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Archive for February 26th, 2014

Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality signed into Law / Yoweri Museveni fails to protect citizens from discrimination, stigmatization and risks of violence

Posted by African Press International on February 26, 2014

PARIS, France, February 26, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ FIDH firmly condemns the “Anti-homosexuality” law promulgated yesterday by President Museveni as it blatantly violates a wide range of human rights principles and risks fuelling hatred against a category of the Ugandan population.

Homosexuality was already severely criminalised in Uganda. But this new legislation further criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, by notably imposing sentences of life imprisonment for homosexuality, same-sex marriage or “aggravated homosexuality”.

The law also provides for prison sentences for the “promotion of”, the “conspiracy to engage in” homosexuality and for any “person in authority” who fails to report an act of homosexuality within 24 hours. These new provisions put civil society activists as well as organisations providing health, social and legal services to LGBTI people in situations of vulnerability at risk of criminal prosecution, and constitute clear infringements to universally recognised public freedoms, particularly the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. The new law also seriously undermines the capacity of human rights defenders and NGOS to promote and protect health and sexual rights, and fight against discrimination.

“The enacting of this Anti-Homosexuality Law is unacceptable”, declared Dan Van Raemdonck, FIDH Secretary General. “In addition of institutionalizing discrimination and encouraging harassment and violence against LGBTI people, this law represents a major step backward for all Ugandans in terms of protection of their fundamental rights and freedoms “, he added.

The Anti-homosexuality law not only contravenes the Ugandan Constitution, – which provides for equality and freedom from discrimination – but also goes against the country’s international and regional human rights obligations, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

“The enactment of such a law by Museveni implies that the Ugandan authorities condone discrimination based on sexual orientation and its consequences. In a socio-political environment where LGBTI and those defending their rights already experience serious threats to their security, this promulgation is not the sign of political courage but rather of irresponsibilty”, declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

The negative consequences of the enactment of the « Anti-homosexuality » law are already being felt in Kampala. Today, 25 February 2014, a local tabloid published a front-page article entitled « Exposed ! », in which the names of 200 individuals considered as homosexuals are listed with their pictures. This campaign is reminiscent of another incident which occurred in 2010-2011, with the publication by the newspaper Rolling Stone on its front-page of an article, under the head line « Hang them ! », providing the names, pictures and addresses of several people accused to be homosexuals. On 26 January 2011, David Kato, a LGBTI human rights defender who was among those listed, was brutally beaten to death at his home.

FIDH expresses its strong concern and support for all organisations defending the rights of LGBTI people in Uganda. It calls on the authorities to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all the people whose names and pictures were published in the tabloid, and more generally of all human rights defenders, including LGBTI human rights defenders. FIDH calls the national authorities to immediately abide by their national, regional and international commitments by repealing this discriminatory law.



International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)

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Malakal under ruins, people murdered – Medical Care Under Fire in South Sudan – MSF

Posted by African Press International on February 26, 2014

JUBA, South Sudan, February 26, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ As entire towns in South Sudan suffer devastating attacks, medical care has also come under fire, with patients shot in their beds, wards burned to the ground, medical equipment looted, and, in one case, an entire hospital destroyed, the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced today. Hundreds of thousands of people have been effectively denied life-saving assistance.

MSF staff witnessed the gruesome aftermath of recent armed attacks and clashes in Malakal in Upper Nile State, discovering patients murdered inside the town’s Teaching Hospital. In another disturbing violation of medical structures since conflict erupted in mid-December 2013, an MSF team returned to Leer, in Unity State, and discovered the hospital thoroughly looted, burned and vandalised. Vast parts of the town appear to have been razed to the ground.

“Assaults on medical facilities and patients are part of a broader backdrop of brutal attacks on towns, markets and public facilities,” said Raphael Gorgeu, MSF head of mission. “These attacks show a complete lack of respect for medical care and deprive the most vulnerable of life-saving assistance just when they need it most.”

Scenes of horror in Malakal

On February 22, MSF teams discovered at least 14 dead bodies throughout the Malakal Teaching Hospital compound, scattered among 50 to 75 patients who remained in the facility, too weak or elderly to flee for safety. Several patients showed signs they had been shot dead while lying in their beds. Many of the hospital wards, including the therapeutic feeding center for malnourished children, had been burned, and general looting had clearly taken place throughout the hospital. MSF has evacuated several of the most severely ill patients to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Malakal for treatment, 13 of whom were gunshot victims.

“Malakal is deserted, with houses burned throughout and countless dead bodies strewn in the streets,” said Carlos Francisco, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Malakal. “I can find no words to describe the brutality in Malakal, which has left in its wake a ransacked city and a thoroughly traumatised people.”

Some of the patients MSF evacuated to the UNMISS base recounted that armed groups entered the hospital on February 19 and shot dead people who had no money or mobile phones to hand over. Later that afternoon, armed men returned and killed patients in their beds and others who had fled to the operating theatre for safety, according to survivor testimonies. They also reportedly raped women and young girls.

Hundreds of thousands deprived of care in Leer

Hundreds of thousands of people have been cut off from critical, lifesaving medical care after Leer Hospital was ransacked and destroyed between the final days of January and early February.

When MSF staff were able to assess Leer Hospital following weeks of insecurity in the area, they discovered a horrific scene of equipment and buildings reduced to ash, drug vials smashed and strewn throughout the grounds, and sterilized surgical equipment broken and discarded everywhere. Drugs, patient beds, and other supplies were thoroughly looted. Not a hospital bed remains in the facility compound (see interactive guide displaying hospital destruction – email Heather Pagano for a copy).

“The people of Leer and throughout southern Unity State knew they could count upon MSF for critical medical care, and now that assurance is simply gone,” said Gorgeu. “The trust that is essential for us to carry out our work has been shattered, and the ultimate victims are the countless people who will suffer—and likely die—for want of medical care.”

The hospital in Leer, opened 25 years ago, was the only secondary healthcare facility in the region, constituting a critical lifeline for nearly 300,000 people in the surrounding area. In 2013 alone, more than 68,000 medical consultations were carried out, nearly 400 people underwent surgical care and 2,100 children were treated for malnutrition. Since December 15, when fighting erupted in South Sudan, and up to January 15, 2014, more than 4,000 consultations were carried out and nearly 170 surgeries were performed until the forced closure in late January.

“Leer is now empty of civilians who have fled continued insecurity and are living in terrible conditions in the bush, too terrified to return home,” said Sarah Maynard, MSF project coordinator for Leer. “But even if they were to come back tomorrow, or a month from now, they would return to ruins of their former home and no healthcare. This is catastrophic for the population.”

MSF’s 240 locally-hired staff remain hidden in the bush, struggling to treat patients with rapidly dwindling supplies. The staff report they are reusing wound dressings and trying desperately to assist the displaced who have grown more ill from drinking dirty river water and from eating water lilies for lack of food. MSF is exploring every avenue to provide healthcare to the displaced and resupply its staff.

“We must seriously consider if we can return to work in Leer Hospital,” said Gorgeu. “That will not only require significant investment of resources, but it will depend upon on unconditional respect from all parties for our medical facilities, staff, and patients, not only in southern Unity State but everywhere in the country.”

Disturbing pattern of medical care under fire in South Sudan

The atrocities in the hospital in Malakal and the destruction of Leer Hospital take place amidst a disturbing pattern of incidents affecting medical staff, patients, and MSF-supported facilities in South Sudan:

•    In mid-January, armed men robbed and threatened staff at the MSF compound in Malakal, leading to a temporary suspension of MSF’s medical activities in the town.

•    In mid January, the MSF compound in Bentiu, capital of Unity State, was looted amidst chaotic fighting in the town, which forced MSF staff to vacate Bentiu State Hospital and leave drugs and supplies with patients and their caretakers. Thousands of people had no access to healthcare for weeks in Bentiu town.

•    Patients were reportedly killed in their beds in the hospital in Bor, capital of Jonglei State, during fighting in December 2013. In early February, MSF staff visited the hospital and discovered the decomposed corpses of a mother and child dumped in the facility’s water tank. While the hospital is today functional and well supplied, there are few patients in the wards since most of the town is empty.

“Medical care has come under fire in South Sudan,” said Gorgeu. “Rather than safe havens for treatment, hospitals are now targets of attack and brutality. They are places to fear rather than trust, a complete inversion of their purpose and role. Hundreds of thousands of people are in desperate need of shelter, food, water, and healthcare in South Sudan. The question is, how can effective, neutral aid be provided in a climate of utter disrespect and fear?”



Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

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