U.S. Trains Egyptian Police, Prosecutors
Human rights groups, critical of gay crackdown, say
they need more info
City News, May 2-8, 2003
487 Greenwich St., Suite 6A, NYC, NY 10013
Fax: 646-452-2501, Email: Editor@gaycitynews.com
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
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
“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
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