Last edited: January 04, 2005

U.S. Trains Egyptian Police, Prosecutors

Human rights groups, critical of gay crackdown, say they need more info

Gay City News, May 2-8, 2003
487 Greenwich St., Suite 6A, NYC, NY 10013
Fax: 646-452-2501, Email:

By Duncan Osborne

Gay, lesbian, and transgendered Americans were horrified when the Egyptian government arrested and imprisoned 52 gay men in 2001 simply because they are gay.

Those same Americans might also be disturbed to learn that their government has been training and equipping Egyptian police and prosecutors for years.

In a crackdown on gay men that began in 2001, Egyptian police have raided parties in private homes, as recently as January of this year, and used Internet sites to set up dates with gay men and then arrest them, according to human rights groups.

The most notorious case is the 2001 Queen Boat disco arrests when police rounded up 60 gay Egyptians. Fifty-two were tried in an Emergency State Security Court and their trials resulted in a mix of acquittals and guilty verdicts. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president, voided all the verdicts in 2002 and the men were retried. Earlier this year 21 of the men were given sentences as long as three years in jail.

“This crackdown happened quite suddenly,” said Geoffrey Mock, Egypt country specialist at Amnesty International. “It quickly spread to youth, foreigners, Internet entrapment, and raids on suspected gay hangouts. It is not abating.”

Egypt received just over $2 billion this year in U.S. foreign aid that includes military and economic assistance. Only Israel gets more foreign aid dollars than Egypt from the U.S. Egyptian law enforcement has a long relationship with U.S. agencies.

The U.S. Department of State’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program has trained 1,400 Egyptian law enforcement officials since 1983 when ATAP was created, according to a program spokesperson. Overall, the program has trained 31,000 foreign cops from 127 countries.

While parts of the program deliver training that is specific to terrorist threats, such as bombings or the use of so-called weapons of mass destruction, other components could be used in any police activity including hunting down homosexuals. ATAP also funds equipment purchases.

Egyptian police and prosecutors have also been trained by the U.S. Department of Justice through its International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program and the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training as well as by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to reports dating back to 1998 from the Interagency Working Group on U.S. Government-Sponsored International Exchanges and Training (IAWG). The U.S. Department of the Treasury and its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have also trained Egyptian cops, according to the IAWG reports.

In some cases, the courses concern skills, such as handling a bomb-sniffing dog, that would not be useful in a crackdown on gays, but in other instances the courses have a general law enforcement application. In the government reports, the number of Egyptians trained in each year is typically under 100 for all the agencies combined including any trainees from ATAP. But the IAWG reports do not represent all the training that the U.S. does every year.

“We are reporting everything that is reported to us, but I cannot be absolutely certain that every activity of the U.S. government is included in these reports,” said a spokesperson for the agency.

There are other indications of a long-term relationship between federal law enforcement and Egyptian police. The FBI’s National Academy has graduated 60 Egyptians, according to statistics posted on its web site. Those statistics run from 1935, when the academy opened, to 1999, so it is not clear when those officers attended. The academy press office did not respond to calls.

Gay City News found no evidence that any of the Egyptians trained in this country had committed human rights violations in Egypt.

As Gay City News went to press, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which oversees the terrorism program, said he would not comment without more information. A spokesperson from the Justice Department made a similar comment. The State Department has criticized the Egyptian government in the Queen Boat case.

Democrat Barney Frank, the openly gay member of Congress from Massachusetts, was cautious in his response when asked if the U.S. should be training Egyptian police.

“We have some interest in training any law enforcement people who are going to deal with terrorism, but given the extent to which they have engaged in an anti-gay campaign I would say no,” he said. Frank has mounted a campaign in Congress since the Queen Boat arrests to force the Egyptian government to end its anti-gay campaign.

“We can absolutely stop them,” he said. “We can put pressure on them. What I want to do is cut off any economic assistance or trade other than the money they get annually along with Israel because they did Camp David.”

Human rights groups, that maintain a fairly rigorous standard of proof, generally declined to comment without evidence that the U.S. training or equipment was used to violate the rights of Egyptians.

“Amnesty does not take a carte blanche position on training,” Mock said, but, after he gave a list of abuses that Egyptian police have committed, Gay City News asked if it was advisable to help such a police force get better at being bad he said “Well, no.”

Amnesty is organizing a global protest of the Egyptian treatment of gay men that includes a protest at the Egyptian Consulate in New York City on May 9 at 12:30 p.m. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch had a similar view.

“The practices of the Egypt government as far as torture goes and as far as some of their detention practices go are disturbing to us to say the least,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that anybody has established a link between the training and those instances of abuse.”

The International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission declined to comment and a call to the Egyptian Embassy in Washington was not returned.

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