Saudi Arabia: Alleged Transvestites Sentenced to Brutal Flogging

Press Release April 20, 2000

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) condemns the reported decision of a Saudi Arabian court to sentence nine young men to up to 2,600 lashes each for so-called "deviant sexual behavior."

"These brutal acts of torture are especially shocking as Saudi Arabia is a founding member of the United Nations and a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture," said Kamal Fizazi, IGLHRC's Program Officer for Southwest Asia.

A court in the western city of Qunfada reportedly ruled on April 15 that the men are guilty of transvestism and had participated in "deviant" sexual acts with each other. The sentences - blatantly violating the U.N. convention that prohibits the use of torture and cruel and degrading punishment - will be carried out at 15-day intervals, during which the men are supposed to recover from one beating before the next is inflicted. This will take two years.

The men were arrested after surveillance by police, who allegedly found that they were dressing in women's clothes. In addition, the nine men were sentenced to four to six years in prison.

"Torture is torture,"said Surina Khan, IGLHRC Executive Director. "That a court commands it only redoubles the injustice. The Saudi sentence is an outrage."

The Saudi government's human rights record and its secretive judicial system have earned the condemnation of international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International. Ironically, Saudi Arabia has recently responded to such criticism by inviting international organizations to inspect its judicial system.

Members of the international lesbian and gay Muslim community also are horrified by the Saudi ruling. Faisal Alam, founder of the Al-Fatiha Foundation, an international gay Muslim organization, said, "Islam is a religion of justice, and Saudi Arabia sees itself as the guardian of that holy mission. It is appalling that during the dawn of the Muslim New Year, the Saudi Arabian government violates all norms of justice, bringing shame to all Muslims and tarnishing Islam."

Fizazi is coordinating and consulting with activists and experts on Saudi Arabia. He expressed concern that the Saudi record of intransigence on human rights issues might make protest self-defeating.

"IGLHRC will obtain as much information as possible on these shocking reports," he stated. "While we will respond, it is imperative not to give the Saudi government an impetus to widen its crackdown. We urge everyone to wait for a measured response which will not worsen the situation."

IGLHRC's mission is to protect and advance the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status.


Saudi Arabia's ratification of International Human Rights Treaties:

Convention on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Ratified 23 September 1997, with reservations on articles 20, 30(1).)

Related news stories:

AP news site: IS73SRJ3O0

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