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The New Civil Rights Movement’s Top 10 International LGBT Stories of 2011

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In 2011, the world witnessed the heinous murder of David Kato, a Ugandan gay activist who was bludgeoned to death in January, setting a sober tone for the year, the Obama Administration launched a new foreign policy LGBT human rights initiative, delivered by Hillary Clinton in a soaring speech in Geneva in December, and the UN finally emerged with formal support of LGBT rights, but the threat of violence remains a daily reality for our gay fellow citizens around the globe

1.  The Murder of David Kato, Ugandan Gay Activist and Growing Demonization of LGBT Persons on the African Continent

Ugandan gay activist David Kato was murdered on January 26th, in a hideous manner that can only be described as rage filled, carried out by someone who repeatedly pummeled his body by using a steel hammer, which in its completion, speaks more troubling of America’s extremist Christian right-​wing religious groups toward gays who have exported an anti-gay agenda to the country in 2009, than of the attitudes of the Ugandan people themselves. Val Kalende, a lesbian activist and board chair of Freedom and Roam Uganda, an organization that fights violence against LGBT people in Uganda, issued a statement about Kato’s murder, asserting that “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. Evangelicals in 2009.”

Uganda has captured global attention in recent years for the government’s ongoing efforts to legalize state sponsored executions of LGBT people, albeit unsuccessful to date. David Bahati, a leading Ugandan member of parliament, noteworthy for his homophobic filled brand of extremism as evidenced in his continuous efforts to advance the “gay” capital punishment legislation since 2009 (Bahati has been advised by the US-​based “C Street” ministries), no doubt created an even more hostile environment toward homosexuals in Uganda.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement on January 27th, calling for Ugandan authorities “to quickly and thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for this heinous act.”  President Obama released a statement stating, “David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom. The United States mourns his murder, and we recommit ourselves to David’s work.”

State Generated Violence Against LGBT Persons on African Continent

The increasingly xenophobic, anti-gay, demonization of LGBT people on the African continent has been accompanied by deadly and violent consequences that is present in a majority of countries on the continent, of which Uganda, Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan and Zimbabwe(not an exhaustive list) are among the worst.

Officials in these countries have spoken out against LGBT people; legislatures have taken steps to criminalize gay behavior; and churches, many influenced by American missionaries, have preached intolerance, resulting in hate crimes exacted upon gays, that includes horrific “corrective rape“ of lesbians in South Africa, now a matter discussed in the UN Human Rights Council. Even South Sudan, the newest country in the world, recently established in July, is led by a president who has said that “South Sudan was no place for gays and they would never be accepted…“It is not in our character […] it is not there and if anybody wants to import it to Sudan […] it will always be condemned by everybody.”  The State Department has its work cut out for itself.

2. The  Obama Administration’s LGBT Human Rights Foreign Policy Initiative

http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/amgas3videoplayer400.swf

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, as she delivered an historic foreign policy speech outlining the Obama Administration’s formal policy on LGBT human rights from the Palais des Nations Hall in Geneva on December 6, marking a memorable International Human Rights Day, to rousing applause.

Clinton was repeating her “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights,” theme, which she initially delivered at the State Department’s LGBT Pride event in 2010. The White House released a National Security Council Memorandum concurrently, outlining a presidential directive on authority and a mandate for federal government agencies who will be responsible for extending protections to LGBT persons abroad via a number of agencies, including Immigration and Homeland Security. For LGBT Americans it had been a week of joy and gratification for the memorial text delivered by Clinton, but mixed with regret that a similar strategic policy approach has not been engaged at home.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council on Global Equality told The New Civil Rights Movement that Secretary Clinton wanted to give this speech for LGBT human rights and had been looking for the right venue and the right timing. Bromley said that “we [the Council] were happy to see the White House strongly back her decision.” Bromley was present in Geneva when Clinton gave the historic speech, which he said was delivered “pitch perfect” and defined it as a “legacy speech.” The Council flew in 14 international LGBT activists, who also attended the speech. The video of Secretary Clinton’s speech was produced by the State Department.

3.  UN Human Rights Council Adopts Pro-Gay Rights Resolution Affirming LGBT Human Rights

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted an historic resolution on June 17th, the first exclusively LGBT affirmative resolution in UN history that seeks to apply human rights principles and protections based upon on sexual orientation and gender identity. The formal resolution also commissions the first UN official report on the state of LGBT human rights, which is to be directed by Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The resolution was carried with 23 states supporting, disproportionately represented by the Americas, European states and a few Asian countries, led by South Africa and Brazil. A majority of countries opposing represented African and Arab countries, including Uganda and Iran. The Human Rights Council historic vote explicitly embraces concerns about violence and terror carried out against LGBT persons and reflects a decidedly different attunement to these crimes and concerns, in contrast to the vote carried out by the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee in November 2010 that initially stripped out “sexual orientation” from a resolution addressing extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in a vote that was overwhelming represented by a majority of African, Middle East and Caribbean nations – although reversed after a globalized uproar of condemnation led by activists and governments alike, when the vote was held in December 2010 on final passage.

4.  UN Human Rights Council Issues First Report on LGBTQ Human Rights

The first formal United Nations report on the state of LGBT human rights was presented to the UN General Assembly on December 16 by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human rights, who has been an outspoken supporter of LGBT human rights. In issuing the report, Pillay called on UN member states to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and prosecute all serious violations, repeal discriminatory laws, and end legal discrimination for all LGBT persons. “On the basis of the information presented (in this report), a pattern of human rights violations emerges that demands a response,” Pillay said, according to a report by the AP.

“Governments and inter-​governmental bodies have often overlooked violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” she said.  The findings of the report indicate that LGBT people face widespread discrimination everywhere in the world and are subjected to extreme violence, including rape, beatings and torture, evidenced by confirmed reports of mutilation and castration that were characterized by a “high degree of cruelty,” including forcible rape of lesbians, a notorious activity by anti-​gay men in South Africa. LGBT persons face criminal punishment in 76 countries and risk capital punishment in five countries, including Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. The report lays out evidence of widespread discrimination and arbitrary arrests and criminal punishment based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

5.  Obama Issues Proclamation Prohibiting Entry of Persons to the United States Who Target LGBT Persons

President Obama issued an executive proclamation (and fact sheet) on August 4 that prohibits persons who have engaged in egregious human rights abuses and who also target LGBT persons from entering the United States. Sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the directive, thus preventing politicians like Ugandan parliamentarian David Bahati from entering the United States. The White House statement calls for entry to be barred to anyone who “planned, ordered, assisted, aided and abetted, committed or otherwise participated in . . . widespread or systematic violence against any civilian population based in whole or in part on . . . sexual orientation or gender identity, or who attempted or conspired to do so.” Another first by the Obama Administration.

6.  Gay Pride Parades Disrupted in Russia, The Balkans, Speech Suppressed

Gay Pride in Moscow, disrupted again in May by police, has never successfully staged a gay pride march since attempts began in 2006. This year’s parade, cut short, was attended by American gay activist Dan Choi and by Nikola Alekeyev, a now former Russian gay activist, who were both arrested, among three dozen others. Since then, legislative efforts banning pro-gay speech have advanced in the St. Petersburg City Council through two readings and have been endorsed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party.

Many Kremlin watchers agree that Vladimir Putin’s efforts to return to power as president, has all the hallmarks of desperation, perhaps attributable to a substantial drop in support from his traditional base of voters as his approval rating sank 13 points since 2010 from a high 80 percent to 67 percent reported in a recent opinion survey. It remains unclear if the Duma, the upper house of the national parliament, will take up this measure for consideration. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but homophobia remains highly virulent and authorities have ignored rulings by the EU Court for Human Rights, who ruled against the Russian government last year for failure to respect freedom of speech.

Balkan Gay Prides Fraught With Violence and Suppression of Free Speech

In the Balkans, Gay Pride in Belgrade was canceled  again in 2011 by officials of the Serbian government, who said they were taking this action to “prevent major chaos” and “to protect LGBT marchers.” Gay Pride in Belgrade has only been held twice since 2001, and violence or the threat of violence have disrupted other attempts to stage Pride.

Members of the EU parliament have condemned the decisions of the Serbian government and EU officials said the failure to respect rule of law and facilitate freedom of expression will be noted with respect to Serbia’s EU member candidacy which has been pushed into 2012. Several Serbian journalists estimated that politics and the upcoming elections were the calculations behind canceling gay pride, according to a report by B-92 News in Serbia:

“This year the authorities decided it was more profitable to let the U.S. embassy and Brussels get angry, but to avoid irritating that majority,” said Ljiljana Smajlović, head of the Association of Journalists of Serbia.

Split, Croatia gay pride in June was marred by homophobic spectators, estimated at 8,000 to 10,000, in opposition to about 200 marchers. The virulently anti-​gay protestors, who came prepared to disrupt the first gay event in the notorious nationalist right-​wing stronghold of the 1,700-year old city, threw fists, firecrackers, bottles and rocks, some wielded cigarette lighters, while others threw tomatoes and tear gas. Nonetheless, Gay Pride in Zagreb was successfully staged and organizers met with President Josip Osipovic, who offered his support and officially met with organizers. Afterwards, the government released photographs of the meeting.

7.  OSCE Engaged on the Issue of LGBT Human Rights, U.S. Envoy hosts Eastern European LGBT Human Rights Defenders

Ambassador David Johnson, head of the U.S. delegation that attended the Organization for Security and Co-​operation in Europe’s annual ‘Human Dimension’ Implementation meeting in Warsaw in early October, hosted a reception for LGBT human rights defenders who continue to face fierce and frequent violent opposition to gay pride events around Europe, most recently in Belgrade on October 2 when Serbian government officials canceled a planned pride march due to ultra-​nationalistic opposition that threatened violence.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, who also attended the meeting, said in a statement to the New Civil Rights Movement that the U.S. government’s role has proven to be a constructive one, although the 56-​member state organization has yet to formalize a systematic review of LGBT human rights in the OSCE region: “The U.S. government is now working closely with many EU colleagues to raise LGBT concerns in the discussion, even if it is not formally on the agenda.  Ambassador Johnson raised LGBT human rights issues several times during the meeting.”

Apparently, this advocacy has begun to reap benefits as the OSCE Mission to Serbia has funded a case study on violence against LGBT persons in the country–a first for the Mission, which supports civil society stakeholders in advancing democratization, rule of law and human rights.

9.  Human Rights Honors Bestowed on Ugandan LGBTQ Activists

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was awarded the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award on November 11th in a ceremony held in Washington, D.C.  It marks the first time that the RFK Foundation awarded its prestigious human rights prize to a gay activist. On November 6th Mugisha also accepted the Rafto Prize on behalf of SMUG in a ceremony held in Bergen, Norway. The Rafto Prize noted that it was awarded to “SMUG for its work to make fundamental human rights apply to everyone, and to eliminate discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, an Ugandan lesbian activist and the leader of the Freedom to Roam, a lesbian advocacy group, was awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Human Rights Defenders award on October 13 in Geneva, Switzerland. Nabagesera is the first gay rights activist and the 20th Laureate to receive the Ennals award, considered to be only second in prestige to that of the Nobel Peace Prize.

David Kato and Nabagesera’s names had been included in a list of known Ugandan homosexuals, published in October 2010, that also called for the killing of homosexuals in Uganda by the Rolling Stone newspaper. She and Kato sued the newspaper in Uganda’s highest court and publicly confronted the escalating homophobia, by bravely appearing on television and radio on numerous occasions. Because of the frightening anti-​gay environment in Uganda, she has been forced to move from one location to another, from house to house, to dodge potential violence directed toward her, even death.

10. Cameron Announces Support for Gay Marriage, Tory Led Government Announces New Foreign Aid Policy Based on LGBT Human Rights Records

David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, declared his support for legalized gay marriage at a Tory Party conference in early October to less than an enthusiastic audience that was marked by protest, prompting some party delegates walk out. The Conservative Party leader forcefully expressed his support for gay marriage: “Conserrvatives believe in ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.” Cameron’s endorsement was immediately repudiated by a spokesperson of the Church of England, joined by various leaders of the British Roman Catholic Church.

Cameron also announced that his government would leverage its foreign assistance to bilateral allies based upon their LGBT human rights records. This foreign policy move is seen by some as much a domestic move to cut back on foreign assistance spending, but to bridge its spending aims to a growing popular issue at home that Cameron continues to pursue. Many LGBT activists in the “Global South” have reservations, and feel it smacks of Britain’s former colonialist past and could be counterproductive. But this move by Britain was enthusiastically supported by Nepali lawmakers, as well as gay activists there, as reported by the New Civil Rights Movement.

Image of David Kato courtesy of the African Activist blog.  The UN Human Rights Council photo courtesy of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

 

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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'ABSOLUTE MASTERCLASS'

Texas AG Ken Paxton’s office “dysfunctional” with child porn and shady political dealings

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is running for a third term in office while facing civil and criminal fraud charges for allegedly handly sketchy trade deals, giving office positions to donors, and trying to overturn the 2020 election.

However, a new Associated Press (AP) story paints Paxton’s office as highly political and dysfunctional.

Paxton’s office botched “Operation Fallen Angel,” an investigation that indicted six men on allegations of forcing teen girls to “exchange sexual contact for crystal methamphetamine.” Paxton’s office largely dropped the charges because they lost track of their key witness.

Another prosecutor said he quit Paxton’s office in January after supervisors pressured him to withhold evidence in a murder case, the AP wrote.

Eight of Paxton’s top deputies quit or were fired in autumn 2020 after they went to the FBI to accuse Paxton of using his office to help a donor who had employed a woman that Paxton admitted to having an extramarital affair with. The FBI’s investigation is ongoing.

The AP story notes that Paxton gave a senior role to a California attorney who gave him $10,000 to fight his 2015 securities fraud indictment. Paxton also hired Tom Gleason, a former police officer whose father donated $50,000 to Paxton’s legal defense. Gleason was given a job advising Paxton on child exploitation as well as Medicaid and voter fraud.

Gleason was fired less than two months into his new job. Paxton’s office didn’t explain why, but “three people with knowledge of the matter” told the AP that, during a work presentation at the agency’s Austin headquarters, Gleason played a video of “a man raping a small child” to highlight the difficult work facing child abuse investigators.

“It was met with outrage and caused the meeting to quickly dissolve,” the AP wrote. “Afterward, Paxton’s top deputy, Brent Webster, told staff not to talk about what happened.”

The AP also wrote that before Texas’ March primary elections, Amber Platt, a deputy over criminal justice cases, held a meeting asking lawyers in Paxton’s offices about which upcoming cases that would best help his reelection chances.

Despite all this, Paxton has a five-point lead over his Democratic opponent, Rochelle Garza.

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'BRUTAL'

Russia is torturing civilians in camps around eastern Ukraine

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The Russian military has established 10 torture sites in the eastern city of Izium, Ukraine, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Torture is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Eight men died killed under torture in Russian custody, the AP wrote. All but one were civilians.

Russian forces captured Andriy Kotsar, tied him up, and threw him for several days in a trench covered with wooden boards. They beat his legs and arms and smashed his knees with a hammer. They then took his ID and passport so that he would find it hard to prove his identity, get help, or escape.

Russian forces captured him two more times after that. The torture was worse both times, Kotsar said.

“Russian torture in Izium was arbitrary, widespread, and absolutely routine for both civilians and soldiers throughout the city,” the Associated Press investigation found. The torture included waterboarding and electrocution, among other pain-inducing methods.

Mykola Mosyaky, a 38-year-old Ukrainian soldier, was handcuffed, thrown in a pit of dirty water, and hung by the wrists until his skin went numb.

“They beat me with sticks. They hit me with their hands, they kicked me, they put out cigarettes on me, they pressed matches on me,” he stated. “They said, ‘Dance,’ but I did not dance. So they shot my feet.”

Dr. Yuriy Kuznetsov, an emergency room physician in Izium, said that Ukrainians are showing up to his hospital with torture-related injuries, including “gunshots to their hands and feet, broken bones and severe bruising, and burns.” The victims never say how they got their injuries, worried about retaliation if they do.

A father and son who were both tortured said they could hear women’s screams every night as Russian soldiers raped them in a nearby garage.

Russians showed one local woman the body of her battered, unconscious soldier husband, pressuring her to provide information that she knew nothing about.

At least 30 bodies taken from a mass grave in the city showed “visible marks of torture,” including “bound hands, close gunshot wounds, knife wounds, and broken limbs.”

“[Torture] serves three purposes,” said Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch. “Torture came with questions to coerce information, but it is also to punish and to sow fear. It is to send a chilling message to everyone else.”

On September 30,  Russia held sham referendums in the eastern Ukrainian territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. While the referendums sought to cede the territories to Russia, their outcomes were pre-determined by Russia as a way to basically lay claim to the territories.

The U.S. called the referendums illegal and also authorized an additional $12 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of the referendums, “Recently, someone somewhere held pseudo-referendums, and when the Ukrainian flag is returned, no one remembers the Russian farce with some pieces of paper and some annexations. Except, of course, law enforcement agencies of Ukraine. Because everyone who is involved in any elements of aggression against our state will be accountable for it. And I thank everyone who brings these moments of victory closer, who returns the Ukrainian flag to its rightful place on Ukrainian land.”

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'APPARENTLY INEBRIATED'

Supreme Court refuses to protect Mike Lindell from a billion dollar defamation lawsuit

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The Supreme Court just started its new term, and among its first act, it refused to hear an appeal from Mike Lindell — the conspiracy theorist, supporter of former President Donald Trump, and MyPillow CEO — who wanted the court to throw out a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against him.

The lawsuit was filed by Dominion Voting Systems, a manufacturer of voting machines, to litigate against Lindell for his repeated claims that their machinery played a role in “stealing” the 2020 election from Trump. He made his claims on Fox News and various media and social media outlets.

In response to Dominion’s lawsuit, Lindell filed a countersuit accusing the voting machine company of using the court system to “silence Lindell’s and others’ political speech about election fraud and the role of electronic voting machines in it.”

His countersuit also accused the company of “waging lawsuit warfare on private citizens…under the auspices of ‘defending election integrity’…[rather than] fixing their notoriously and demonstrably insecure voting machines.” The lawsuit said the company had “embarked on a concerted, collective enterprise to extort silence from their dissenters or bring financial ruin on any and all who persist in speaking their minds.”

In August 2021, Lindell held a public “cyber symposium” which, he said, would show undeniable proof about how voting machines helped steal the 2020 election.

Rob Graham, a cyber expert who attended the symposium, said, “[Lindell] gave us experts NOTHING today, except random garbage that wastes our time.” Graham said the Lindell had promised to give cyber experts who attended the symposium “packet captures from the November 2020 election could be unencrypted to reveal evidence of voter fraud.” Graham said those packets were never provided.

Fox News refused to run advertisements about the symposium. Lindell was accused of using the symposium as nothing more than to try and maintain relevance and continue the narrative about the “stolen election.”

Several months after the 2020 election, Lindell claimed that Trump would return as president by August. 2021 Lindell said this would occur either through Supreme Court rulings or “two other bonus pathways” involving vote audits in states that Trump lost in 2020.

Lindell said that once the Supreme Court considers his evidence of voter fraud, the justices will unanimously rule 9-0 in favor of allowing Trump to become president once again.

Lindell was wrong.

 

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