By Kenneth Changpertitum
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for the release of seven men detained by Egyptian authorities accused of “inciting debauchery”, after video footage emerged showing them allegedly attending a same-sex marriage.
Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat ordered the men to be held in preventive detention and examined by the forensics department, in an ongoing investigation after the video emerged.
“These arrests represent another assault on fundamental human rights and reflect the Egyptian government’s growing disdain for the rule of law,” Graeme Reid, Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Programme for HRW said in a statement.
People accused of homosexuality in Egypt are often subjected to medical tests involving anal examination to proove they are “habitual homosexuals”. The procedure, HRW said, was in violation of “international standards against torture”.
HRW also highlighted similar examinations known as “virginity tests” used by security forces to assault detained women, during the protests of 2011 in Tahrir Square.
On Monday Hisham Abdel Hamid, spokesman for the forensic department, said that based on the results of medical tests, the suspected men are “not homosexuals”.
Though the results of such examinations have been used in Egyptian court HRW said: “Experts have dismissed them as medically and scientifically useless in determining whether consensual anal sex has taken place.”
Homosexuality is not expressly forbidden in Egyptian law, but serious attempts have been made to punish people accused of it. In those cases, authorities have cited charges of “violating the teachings of religion and public morals”.
Reid added: “Over the years, Egyptian authorities have repeatedly arrested, tortured, and detained men suspected of consensual homosexual conduct.”
In an earlier statement this week, the prosecutor general’s office said the video violates public decency and called for the suspects to quickly face trial in order “to protect social values and met out justice”.
The recent arrests of the men featured in the video are the latest of many where authorities have targeted men accused of homosexuality.
Last April, an Egyptian court sentenced four men up to eight years in prison for “practicing debauchery”.
In October 2013, prosecution ordered fourteen suspects detained on allegations they committed “homosexual acts” in a medical centre in the El-Marg neighbourhood of Cairo.
In 2001, over 50 men were arrested on a disco cruise on charges related to homosexual acts, with some receiving prison sentences. It was the largest case involving homosexual behaviour in Egyptian history.