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Egypt: six men face abusive anal examinations in homophobic crackdown following rainbow flag incident

'Forced anal examinations are abhorrent and amount to torture' - Najia Bounaim

Six men arrested for "promoting sexual deviancy" and "debauchery" on social media will be subjected to invasive forensic anal examinations, said Amnesty International, ahead of their trial tomorrow (Sunday 1 October).

The arrests, on the evening of 27 September, came shortly after Egypt’s chief prosecutor announced an investigation in response to a public outcry over an incident at a 22 September concert in Cairo by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila where several members of the crowd raised a rainbow flag.

Since the concert, there have been reports of a sweeping crackdown by the Egyptian authorities against people the authorities perceive to be engaging in same-sex sexual activity. The concert provoked a smear campaign by national media, with calls for those involved to be punished. On 25 September, Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadiq ordered the State Security prosecution to investigate an "incident" at the concert which "incited homosexuality" and where symbols "inciting such acts" were displayed.

A day after the concert a 19-year-old man was arrested on charges of "debauchery". He was sentenced this week to six years in prison, followed by six years of probation. Two other men who were arrested earlier this week and are currently detained in Agouza police station in Cairo are due to stand trial on 11 October. Another two men were arrested on 28 September and are detained in Dokki police station. All those arrested are being investigated by prosecutors in Cairo and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, including anal examinations, by Egypt's Forensic Medical Authority.

Meanwhile, the Forensic Medical Authority is due to subject the six men facing trial tomorrow to anal examinations in a supposed effort to determine whether they have engaged in same-sex sexual relations. Amnesty believes that such examinations violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment under international law.

Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's North Africa Campaigns Director, said:

"Forced anal examinations are abhorrent and amount to torture.

"The Egyptian authorities have an appalling track record of using invasive physical tests which amount to torture against detainees in their custody. All plans to carry out such tests on these men must be stopped immediately.

"A sinister smear campaign by the Egyptian media against those believed to have raised the rainbow flag at the Mashrou’ Leila concert has given the security forces a green light to carry out arrests of at least 11 people based on their alleged sexual orientation.

"The fact that Egypt’s Public Prosecutor is prioritising hunting down people based on their perceived sexual orientation is utterly deplorable. These men should be released immediately and unconditionally - not put on trial."

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights organisation estimates that more than 250 men have been prosecuted for their perceived sexual orientation since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power.

The criminalisation of private, consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex specifically breaches states’ international legal obligations, including the obligations to protect privacy and to guarantee non-discrimination. The enforcement of these laws through prosecution and sentencing violates a range of human rights. Meanwhile, anal examinations violate the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Convention on Human and Peoples' Rights. The UN Committee against Torture has emphasised that they "have no medical justification".

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