France Presses Egypt on Rights Abuses
February 11, 2002
CAIROóThe largest human rights group in Egypt has
reiterated its stance that it will not press the government for better
treatment of the countryís gay citizens, according to Agence France-Presse.
"What could we do? Nothing. If we were to uphold this issue, this would
be the end of what remains of the concept of human rights in Egypt," said
Hisham Kassem, head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
Kassem stressed that there is no public support in Egypt to protect the
rights of gay men and lesbians and implied that Western notions of what is
decent and right are not universal. "We let them down, but I donít have
a mandate from the people," he said. "I donít want the West to set
the pace for the human rights movement in Egypt."
Kassemís statements coincide with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarakís
state visit to Paris where the issue of gay repression has been raised in
discussions with French President Jacques Chirac. Gay civil rights and
international human rights groups made sure their anger over Egyptís
imprisonment of gay men was loud and visible. Groups demonstrated outside of
Elysťe Palace where meetings were being held.
Following the meeting, Chriacís office issued a statement saying that the
President had expressed "sadness and concern to Mubarak about the
imprisonment of gays in Egypt."
Europe has been far more vocal in expressing its concern over human rights
abuses in Egypt than has the United States.
In December, the Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament, Ahmed Fathi Surur,
sent a letter to the president of the Euro Parliament, Nicole Fontaine,
protesting a report which called on the Egyptian government to respect human
rights, to stop judicial procedures against gay citizens and to cancel the
The report was issued following the November 2001 sentencing of 23
predominantly gay men put on trial before an Egyptian security court following
a raid on a Cairo disco. More arrests were made in January.
Chiracís press communique said that, "without wishing to interfere
in Egyptian affairs, he hoped the men could be released."
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