UK Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has called for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to be arrested at an upcoming European Union-African Union summit in Lisbon.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, the controversial Tatchell comments on reports that Mugabe has been invited by the Portuguese government to the December summit, despite a EU travel ban.

“While Zimbabwe burns, and millions starve, Mugabe will be wined and dined by the Portuguese President, Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, and received by other African and European heads of state,” writes Tatchell.

Mugabe has not only been accused of wide human rights abuses, cutting back on press freedom, rigging elections and clamping down on political opposition but has also publicly vocalised homophobic sentiments towards gays and lesbians.

Tatchell has a long history of opposing Mugabe’s regime. Most famously, in 1999, he and three other members of the gay rights group OutRage! attempted a citizen’s arrest of the President in London. They were arrested for “breaching the peace”, Mugabe describing them as “gay gangsters”. Tatchell tried another unsuccessful citizen’s arrest in Brussels in 2001, but was beaten by Mugabe’s bodyguards.

In the article, Tatchell questions the point of Mugabe’s travel ban, when it is regularly set aside by the EU.

“Portugal ‘s invitation is an insult to the many victims of his murderous regime, especially to black Zimbabweans who once looked to Mugabe as a liberator but who are now the main victims of his slaughterhouse. They don’t want him feted. They want him arrested and put on trial,” says Tatchell.

He goes on to call on the Portuguese government to arrest Mugabe under international law on the basis of his alleged condoning of torture and other crimes against humanity. Tatchell refers to the arrest of President Slobodan Milosevic who was put on trial in The Hague for war crimes in Bosnia and Kosovo.

“Given this precedent, why is Portugal, Britain, the EU and the UN, refusing to prosecute Mugabe? How many Zimbabweans have to die before the world’s governments start enforcing the human rights laws they have signed and pledged to uphold? One million? Five million? What will it take to finally provoke the international community to put Mugabe in the dock?” he asks.

Tatchell slates President Thabo Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” strategy towards the Zimbabwe crisis, saying that,” Mbeki has nothing to show for six years of behind-the-scenes negotiations. On the contrary, the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has worsened dramatically.”

Zimbabawe’s gay community live under prohibitions on sodomy and “unnatural offences”, which criminalise consenting gay sex and even the display of affection between men.

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