For Immediate Release: September 25, 2002
SAN FRANCISCO - Four men, convicted last February in Cairo for consensual homosexual behavior, have been acquitted under appeal. The men, known as "the Boulak 4," had been in continuous detention since their initial arrest on November 10. Their acquittal may signal Egypt's response to mounting U.N. criticism of the treatment of homosexuals in that country.
"These men were unjustly arrested, tortured, and convicted. We have been waiting more than 10 months to hear this news," stated Scott Long, Program Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
"It is too early to celebrate, however. Fifty of the 'Cairo 52' are still under trial while the remaining two are doing hard labor. And at the same time we continue to receive reports of new waves of arbitrary arrests," added Mr. Long.
The "Boulak 4" acquittals follow a string of U.N. actions, questioning and condemning Egypt's treatment of homosexuals. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted on June 21, 2002 an unprecedented decision in reference to the "Cairo 52." The decision establishes that "The detention of the above-mentioned persons prosecuted in the grounds that, by their sexual orientation, they incited 'social dissension' constitutes arbitrary deprivation of liberty" and calls on Egypt to redress the situation and amend its legislation.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee followed suit, explicitly including a question about Egypt's persecution of homosexuals in the list of questions it intends to officially ask the Government of Egypt this coming Fall. The Committee requested that Egypt provide "information on the existence, in law and in fact, of discrimination based on sexual orientation." IGLHRC has already submitted documentary evidence of both.
The "Boulak 4" had been arrested on November 10, 2001. The Egyptian press announced the arrests on November 15, the morning after verdicts were handed down in the "Cairo 52" trial. That day, Mr. Long was able to speak to one of the men through the bars of a police wagon at the Public Prosecutor's Office in Boulak. The prisoner told how all four had been beaten and ill-treated during interrogations. He described how he had been stripped naked and beaten with batons, splashed with cold water in the face, and left hanging by the bars in his jail cell.
On February 3, 2002, a court in Boulak-al-Dakrour (in Giza, a suburb of Cairo) convicted the four men for consensual homosexual behavior. A judge sentenced each to three years in prison with three years' probation to follow. The rulings were appealed to the Boulak Appeals Court of Misdemeanors, which reversed the lower court decision for lack of evidence. The Appeals Court found that the prosecution did not visit the flat where the sexual relations between the men were supposed to have taken place, and that forensic test, conducted on only two of the defendants, tested negative. IGLHRC considers that the use of forensic examinations in order to ascertain whether an individual has engaged in anal intercourse is in itself a form of cruel and inhuman treatment.
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Published on September 25, 2002 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization