Gay Men Flogged and Tortured in Saudi Arrests
April 8, 2005
By Patrick Letellier
More than 100 men in Saudi Arabia were sentenced this
week to imprisonment and flogging after being arrested in March for “deviant
sexual behaviour”, the Human Rights Watch confirmed today.
The men were arrested for dancing and “behaving like
women” at a private party in a rented hall, according to Al-Wifaq, a
government-affiliated Saudi newspaper. The paper claimed the men were
attending a gay wedding.
“Prosecuting and imprisoning people for homosexual
conduct are flagrant human rights violations,” said Scott Long, director of
Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program. “Subjecting the victims to
floggings is torture, pure and simple.”
Two weeks after their arrest, 31 of the men were
sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to a year, and to 200 lashes
each. Four men were sentenced to two years imprisonment and 2,000 lashes.
Seventy others, initially released without sentencing, were summoned back and
sentenced to a year in prison.
Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and is
punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment or death. Last month, two gay
men, Ahmed al-Enezi and Shahir al-Roubli, were beheaded after government
officials claimed the men had killed a third man who had threatened to
“expose” their relationship.
“Gays are often the canary in the mine,” said Human
Rights Watch deputy director Widney Brown. “They tend to be the first group
governments often go after because so few people are willing to stand with
them and defend their rights.”
Brown believes the recent crackdown on gay men in the
country is a part of a strategy by the Saudi government to distract citizens
from critical issues that have a broader impact.
Human Rights Watch sources reported that the men were
arrested at a birthday party, not a wedding. “Calling the event a ‘gay
wedding’ has become a lightning rod used to justify discrimination against
gay people,” Brown said.
Brown also noted it is unlikely that the four men
sentenced to 2,000 lashes would survive unless officials break up the
punishment into smaller instalments.
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