- Criminalisation of HIV/AIDs in Egyptian has been criticised by rights groups, fearing it would endanger public health, justice and human rights.
Right activists have sharply reacted to a series of arrests in the Egyptian capital Cairo after one man admitted to police that he was HIV-positive.
Officials of the New York based Human Rights Watch wondered why police have been acting on the "dangerous belief that HIV is not a condition to be treated but a crime to be punished."
Egyptian authorities have been asked to overturn the convictions of four men for the “habitual practice of debauchery,” and to free four others who are held pending trial. Activitists urged the government to end arbitrary arrests based on HIV status and take steps to end prejudice and misinformation about HIV/AIDS.
“These shocking arrests and trials embody both ignorance and injustice,” said Scott Long, Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“Egypt threatens not just its international reputation but its own population if it responds to the HIV/AIDS epidemic with prison terms instead of prevention and care.”
Egyptian police began the arrests in October 2997 when police stopped two men having an altercation on the streets of central Cairo. The men were immediately escorted to the morality police office for investigation for homosexual conduct when one of them confessed that he was HIV-positive.
Apart from beating and handcuffing the men for their refusal to sign statements prepared by the police, the men were also subjected to forensic anal examinations designed to "prove" that they had engaged in homosexual conduct.
Human Rights Watch said such examinations to detect "evidence" of homosexuality are not only medically spurious but constitute torture.
Two other men were arrested after their photographs or telephone numbers were found on the first two detainees.
All the four, who were subjected to HIV tests without their consent, are still in detention.
The police also raided an apartment previously occupied by one of the suspects and arrested and detained four other men they found fully dressed.
The men explained their ordeal to human rights defenders. One of them who tested positive said he was told by the prosecutor that "people like you should be burnt alive. You do not deserve to live."
On 13 January 2008, a court in Cairo convicted the four men for under Article 9 (c) of the 1961 Act, which criminalises the "habitual practice of debauchery [fujur]" - a term that penalises consensual homosexual conduct in Egyptian law.
Defense lawyers blamed the court for merely relying on the prosecution's "coerced and repudiated statements taken from the men" to sentence them to one year in prison. It has neither called witnesses, nor produced tangible evidence to counter their pleas of not guilty.
A court of appeal upheld the men's sentence on 2 February. One of them has since been chained to his bed 23 hours a
“HIV tests forcibly taken without consent, ill-treatment in detention, trials driven by prejudice, and convictions withoutevidence all violate international law," Long complained, accusing Egyptian authorities of violating human rights and privacy of individuals.
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