Human Rights Watch: Egyptian Government Arresting, Torturing Gay Men
Associated Press, March 1,
By Nadia Abou El-Magd, Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt—Egyptian authorities
have entrapped, arrested and tortured hundreds of men thought to be gay, a New
York-based human rights group said in a report Monday.
Human Rights Watch urged Egypt to repeal legislation
allowing the prosecution of consensual homosexual relations—covered under
the country’s debauchery laws.
The report said police agents surf the Internet and
answer personal ads placed by men seeking men, then arrange meetings with them
and arrest them.
Gen. Ahmed Shehab, who oversees Internet-related crimes
for the Interior Ministry, said he had not yet seen the report and was unable
to comment on it. However, vice officials in the past have acknowledged the
practice of answering Internet personals by gay men and praised it for getting
At a news conference, Human Rights Watch and Egyptian
rights groups accused the government of ignoring its own declarations to the
United Nations and the European Union that homosexuality is legal in Egypt.
“The police at Abideen police station (in Cairo)
clearly have a different opinion because they are going out and they are
arresting men who are doing nothing, who are accused of nothing, but
consensual, private, homosexual conduct.” said Scott Long, HRW’s director
for homosexual issues.
Islam prohibits homosexuality, and it is taboo in
Egypt’s conservative society. Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in
the Egyptian penal code, but the report said legislation originally meant to
penalize prostitution is being used against gay conduct.
In 2001, 52 men were tried on charges of debauchery and
23 were convicted and sentenced to up to five years in prison.
The rights group said at least 179 men accused of
debauchery have been brought before prosecutors since the start of 2001.
Hundreds of other men have been harassed, arrested and often tortured but not
Early last year, the rights group interviewed 63 men who
had been arrested for homosexual conduct. It 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 government,” said HRW executive director Kenneth
Roth, “has found it advantageous to demonize this group of people as a way
of diverting attention from other problems.”
Gen. Assem Omran, the Egyptian police official in charge
of vice, whose department was specifically mentioned in the report, declined
comment to The Associated Press.
The report said that doctors also participated in
torturing the men. Prosecutors would refer suspects to the Forensic Medical
Authority, an arm of Egypt’s Justice Ministry, it said.
“Doctors there compel the men to strip and kneel ...
subjecting them to intrusive, abusive and degrading examinations to
‘prove’ the men have committed homosexual conduct,” the report said.
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