Last edited: March 02, 2005

Rothman Leads Bipartisan Congressional Coalition Urging Egypt to Cease Torture of Gay Men

Co-Authors Letter To Egyptian President Mubarak Expressing Concerns, Gets 43 Other Members of Congress To Co-Sign

Congressman Steve Rothman, May 6, 2004
202-225-5061 (office)

Washington, DC—Deeply concerned and troubled by numerous reports of torture by the Egyptian government against gay men, Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ9) co-authored and sent a letter today to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urging him to personally speak out against and work to eliminate all abuse against gay men. Rothman co-authored the letter, which was signed by a total of 44 Members of Congress, with Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA4) and Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA12).

“We are writing to express our strong concerns regarding the treatment of homosexual men by the Egyptian government, particularly in light of the report released on March 1, 2004 by Human Rights Watch ... [which] details Egypt’s extensive repression, entrapment, and torture of men who engage in the ‘habitual practice of debauchery’—the vague legal charge used to criminalize homosexual behavior in Egyptian law,” Rothman and his colleagues wrote in the letter. “We regard the repression, entrapment, and torture of individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation to be clear human rights violations. We sincerely hope Egypt will abide by the requirements of the treaties signed and laws in place, and that you personally will speak out against and work to prevent any future incidents of torture, including the torture of homosexual men.”

The 144-page Human Rights Watch report includes testimonies by torture victims which described situations in which they were bound, suspended in painful positions, burned with cigarettes, submerged in ice-cold water, and subjected to electrical shocks on their limbs and genitals. Rothman and his colleagues argued that this persecution undermines the legal protections for privacy and due process, not only for gay men, but for all Egyptians.

Rothman and his colleagues also wrote to Mubarak, “As you know, Egypt is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Treaty, and in November 2002 the United Nations Committee against Torture issued 19 recommendations to Egypt comprising specific measures to be undertaken by the government in order to eradicate torture. The treaty and the UN recommendations prohibit the use of torture and protect torture victims through the conduct of swift and impartial investigations. Furthermore, Article 42 of Egypt’s Constitution declares that any detained person “shall be treated in a manner concomitant with the preservation of his dignity” and that “no physical or moral harm is to be inflicted upon him.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other organizations have been documenting arbitrary detention and torture in Egypt for more than a decade. Egypt has been sighted for its routine torture and persecution of Islamic loyalists, human rights activists, government and anti-war dissidents, and Coptic Christians. Egypt is not only a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Treaty but also has been a focus of the UN Committee against Torture. In addition, Egypt’s own constitution declares that “no physical or moral harm is to be inflicted upon” a detained person. Discrimination, entrapment, and torture based on real or perceived sexual orientation must be treated as clear human rights violations.

Rothman has a solid record in support of equal rights for gays and lesbians. He has received a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, for his voting record each year he has served in Congress. Rothman is also the proud cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, and provide basic protections to ensure fairness in the workplace for Americans who are currently denied equal protection under the law.


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