A Trial That Should Never Have Taken Place
International, March 18, 2002
As the appeal case of four men sentenced to three
years’ imprisonment for their actual or perceived sexual orientation opens
before a Cairo Court of Appeal today, Amnesty International is renewing its
call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those imprisoned on
the grounds of sexual identity.
“This trial should never have taken place,” the
The men, who have been in detention since their arrest in
November 2001, were charged with “habitual debauchery”. An Amnesty
International delegate attended the concluding session in the trial of the
four men before the Court of Misdemeanours in the Cairo District of Bulaq
Dakrur on 3 February 2002, when the verdict was pronounced. During that
session, the delegate was able to speak to some of the accused, who reported
that they had been subjected to brutal treatment while in police custody,
including being suspended by the wrists and beaten with a thick stick.
“In Egypt, gays—or those perceived to be gay—face a
real and constant threat of imprisonment simply for being who they are,” the
organization continued. Egypt’s prisons currently hold tens of men solely on
account of their perceived or self-expressed sexual orientation.
Gays in Egypt face a heightened risk of torture in police
stations and prisons.
“The Egyptian authorities must send a clear message
that torture and ill-treatment cannot be tolerated, and that all instances
will be properly investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” the
The practice of torture and ill-treatment in detention
centres around the country is widespread and indiscriminate. Victims come from
all walks of life, including women and children, and those who are
marginalized by society are particularly vulnerable.
The case falls within a pattern of arrest and detention
of men for their alleged sexual orientation. Just last week another five men
were sentenced to the maximum three-year prison sentence on similar charges.
The men were arrested, along with three others, in January 2002 and were
initially held in the police station of Damanhour’s first precinct.
The men were forced to undergo medical examinations,
conducted in order to determine whether the accused had engaged in anal sex.
Such examinations amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Charges of “habitual debauchery” under Law 10 of 1961
on the Combat of Prostitution are commonly used in Egypt to criminalize
consensual homosexual relations.
In November 2001 the Emergency State Security Court for
Misdemeanours in Cairo, an exceptional court established under emergency
legislation, sentenced 23 men to prison terms of between one and five years.
Twenty-one were convicted of “habitual debauchery”,
one of “contempt of religion” and another on both charges. Amnesty
International has adopted 22 of the 23 men as prisoners of conscience and
calls for their immediate and unconditional release (see Amnesty
International: Egypt: Torture and imprisonment for actual or perceived sexual
orientation, December 2001—[AI Index: MDE 12/033/2001]).
The right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of
sex, which includes sexual orientation, is recognized in international
treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to
which Egypt is a state party.
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