Asylum

Linda Nakibuka came to the UK as a student and for refuge. In Uganda, she was sexually harassed, attacked and beaten by people who think sexual orientation can be taught or transmitted like an illness: who may think a lesbian can be “cured” by being raped; and who believe homosexuality is a sin.

Rev Simon Lokodo, the minister in charge of Ethics and Integrity in Uganda, said last week that

“These people are disruptive; they are promoting a negative culture contrary to the laws of this country. They are promoting homosexuality and lesbianism as an acceptable culture, and this is ruining our lives. This is not going to stop. We will support the [Anti-Homosexuality Bill]. There is now sufficient evidence to move against these evil people. We’ll punish them with a deterrent punishment. We are looking for a day when this law is going to take shape.”

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda. For some years, inspired by the American evangelical view of homosexuality a Ugandan MP, David Bahiti, has been trying to get the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. This legislation includes the death penalty for consensual sexual activity, and makes it a criminal offense to know someone is gay and not inform the police.

Ugandan religious leaders and others support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

Speaking after their recent annual conference organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, the bishops resolved that the parliamentary committee on Gender should be tasked to engage the House on the Bill which is now at committee level.

“We also ask the Education committee to engage the Ministry of Education on the issue of incorporating a topic on human sexuality in the curricula of our schools and institutions of learning,” the resolutions signed by archbishops Henry Luke Orombi, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, indicated.

The clerics also appealed to all the churches in the country “to remain steadfast in opposing the phenomena of homosexuality, lesbianism and same-sex union”.

On Wednesday 11th April this year, apparently still with a valid visa allowing her to stay in the UK legally, Linda Nakibuka went to the UK Borders Agency to apply for asylum.

Asylum on the grounds of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees requires the asylum-seeker to show that she has a well-founded fear of persecution because of her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. According to the UKBA website:

“If you do not qualify for recognition as a refugee but we think there are humanitarian or other reasons why we should allow you to stay in the UK, we may give you temporary permission to remain here.”

There are heroically brave LGBT people in Uganda who stay and who fight for human rights. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera of Freedom and Roam Uganda won 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in recognition of the courage it takes to fight for basic human rights in a country whose government is trying to pass a law making it legal to kill you just for being gay. (Ironically, UKBA originally tried to ban Nabagesera from entering the UK when she was invited to speak at a Pride rally in Northern Ireland.)

But what if you are 22 and afraid to be a hero – known to be gay in Uganda, afraid to go home and risk rape, prison, death?

The Home Office used to argue that because an LGBT person can “be discreet” – stay in the closet, lie to their family and neighbours and colleagues at work and co-religionists at church about their sexual orientation, lie all their lives to virtually everyone they meet about their personal lives, this is OK – homophobic persecution doesn’t “count” for reasons of asylum. Or, in Uganda, be honest and accept that you will be persecuted and may suffer life imprisonment, may be beaten to death for being gay, and – if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law – can be put to death quite legally.

But on 7th July 2010 this argument was overturned by the Supreme Court.

The supreme court rejected the Home Office’s test, which asked whether it would be “reasonably tolerable” for a person to conceal their sexuality to avoid persecution. The court heard during the hearing that this test would have meant that Anne Frank would be condemned to remain in her “comfortable attic”.

Raza Husain QC, representing the Iranian appellant, proposed a new test to decide whether someone can be returned. “The test is can you live as who you are in a way that conforms to your fundamental identity? It’s not about extravagant acts or gay pride marches. It’s about forming relationships and not lying about who you are,” Husain said.

Linda Nakibuka had a good case for asylum if she did not want to go home and be a hero. Instead, the UKBA put her in detention, fast-tracked to appear before an Immigration Judge, and was to be deported on Friday 22nd June.

Movement for Justice started a petition to draw attention to her situation and her MP, Damien Green, Minister for Immigration, intervened to give her and her friends two weeks to appeal. She may still be deported on 6th July, despite her visa still being valid, despite testimony from people who knew her in Uganda that she is known to be a lesbian, and similar evidence from LGBT friends in the UK, and despite medical evidence from doctors who have examined her while she is in detention regarding the torture she suffered in Uganda.

And there’s Julian Assange.

When in Sweden, in 2010, it’s alleged by two witnesses that Julian Assange had non-consensual sex with them – that they told him to use a condom and he refused. One witness says that Assange initiated sex with her (without a condom) while she was asleep, though she had previously made clear to him that she would not have sex unless a condom was used. This is, morally and in Swedish law, rape. Julian Assange is wanted by the Swedish police to answer questions about this allegation. If he is then charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced, he may spend six years in jail in Sweden. (I see no reason to doubt that the witnesses are speaking the truth and morally in that case Assange is guilty of rape. But most men who commit rape, even when the police take it seriously, are not then convicted and sentenced.)

Sweden has had, since 2006, very stringent legal safeguards – much more stringent than the UK – against deporting anyone to the US. If Julian Assange truly fears being extradited to the US more than anything else, he would be far safer in Sweden, even on trial or in jail for rape, than he would be in the UK.

Further, though it would hardly be humanly possibly for Assange to immediately recall every detail revealed by Wikileaks, that Sweden objects to having CIA rendition flights even land there is now in the public domain, as is the Swedish objections to legal residents being removed by the CIA:

An acute diplomatic crisis broke out between the United States and Sweden in 2006 when Swedish authorities put a stop to CIA rendition flights, according to the latest revelation from Wikileaks.

Daily Svenska Dagbladet wrote Sunday that Swedish Military Intelligence posed as airport personnel and boarded one of the two controversial extraordinary rendition flights during a stopover at Stockholm’s Arlanda International Airport. The suspected prisoner transfers were confirmed.

A few days before the incident US charge d’affaires at the American Embassy in Stockholm, Steven V. Noble, was summoned by the Swedish Foreign Ministry and questioned about the planned stopover. The Swedish military also set down rules for stopovers.

Steven V. Noble wrote in cables reveled by WkiLeaks that the Swedish government reacted strongly because rules had not been followed.

A spokesperson from Säpo, Swedish police Intelligence Service, confirmed parts the newspaper report, adding that there have been no more extraordinary rendition flights landing in Sweden since.

Julian Assange had been living comfortably in a friend’s house, free on a £240,000 bail bond put up by various wealthy people who it’s to be hoped can afford to lose their money, while the Swedish and UK governments went through the process of determining whether there was sufficient reason to allow extradition from the UK to Sweden. On 30th May Julian Assange lost his last appeal (as had been predicted he would – the European Arrest Warrant was valid), and on 19th June, he went to Knightsbridge and in the Ecuadorian embassy there claimed that he was being persecuted and that he wanted political asylum under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He is still in Knightsbridge and it seems uncertain that he would be able to leave the embassy to get to Ecuador.

People who support the whistleblowing Wikileaks have been loudly defending Julian Assange – Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, Glenn Greenwald, who unfortunately has no idea of European politics, and for the most part – they ignore or deny or belittle the crime that Assange is accused of.

David Allen Green said on the day Assange went to Knightsbridge:

It appears to me that Assange’s ploy is just another desperate stunt to frustrate and circumvent due process for investigating these allegations.

The allegations of rape and sexual assault against Assange are serious, and they require answering.

There is something which should not be forgotten in all this.

Complainants of rape and sexual assault have rights too.

Yesterday, a letter was delivered to the Ecuadorean embassy, circulated by Just Foreign Policy, signed by perhaps a hundred film makers, journalists, academics – Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Tariq Ali, Oliver Stone, Glenn Greenwald, were among the names I recognised.

These are the crimes the Swedish police want to question him about:

Unlawful coercion
On 13-14 August 2010, in home of the injured party [A] in Stockholm, Assange, by using violence, forced the injured party to endure his restricting her freedom of movement. The violence consisted in a firm hold of the injured party’s arms and a forceful spreading of her legs while lying on top of her and with his body weight preventing her from moving or shifting.

Sexual molestation (1)

On 13-14 August 2010, in home of the injured party [A] in Stockholm, Assange deliberately molested the injured party by acting in a manner designed to violate her sexual integrity. Assange, who was aware that it was the expressed wish of the injured party and a prerequisite of sexual intercourse that a condom be used, consummated sexual intercourse with her without her knowledge.

Sexual molestation (2)

On 18 August 2010 or on any of the days before or after that date, in the home of the injured party [A] in Stockholm, Assange deliberately molested the injured party by acting in a manner designed to violate her sexual integrity; that is, lying next to her and pressing his naked, erect penis to her body.

Rape

On 17 August 2010, in the home of the injured party [B], Assange deliberately consummated sexual intercourse with her by improperly exploiting that she, due to sleep, was in a helpless state. It is an aggravating circumstance that Assange, who was aware that it was the expressed wish of the injured party and a prerequisite of sexual intercourse that a condom be used, still consummated unprotected sexual intercourse with her. The sexual act was designed to violate the injured party’s integrity.

The letter from Just Foreign Policy argues:

We also call on you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum because the “crime” that he has committed is that of practicing journalism. He has revealed important crimes against humanity committed by the U.S. government, most notably in releasing video footage from an Apache helicopter of a 2007 incident in which the U.S. military appears to have deliberately killed civilians, including two Reuters employees. Wikileaks’ release of thousands of U.S. State Department cables revealed important cases of U.S. officials acting to undermine democracy and human rights around the world.

Because this is a clear case of an attack on press freedom and on the public’s right to know important truths about U.S. foreign policy, and because the threat to his health and well-being is serious, we urge you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum.

Linda Nakibuka may be deported from the UK while Julian Assange is still sitting comfortably in a small flat in Knightsbridge.

Assange has many wealthy and powerful people on his side, and is a name known all over the world. He is wanted in Sweden to answer questions about rape and sexual molestation which he allegedly committed. He is unlikely both legally and practically to be deported from Sweden to the US.

Nakibuka has her MP, who is Minister for Immigration, which has at least won her two more weeks, and friends and supporters in the UK who are neither wealthy nor powerful nor known all over the world. If she is sent back to Uganda she may face rape and sexual molestation from men convinced, or claiming to be, that lesbians are “cured” by force.

I would hope that any of the people who signed that letter believing the charges which summon Julian Assange to Sweden are false, would be equally ready to support Linda Nakibuka, if they’d ever heard of her. Perhaps not to put up a £240,000 bail and give her somewhere to live outside detention, but at least stand up and say, she should not have to go back to Uganda.

Free Linda Nakibuuka – Sign the Petition

Support the work of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group

Home Secretary Theresa May, 7th July, 2010:

“We have already promised to stop the removal of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.
“From today, asylum decisions will be considered under the new rules and the judgement gives an immediate legal basis for us to reframe our guidance for assessing claims based on sexuality, taking into account relevant country guidance and the merits of each individual case.”

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Filed under Human Rights, Racism

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