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16 January 2008

Morocco/ Western Sahara: Drop charges of homosexuality against six men and ensure their safety

The Moroccan authorities must immediately release those convicted solely for their presumed sexual orientation, after an appeal court upheld convictions of "homosexuality" against six men on Tuesday, and repeal legal provisions criminalizing homosexuality, Amnesty International said.

The authorities must also ensure the safety of the men, in detention and upon their release, given the vilification they were subjected to prior to their arrest.

In a verdict announced yesterday by a Court of Appeal, the convictions were upheld although some sentences were lowered.

"Amnesty International considers that persons imprisoned solely on the basis of their alleged or real sexual orientation are prisoners of conscience, and should be immediately and unconditionally released," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International.

The six were first convicted of "practising homosexuality" in a trial held on 10 December 2007 in the city of Ksar El Kebir. One of them, also convicted of selling alcohol illegally, was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment, three others to six months’ imprisonment, and two to four months. They were arrested at the end of November after public denunciations that a private party they had held was a "gay marriage".

The six men were tried according to Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code, which penalizes "lewd or unnatural acts with persons of the same sex".

Laws which criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults contravene international human rights standards, including the right to privacy, freedom from discrimination, and the right to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.

"The public controversy sparked by this case in Morocco begs for an urgent review of the country’s discriminatory laws which criminalize homosexuality," said Philip Luther. "We urge the Moroccan government to drop the charges that contravene Morocco’s obligations under international human rights law."

Background

A video of the party, which was circulated in Morocco and on the internet, sparked calls for the men to be punished and angry demonstrations in Ksar el Kebir. The video, which was played at the trial, does not appear to show the same-sex relations the men were accused of.

Prior to the appeal trial, Amnesty International members around the world had called on the Moroccan authorities to drop the charges of homosexuality against the men, and to change their legislation so that it would conform to international human rights standards.

AI Index: PRE01/014/2008
Region Middle East And North Africa
Country Morocco
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