- A new study on the Egyptian government's purge against homosexuals shows that the torture is used systematically. The crackdown started in 2001 is still ongoing and has turned into a permanent government campaign against homosexuals.
According to a 144-page report released today by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, the Egyptian government is increasingly repressing men who have sex with men. The trial of 52 men in 2001 for the "habitual practice of debauchery" - the legal charge used to criminalise gays in Egyptian law - had only been the most visible point in the ongoing and expanding crackdown.
- Today, Egyptian police use wiretaps and a growing web of informers to conduct raids on private homes or seize suspects on the street, the study found. "Undercover police agents arrange meetings with men through chat rooms and personal advertisements on the Internet - and then arrest them."
The human rights group found that Egyptian police "routinely torture men suspected of homosexual conduct." The report cites testimonies of victims telling how they were bound, suspended in painful positions, burned with cigarettes or submerged in ice-cold water, and subjected to electroshock on their limbs and genitals. Numerous testimonies in the report accuse Taha Embaby, head of Cairo's Vice Squad, of direct participation in torture.
- Doctors participate in torturing suspected homosexuals, under the guise of collecting forensic evidence to support the charge of 'habitual debauchery', Human Rights Watch found. Prosecutors refer suspects to the Forensic Medical Authority, an arm of Egypt's Ministry of Justice.
There, the report says, the gay men were routinely subjected to torture. "Doctors there compel the men to strip and kneel; they massage, dilate and in some cases penetrate the prisoners' anal cavities, subjecting them to intrusive, abusive, and degrading examinations to 'prove' the men have committed homosexual acts."
Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, who presented the report at a conference in Cairo, warned against this systematic use of torture in Egypt. "The prohibition against torture is absolute and universal, regardless of the victim, he said. "Accepting torture of unpopular victims - whether for their political opinions or their sexual conduct - makes it easier for the government to use this despicable practice on many others."
This documented use of torture had also made Egyptian human rights group to join the protests of Mr Roth. At earlier stages, Egyptian groups had preferred not to be associated with campaigns against the government's gay purges as they feared the issue of homosexuality would alienate Egyptians. Five Egyptian human rights groups today joined Mr Roth at the presentation of the report in Cairo.
Mr Roth also said he was "saddened" by the fact that his group had been "documenting torture in Egypt for over a decade. The government’s recent initiatives to improve its human rights image mean nothing unless it lives up to its obligation to investigate and punish those responsible for torture."
Human Rights Watch called on the Egyptian government to reform the criminal justice system to protect all citizens against torture and abuse. It also called on the Cairo government to end arrests and prosecutions based on adult, consensual homosexual conduct.
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