effects of rape and torture, forced him through the asylum system without legal representation, confiscated his asylum papers and asthma inhaler, subjected him to the sexual abuse of an unwarranted internal anal examination, and attempted to deport him without serving him with a removal order.
Mr Musinguzi is fighting deportation with legal support and advice from the LGBT human rights group OutRage!
Mr Musinguzi’s father was murdered by the Ugandan security services in November 1997, after seeking election in a constituency contested by a government Minister who is now the second deputy Prime Minister, Henry Kajura. His mother and sister were arrested in February 2001 because of their work for the Ugandan opposition movement, the Reform Agenda. They have never been seen or heard of since they were seized.
Fearing for his life, Mr Musinguzi fled to Britain and claimed asylum. He was placed in detention at Harmondsworth asylum removal centre in west London on 5 May 2005.
The Home Office forced Mr Musinguzi through the asylum system without legal representation. Having no solicitor and no knowledge of the UK legal system, and being detained and unable to gather evidence to support his asylum claim, 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.
The Home Office then fast-tracked Mr Musinguzi for deportation as a failed asylum seeker.
Desperate for legal help, Mr Musingizi appointed Peter Tatchell of the gay human rights group OutRage! as his legal representative, as he is entitled to do. He instructed Mr Tatchell to submit a fresh claim for asylum, based on new evidence gathered by an independent researcher, which confirms widespread homophobic persecution in Uganda. Mr Tatchell submitted this fresh asylum claim on 15 September.
The Harmondsworth Fast Rack Office refused to accept Mr Tatchell as his legal representative and refused to accept the fresh claim. They actively blocked attempts by Mr Musinguzi to confirm that Mr Tatchell was acting on his instructions.
On 21 September, the Home Office attempted to deport Mr Musinguzi, despite his fresh claim for asylum based on new evidence and despite the fact that he was never served with a removal order. Mr Tatchell contacted Harmondsworth’s Labour MP, John McDonnell, who got the deportation order stopped just as Mr Musinguizi was about to be put on a plane at Heathrow Airport.
He is now being held at Colnbrook detention centre in west London; still under threat of deportation.
During his five months detention in Harmondsworth, Mr Musinguzi was denied medical screening, treatment and counselling for the effects of rape and torture – despite suffering from intense pain in his groin and bleeding when defecating.
He alleges that Harmondsworth staff subjected him to racist, homophobic and sexual abuse, including an unwarranted and unexplained strip-search and internal anal examination, which echoed the abuse he suffered in Uganda.
Staff allegedly insulted him with taunts like “come here nigger” and “batty boy”.
Staff at Harmondaworth confiscated Mr Musinguzi’s asthma inhaler soon after his arrival, causing him months of breathing difficulties and great distress. They also confiscated all his papers relating to his asylum claim.
In a letter to the Home Office minister, Tony McNulty MP (copy below), dated 22 September, Mr Tatchell states:
“I respectfully request that any action to remove Mr Musinguzi from the United Kingdom be suspended, pending his securing of professional legal representation, the formal presentation of the new evidence by Mr Musinguzi’s new solicitors, an assessment of Mr Musinguzi by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, the administration of appropriate medical treatment, and an investigation of his claims of abuse by staff at Harmondsworth.”
Commenting on Mr Musinguzi’s treatment by the Home Office, Mr Tatchell said:
“Mr Musinguzi’s fast-tracking through the asylum system without legal representation is typical of the way many asylum applicants are denied a fair hearing.
“We know from our experience that very few asylum claimants receive adequate legal representation.
“The fast track system is fundamentally flawed. It’s aim is to deport as many asylum seekers as quickly as possible; usually with scant regard to the merit of individual cases.
“Harmondsworth is an often lawless place where the human rights of asylum seekers are systematically abused without redress.
“Staff can make potentially life and death decisions without any proper checks and balances against the violation of an asylum seeker’s legal, medical and emotional welfare.
“The entire asylum system needs reform to ensure that every asylum claimant gets adequate legal representation and medical attention.
“We thank Labour MP John McDonnell for his help in getting Mr Musinguzi’s deportation halted last week,” said Mr Tatchell.
Copy of Peter Tatchell’s letter to Home Office minister, Tony McNulty
22 September 2005
Tony McNulty MP
Home Office Minister
Dear Tony McNulty,
Kizza Musinguzi – Request to suspend removal from the UK
Ugandan gay activist – Raped and tortured in Uganda
Currently detained in Colnbrook detention centre
DMS 45591, Port Reference ASC/554897
Home Office Ref. M1276303
Date of birth 10 May 1980
I am writing to respectfully request that you authorise a suspension of attempts to remove Mr Kizza Musinguzi from the UK in order that he can find a solicitor to represent him and make a fresh claim for asylum – based on the new evidence of homophobic persecution in Uganda that is now available a doctor can examine him and compile a report on his allegations of rape and torture in Uganda there is a full investigation into his allegations of racist, homophobic and sexual abuse by staff at Harmondsworth
This letter contains important new information about Mr Musinguzi’s case obtained today, 22 September.
Mr Musinguzi is now being held in Colnbrook detention centre. Until 21 September 2005, he was held at Harmondsworth asylum removal centre in west London.
Mr Musinguzi has appointed me, Peter Tatchell of the lesbian and gay human rights group OutRage!, to act as his legal representative, pending my securing of a solicitor to take on his fresh asylum claim.
He currently has no solicitor. Every law firm he and I have approached has said they are “overwhelmed” with asylum claims and cannot take on any new clients. I am still trying to find a solicitor to represent him. I am, however, hopeful that I can secure him legal representation by next week.
Mr Musinguzi had no legal representation at his original asylum hearing and none at his subsequent appeals. It is shocking that his application and appeals have been heard without him having professional legal representation and without any opportunity for him to gather evidence to support his claim of homophobic persecution, torture and rape in Uganda.
Mr Musinguzi has been denied legal representation since late May 2005. He has not had a fair hearing of his claim for asylum or at any of his appeals.
This is not how the asylum system is supposed to operate. He has a right to legal representation and a fair hearing.
Mr Musinguzi’s fresh claim is based on new evidence (see below) that was not available to him at the earlier stages of his asylum claim and subsequent appeals.
Mr Musinguzi was not able to previously present this evidence because he was in detention in Harmondsworth asylum removal centre in west London. He had no means to gather and offer this new evidence at his earlier hearings. His previous solicitor failed to adequately liaise with him, did not do the necessary research and then abandoned him in May. Since then, he has had no legal representation. Mr Musinguzi cannot be held responsible for the failings of his past legal representatives.
The fresh evidence (still being compiled) comprises new information about the persecution of Mr Musinguzi and other gay Ugandans, adduced by an independent researcher. It includes new information from a report compiled by Amnesty International (See Amnesty International, Report, 2 August 2005 – AI Index AFR 59/003/2005), and a report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission – I am still awaiting receipt from the USA).
Rape and torture in Uganda
Mr Kizza Musinguzi says he was tortured and raped by state agents in Uganda (see below).
I have established that the places where he says he was tortured are indeed notorious torture centres – condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch: Uganda: Concerns regarding Torture: Patterns and cases of torture, May 2005, http://hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/uganda0505).
Mr Musinguzi’s body bears the signs of torture and rape, as witnessed by two persons who independently visited him at Harmondsworth in early September.
He is suffering from severe pain in his groin and bleeding when defecating. He needs medical attention – which he has, so far, been denied by Harmondsworth for five months. His rectal bleeding could be a sign of anal perforation as a result of his instrumental rape in Uganda. If such wounds become infected, they can cause serious complications and, if untreated, can, in extreme cases, be fatal.
Since his detention at Harmondsworth on 5 May 2005, Mr Musinguzi has been denied medical screening, treatment and counselling for the effects of rape and torture.
Harmondsworth has failed to refer him to the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.
On 15 September 2005, acting on Mr Musinguzi’s instructions, I filed an application with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture in London, for Mr Musinguzi to be assessed by their professional medical staff, with a view to treatment for the torture and rape he suffered in Uganda. This application is now being handled by Julian Fountain at the Medical Foundation. It would be wrong to remove Mr Musinguzi from the UK without him first having a medical examination by an appointee of the Medical Foundation to assess his claims of torture and to ensure he has the medical treatment his condition requires.
Abuse in Harmondsworth
Mr Musinguzi has suffered a sustained pattern of abuse by certain staff at Harmondsworth Removals Centre in west London.
1) On 21 September 2005, at 2pm, Harmondsworth staff refused to send a fax from Mr Musinguzi to the Fast Track Office confirming that he has appointed me as his legal representative with power to act on his behalf. When requested by him, they refused to explain why they would not send his fax.
2) Harmondsworth Fast Track Office then advised me that because they had no evidence that I was acting on Mr Musingizi’s instructions they could not accept the fresh claim for asylum that I had submitted on Mr Musinguzi’s behalf (ie. they told me this after their colleagues blocked Mr Musinguzi’s attempt to fax them confirmation that I was acting for him).
3) On 20 September 2005, I faxed the Harmondsworth Fast Track Office requesting that they send a staff member the short distance through the building to where Mr Musinguzi was being held to get verbal and written confirmation from Mr Musinguzi that I was his appointed legal representative. They ignored my request.
4) On 21 September 2005, in the evening, there was an attempt at Heathrow Airport to remove Mr Musinguzi by aircraft from the UK, without him being served with a removal order, which is contrary to legal procedures.
5) On 7 September 2005, Harmondsworth staff came into Mr Musinguzi’s room and removed all his legal papers and supporting documents for his asylum claim. These have been confiscated and Harmondsworth staff refuse to return them to him.
6) On 5 August 2005, four white guards at Harmondsworth subjected Mr Musinguzi’s to a strip-search and to a non-medical, non-justified anal examination with two fingers (the purpose of which was never stated, as regulations stipulate they must be). This intrusive, illegitimate anal examination replicated his instrumental rape and humiliation at Kololo in Uganda. The guards laughed and insulted him as he recited the Lord’s Prayer to himself, while naked (Mr Musinguzi’s Anglican faith is very important to him). When he subsequently asked a sympathetic guard if he could make a complaint, he was told that a complaint could damage his appeal against refusal of asylum.
7) His statutory review was dated 8 August 2005, but was not given to him until 6 September, which is highly irregular and a violation of regulations.
8) On 8 September 2005 one of the same Hamondsworth guards who strip-searched him on 5 August took Mr Musinguzi into the communal toilets. In the presence of two other guards, this principal guard, whose name he has not yet been able to establish, told him to turn to face the wall and strip naked. Conveniently, this was done in a part of Harmondsworth where there are no security cameras. No reason or explanation of this search was given. When Mr Musinguzi was asked the reason, he was given no reply. The guard then asked him, amidst much laughter from the other guards, to spread his legs slowly. After a few minutes, he was told that he could dress again. If this is a routine and acceptable procedure within Harmondsworth, it is highly inappropriate to impose it on people those who have experienced similar sexual abuse and humiliation in their countries of origin.
9) Soon after his detention in May 2005, Harmondsworth staff confiscated Mr Musinguzi’s asthma inhaler and refused to return it; causing him severe breathing difficulties. This constitutes serious physical abuse and ill-treatment.
In the light of this new representation, I respectfully request that any action to remove Mr Musinguzi from the United Kingdom be suspended, pending his securing of professional legal representation, the formal presentation of the new evidence by Mr Musinguzi’s new solicitors, an assessment of Mr Musinguzi by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, the administration of appropriate medical treatment, and an investigation of his claims of abuse by staff at Harmondsworth.
Evidence of homophobic persecution in Uganda, and of the torture and rape of Kizza Musinguzi:
Kizza Musinguzi is a Ugandan gay activist who has been detained at Harmondsworth since 5 May, 2005.
He was a member of the Ugandan gay rights group Lesgabix. This organisation and its members were subjected to homophobic persecution by the Ugandan authorities. The murder of one of its members in 2001 was reported on the African gay rights website, Behind the Mask, (Archive, 2001, accessible by Google search by ‘Lesgabix, Uganda’).
After the state suppression of Lesgabix, Kizza worked with Sexual Minorities Uganda, whose members the security services detained and mistreated as recently as 20 July 2005 (see Amnesty International Index: AFR 59/003/2005 (Public), News Service No: 208, 2 August 2005).
We can confirm the existence and bona fides of the human rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda, and the fact that this group and its members have suffered sustained state persecution.
Kizza was arrested in May 2004 and tortured in the notorious secret Joint Anti-Terrorism facility at Kololo, deemed illegal by Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch: Uganda: Concerns regarding Torture: Patterns and cases of torture, May 2005, http://hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/uganda0505).
This torture of Mr Musinguzi at Kololo included instrumental rape (with a large, coarse corn cob) by state agents, causing internal wounds and bleeding, and severe groin pain, which continue to this day. At Kololo he was also beaten repeatedly while chained to a wall.
Kizza was then transferred to Luzira Upper Prison in May 2004, where 23-year old Benjamin Buloba was apparently raped until he died in agony in October (See The Monitor, Kampala, December 5, 2004, Financial Times Information, All Africa Global Media, Diseases, overcrowding raging in jailhouses,).
He was kept in Luzira from 13th to 26th May 2004.
Kizza was transferred again to one of Uganda’s main political detention facilities, at Gulu, in Northern Uganda, which has been the subject of several Human Rights Watch enquiries, most recently in May 2005.
He was required to perform forced labour at Gulu from 26 May 2004 until approximately 4 September 2004. At Gulu, he was beaten regularly on his head, legs and back with sticks, gun-butts and heavy wet folded towels. These beatings happened approximately every two days. He was also frequently slapped. When he was unable to lift blocks of stone, around 29 May 2004, shortly after his arrival at Gulu, he was blindfolded, gagged and force-fed water through his nose for about ten minutes. The guards repeated this procedure towards the end of June. This and many of the other instances of abuse were accompanied by ethno-centric/tribalist and homophobic abuse, and threats he would be burned alive.
It is extremely significant and disturbing that a 25-year old non-violent gay-rights activist should be detained and tortured in Uganda’s most violent anti-terrorism facilities.
This is suggestive of an ongoing risk of torture and abuse if Mr Musinguzi is returned to Uganda.
It is essential to Kizza’s fresh asylum claim that he is urgently examined by a doctor able to give him a full medical examination, since he has traces of injuries consistent with his account of torture.
Gay Human Rights Group OutRage!
CC: Tony McNulty MP and John McDonnell MP