Egypt: Emergency Court Trials for Homosexual Suspects
International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission, July 3, 2001
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Human Rights Watch
For additional information, contact:
Sydney Levy (IGLHRC), +1-415-255-8680, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hanny Megally (HRW), +1- 212 216 1230
Joe Stork (HRW), +1-202 612 4327
New York Two international human rights groups today deplored the
Egyptian governments decision to prosecute fifty-two men before an
Emergency State Security Court on charges of "obscene behavior" and
expressing "contempt for religion." An Egyptian prosecutor will
review their continued detention this week.
In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Gay
and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) condemned the mens detention
since May 11, when they were arrested apparently on suspicion that they had
engaged in consensual homosexual behavior, and expressed grave concern that
they may have been subjected to torture in detention.
"Egyptian law does not outlaw homosexuality, but these men are being
held on charges of violating public morals." said Scott Long, IGLHRCs
Policy Director "They are really being punished for exercising their
basic rights to free expression and free association."
The men were initially held incommunicado, unable to contact lawyers or
relatives, and some were reportedly beaten and ill-treated. The procedures of
the Emergency State Security Court for Misdemeanors, established under Egypts
state of emergency legislation, do not comport with international fair trial
standards. If convicted, they face prison terms ranging from three months to
nine years. There is no right of appeal to a higher tribunal.
"This case exhibits some of the worst features of Egypts justice
system - prolonged and incommunicado detention and emergency proceedings on
spurious charges," said Hanny Megally director of the Middle East and
North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.
Fifty-two Egyptian men arrested in the second week of May, apparently on
suspicion that they engaged in consensual homosexual behaviour, are to be
tried before the Emergency State Security Court for Misdemeanours on charges
of committing "obscene behaviour" (al-fujur - which can include
adultery, fornication and sodomy), and with "contempt for religion".
The decision to refer the case to trial was announced by Prosecutor General
Maher Abdel Wahed at a press conference held on June 28. Charges against three
others arrested in the same case were dropped. No date has been set for the
Egyptian law does not expressly criminalize homosexual acts. However, the
obscenity charge is being brought under Article 9(c) of Law No. 10 of 1961 on
the Combat of Prostitution. This law provides a custodial sentence of between
three months and three years for "obscene behaviour" as well as
prostitution. The "contempt for religion" charge is being brought
under Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, and which is punishable with
imprisonment of between six months and five years.
The Emergency State Security Court for Misdemeanours (Mahkamat Junah Amn
al-Dawla Taware) is an exceptional court established within the framework
of state of emergency legislation. Defendants do not have the right of appeal
before a higher tribunal: they may submit a complaint (tazallum) against the
verdict to the Military Governor (al-Hakem al-Askari) who, irrespective of
whether such a complaint has been submitted, must either uphold or quash the
verdict, or he may order a retrial before the same court. If the original
verdict is upheld, the defendant may submit a petition (iltimas) to the
Military Governor on humanitarian grounds. The decision of the Military
Governor is final.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission (IGLHRC) are gravely concerned that these men are being brought to
trial because of their sexual orientation, as well as for the exercise of
their rights to free expression and association. Article 98(f) of the Penal
Code, in particular, continues to be used to prosecute individuals - including
writers and members of minority religious groups - for the expression of ideas
deemed to "offend religion", prosecutions which clearly violate
their right to freedom of expression.
HRW and IGLHRC are also gravely concerned by reports that the men may have
been subjected to torture during detention, and that they are to be tried
before an exceptional court whose proceedings fail to meet internationally
recognized standards for fair trial as set out in Article 14 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt
is a state party.
According to the Egyptian daily newspaper al-Ahram Supreme State Security
Prosecution officials accused the defendants, on the basis of witness
testimony and materials seized from the defendants homes, of the following:
having exploited Islam, including through the false interpretation of Quranic
verses, in order to propagate extremist ideas; the performance of immoral
acts; the use of perverted sexual practices in rituals; being contemptuous and
derisory towards the revealed religions and fomenting sedition or strife.
The accused were arrested in the early hours of May 11, 2001, following a
raid by police and State Security Intelligence (SSI) personnel on a party held
aboard the Queen Boat, moored on the Nile in Cairos Zamalek district.
Initial reports in the Egyptian media suggested that those arrested were part
of a "Satanic cult" and that they were being held under charges of
"exploiting religion to promote extreme ideas to create strife and
belittle the revealed religions." It subsequently became clear that the
arrests were carried out because the men were suspected of engaging in
consensual sexual activity with persons of the same sex. The detainees were
subjected to forensic examinations, apparently in order to determine whether
they had engaged in anal intercourse. The results of these examinations were
presented at hearings before the Supreme State Security Prosecution on June 6
Within the first twenty-four hours of arrest, while held at al-Azbakiyya
police station, some of the men were reportedly beaten and ill-treated,
apparently to force them to confess to homosexuals practices. During this
time, they were held incommunicado without the possibility of contacting their
relatives or lawyers. The following day, May 12, they were brought before the
Supreme State Security Prosecution and interrogated. In the absence of defence
counsel, none of the defendants stated that they had been tortured. Some of
them subsequently made such statements at the next hearing held on May 23,
after having had access to counsel. However, prosecution officials did not
authorize medical examinations in order to verify their claims, apparently
because no physical traces of torture were visible at that time.
Following the May 12 hearing, at which the accused were ordered detained
for a two-week period pending investigation, they were transferred to Tora
Prison on the outskirts of Cairo, where they remain. Their detention periods
were extended for additional two-week periods on May 23, June 7 and June 21,
with the exception of one of the accused who was released on health grounds on
May 23 although the case against him remained pending. Initially their
relatives were hindered in visiting them and their right to defence counsel
was restricted. Some of their visitors also reported being harassed and
insulted by the prison authorities.
In the days following the arrests, the detainees were subjected to a
campaign of vilification in the Egyptian media. The names of the detainees,
together with details of the profession and place of work of some of them,
were published in several newspapers in articles that were noticeably similar
in content and style. The level of detail and similarity of the wording
suggested that this information was based on leaks from official sources.
Egyptian legislation prohibits the publication of any details concerning an
ongoing investigation or trial that would influence the course of such
proceedings (Law No. 96 of 1996 Concerning the Regulation of Journalism,
Article 23). Similarly, the 26 March 1998 Code of Ethics of the Egyptian
Journalists Association stipulates that its members refrain from publishing
details of a criminal or civil investigation or trial with the aim of
influencing the course of such proceedings.
The right to freedom of expression and association, and the right to
freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes sexual
orientation, are fundamental human rights recognized in international
treaties, including the ICCPR. Being held solely on these grounds thus
violates these detainees basic human rights. In the absence of evidence to
the contrary, HRW and IGLHRC believe the defendants detention to be so
motivated, and urge their immediate and unconditional release.
Egypt is also a state party to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Both the Torture
Convention and the ICCPR prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In
line with their obligations under these treaties, it is incumbent on the
Egyptian authorities to consider seriously any allegations of torture and
ill-treatment made by the defendants, and to undertake a thorough
investigation in this regard. Such treatment includes the pain and humiliation
of forced physical examinations of the anal and genital regions.
More information about the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission (IGLHRC) available at http://www.iglhrc.org
More information about Human Rights Watch (HRW) available at http://www.hrw.org
Sydney Levy -- Director of Communications International Gay and Lesbian
Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) 1360 Mission St, Ste 200 * San Francisco, CA
94103 * USA Phone: +1-415-255-8680 * Fax: +1-415-255-8662 email@example.com
IGLHRC is a US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization whose
mission is to protect and advance the human rights of all people and
communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual
orientation, gender identity, or HIV status. Our overarching commitment is to
defend the rights of people worldwide to define their own sexualities and
gender identities. We support the efforts of individuals and groups to
organize to create societies free from heterosexism and homophobia.
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