Last edited: April 16, 2005

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.

[Home] [World] [Saudi Arabia]