Last edited: March 27, 2004

Egypt Continues to Torture Gays, March 1, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

Cairo—An international human rights agency says despite international condemnation Egypt continues to persecute, arrest and torture its gay citizens.

The report, by the New York-based Human Rights Watch was released today in Cairo. Five Egyptian human rights organizations joined HRW at a morning news conference. The appearance of representatives of the five groups is seen as significant since in the past the organizations have turned a blind eye to gay persecution in Egypt.

Since the mass arrest and trial of 52 men in 2001 little in Egypt has changed the 144-page report, “In a Time of Torture: The Assault on Justice in Egypt’s Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct,” says.

Egyptian police continue to use wire taps and a growing web of informers to carry out raids against private homes and seize suspected gays on the streets. The report also accuses Egyptian security agents of using internet chat-rooms and advertisements to entrap gay men, then arrest them.

Once in custody, the report says, gay men are subjected to torture and degrading medical examinations to prove they have engaged in gay sexual relations. The report says that in the last three years, hundreds of men have undergone this treatment.

The human rights abuses are carried out even though Egypt has no law against homosexuality. Rather, it uses as a pretext laws pertaining to “public decency” and “the protection is Islam”.

Human Rights Watch says it “knows the names of 179 men whose cases under the law against ‘debauchery’ were brought before prosecutors since the beginning of 2001,” adding that hundreds others have been harassed, arrested and often tortured, but not charged.

Early last year, the rights group interviewed 63 men who had been arrested for gay conduct. The report said they spoke of being whipped, bound and suspended in painful positions, splashed with ice-cold water, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity to the limbs, genitals or tongue. They also said guards encouraged other prisoners to rape them, according to the report.

By creating “a moral panic” through these arrests as well as the scandals and stigma accompanying the cases, the Egyptian government diverted the media from mounting political and economic crises, the report added.

General Assem Omran, the Egyptian police official in charge of vice, whose department was specifically mentioned in the report, declined to comment.

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