Egypt: Rights Without Discrimination
July 2, 2002
Today the retrial of 50 men, who had already been tried last year in
connection with their alleged sexual orientation, opens before a criminal
court in the Qasr al-Nil district of Cairo.
"We welcomed President Mubarak’s earlier annulment of the verdict,
leading to the release of 21 prisoners of conscience. However, we are clearly
concerned at the decision of the Egyptian authorities to prosecute these men
once again on charges which are discriminatory and violate their right to
privacy", Amnesty International said.
The Egyptian Embassy in Zaghreb has recently written to Amnesty
International stating that based on the right to privacy in international law,
no one, including homosexuals, should be subjected to oppressive measures
because of their sexual orientation. The letter also states: "Egyptian
law does not incriminate the practice of homosexuality if not performed in
public", adding that "homosexuals should not be subjected to any
kind of discrimination". However, the retrial of the 50 men demonstrates
that charges of "habitual debauchery" continue to be used to
criminalize consensual homosexual relations in private.
Several of the men alleged that they were subjected to torture and
ill-treatment, including beatings with a stick on the soles of the feet (falaka),
during the first stages of their detention. Gays—or those perceived to be
gays—face a heightened risk of torture and ill-treatment in police stations
and prisons in Egypt.
Shortly after his arrest, one of the 50 men reported to the prosecutor that
he had been subjected to torture in detention and showed him the resulting
marks on his body. The prosecutor noted "red vertical lines on the middle
of the back...which the accused alleged were the result of beating with a thin
stick...". In a number of cases the defendants have stated in court that
they were coerced into confessions which they afterwards withdrew.
Amnesty International has raised the allegations of torture and
ill-treatment with the Egyptian authorities on several occasions. However, no
investigations are known to have been conducted. According to Egypt’s
international obligations, all allegations of torture must be investigated
promptly and impartially and statements made as a result of torture should
never be invoked as evidence in court.
"The imprisonment of people solely for their perceived or actual
sexual orientation constitutes a violation of the right to freedom from
discrimination as guaranteed in international treaties", Amnesty
International said. The organization reiterates its call to the Egyptian
authorities to release immediately and unconditionally anyone imprisoned
solely for their perceived or actual sexual orientation.
Charges of "habitual debauchery" are based on Law 10 of 1961 on
the Combat of Prostitution. Little definition is provided for
"debauchery" within the law itself, but the Egyptian judiciary has
applied the term to same sex relations in the context of prostitution of men
as well as consensual sexual relations between men in private.
In May 2001 some 60 men were arrested in Cairo, the majority of them while
at a night club on a boat known as the Queen Boat. In June 2001, 52 of them
were referred by presidential decree to the Emergency State Security Court for
Misdemeanours in Cairo, an exceptional court established under emergency
legislation. In November the court sentenced 23 men to prison terms of between
one and five years. Twenty-one were convicted of "habitual
debauchery", one of "contempt of religion" and another on both
charges. Amnesty International has adopted 22 of the 23 men as prisoners of
conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release (see
Amnesty International: Egypt: Torture and imprisonment for actual or perceived
sexual orientation, December 2001—[AI Index: MDE 12/033/2001]).
In May 2001 President Mubarak ratified the verdict of two of the 52
defendants who had been sentenced, in violation of international fair trial
standards, to three and five years’ imprisonment.
For more information please call Amnesty International’s press office in
London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org
For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org
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