Egypt: A trial that should never have taken place

'This trial should never have taken place,' the organisation said.

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 organisation 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 organisation continued.

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's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights, and those who are marginalised 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.

Background

Charges of 'habitual debauchery' under Law 10 of 1961 on the Combat of Prostitution are commonly used in Egypt to criminalise 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 recognised in international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party.

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