Wiesenthal Centre to African Union: "We are appalled at criminalisation and violence against gays across Africa"

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"How can campaigns publicly called 'cleansing defilement' fit in with the mission statement of the African Union?"

Paris, 18 February 2014

In a letter to African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, Dr. Nikosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels expressed outrage at the "criminalization and subsequent violence against gays spreading across Africa".

The letter noted, "Amnesty International has reported that homosexuality is illegal in 38 of the 54 African countries. Recent legislation promising life sentences in Uganda and Nigeria has, reportedly, led to attacks with nail-studded clubs and whips against LGBT communities, with chants of 'homosexuals, pack and leave!'"

Samuels recalled, "In 2009, the intervention of our Centre, together with other human rights organizations, led Kampala to withdraw a bill that included the death penalty. Since then, nevertheless, the situation has deteriorated."
The Centre argued, "Vaunted as a campaign against HIV, such legislation will only drive both hetero and homosexual carriers underground, thus aggravating infection."

The letter also claimed, "Discrimination and persecution based on identity is a serious violation of human rights treaties to which African countries are signatories, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights – especially significant since the United Nations designated its 'UN Day Against Homophobia'.”

"How can such targeted campaigns, publicly called a 'cleansing of defilement', through scapegoating, dehumanization and exclusion – a programme that sent both Jews and homosexuals to the Nazi concentration camps – now fit in with the democracy-building mission statement of the African Union?" queried Samuels, adding, "More criminalization is, indeed, needed in Africa: against the abusers of women, who are still victims of rape, forced marriage, genital mutilation and honour killings."
The Centre urged the African Union to "Highlight the danger to democracy of the homosexual witch-hunts, by extolling the 2006 South African Constitution which outlaws sexual discrimination."

"This instrument should serve as an African model of best practice for the entire continent," concluded Samuels

For further information please contact Dr. Shimon Samuels on 00(33)609770158, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).