* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *
12 November 2001 MDE 12/030/2001 197/01
On 14 November 2001 an exceptional court is scheduled to hand down its final verdict in a trial of 52 men tried for
their alleged sexual orientation.
"Amnesty International believes that the majority, if not all, of these men are facing imprisonment merely in
connection with their alleged sexual orientation. If convicted solely on these grounds the organization would call for
their immediate and unconditional release," the international organization said. "We are also extremely concerned that
their trial violates some of the most basic international standards for fair trial."
Within the last few weeks, hundreds of people have been referred to exceptional courts established under emergency
legislation in connection with a variety of charges, including membership of illegal organizations, contempt for
religion and espionage. Recently, such courts have also convicted journalists accused of publishing pictures deemed to
violate public morals and of spreading false information.
"Amnesty International is concerned that exceptional courts, which violate basic international standards for fair
trial, such as the right to a full review of the case before a higher tribunal, are extensively used to try people in
Egypt," Amnesty International said.
According to Article 14 (5) of the UN International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt is a
State Party: "Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a
higher tribunal according to law."
On 18 July 2001 the Emergency State Security Court for Misdemeanours opened trial against 52 men arrested in May in
connection with their alleged sexual orientation. All defendants are charged with "obscene behaviour" while two face
additional charges of expressing "contempt for religion."
Proceedings before this court not only violate defendants' fundamental right to appeal but also contravene principles
of the independence of the judiciary as its verdicts have to be submitted to the Military Governor who ultimately
decides whether to uphold or quash the verdict or to order a retrial. Such interference by the executive powers
constitutes a flagrant violation of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
Amnesty International wrote to the Egyptian authorities on 18 May 2001, about a week after the arrest of the men,
expressing concerns that they had not been allowed to meet their relatives or be seen by a lawyer. In the light of these
restrictions of contact to the outside world, Amnesty International expressed fears that the defendants were at risk of
torture and ill-treatment. To this day, the organization has received no response to its communication. At pre-trial
hearings before the State Security Prosecution on 23 and 24 May, several defendants reported that they had been tortured
or ill-treated during the first days of their detention. The prosecution ordered the men to be medically examined in
order to establish whether they had practised anal sex. During the following days, the defendants were forcibly
subjected to forensic medical examinations. According to Amnesty International's information, no thorough and impartial
investigations have been conducted into the torture allegations.
In a related case, a 16-year-old boy, Mahmud, was sentenced by Cairo Juvenile Court on 18 September to three years'
imprisonment for his alleged sexual orientation. He was reportedly tortured, including being beaten with a stick on the
soles of his feet, following his arrest in May. During the first two weeks of his detention, he was denied the
fundamental right to meet his family or be seen by a lawyer. Confessions extracted from Mahmud during that period were
used as evidence in a trial leading to his conviction. His lawyer claims that these confessions were extracted under
duress and they were later withdrawn. Amnesty International has adopted Mahmud as a prisoner of conscience and calls for
his immediate and unconditional release.
Egypt is a State Party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment (CAT) and the ICCPR which categorically prohibit torture. Under Article 12 of CAT, state parties are obliged
to carry out "prompt and impartial investigations, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture
has been committed..."
Recent cases before exceptional courts which violate international standards for fair trial include: * In October
President Hosni Mubarak decreed more than 250 people to be tried in two separate cases before the Supreme Military Court
in connection with their alleged affiliation with armed Islamist groups. The majority of the defendants had been held
for several years in detention without charge or trial. * In September, the (Emergency) Supreme State Security Court
opened the retrial of Sharif al- Filali under charges of espionage for Israel. He had been tried under the same charges
before a different panel of the same court and was acquitted in June. However, President Mubarak refused to ratify the
acquittal upon request of the prosecution and ordered a retrial. * In September the (Emergency) State Security Court for
Misdemeanours in Cairo sentenced the editor-in-chief of al-Naba'a newspaper, Mamduh Mahran, to three years' imprisonment
in connection with an article about a former Christian Coptic monk on charges including insulting a religion and holy
places, spreading false information and publishing pictures which violate public morals. The publication of the article
in June 2001 included blurred photographs of alleged sexual activities in a monastery and led to widespread protests by
the Coptic community in Egypt against the publication of the article, which was considered offensive.
According to Article 4 of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary: "There shall not be any
inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process, nor shall judicial decisions by courts be subjected
to revision. This principle is without prejudice to the judicial review or to mitigation or commutation by competent
authorities of sentences imposed by the judiciary, in accordance with the law."
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