Last edited: February 14, 2005

UN Investigation Condemns Egypt Over Gay Prosecutions

By Beth Shapiro, August 20, 2002

New York—An investigation by a United Nations agency set up to monitor the way member states observe human rights has concluded that Egypt persecutes people because of their alleged sexual orientation, despite governmental assertions that homosexuality is not a crime.

Fifty men are being tried for a second time on on charges of "debauchery". The appear next in court on September 7.

The men were arrested last year in a gay club on a Nile Riverboat.

At the original trial 23 of the defendants were found guilty. In May the government, in the midst of international pressure, ordered a retrial, of all 50.

Two others, accused of being the "ringleaders" were excluded from the retrial and are serving hard labour sentences, having been convicted of "contempt of religion.

While awaiting a court appearance at the first trial the men are alleged to have been subjected to torture with cattle prods.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says: "The detention of the above-mentioned persons prosecuted in the grounds that, by their sexual orientation, they incited ‘social dissension’ constitutes arbitrary deprivation o liberty."

The group’s report calls on Egypt to redress the situation and amend its legislation.

The decision also represents a ground-breaking move by the Working Group in addressing issues of sexual orientation.

"The decision refutes a key claim of the Egyptian government— that consensual sexual conduct between men is not criminalized in Egyptian law," said Scott Long, Program Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is composed of five independent experts, that report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Drawn from academics and human rights advocates in Algeria, France, Hungary, and Paraguay they are not part of their countries delegations, and are therefore free to represent their own expert opinions and not necessarily the official views of their countries.

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