Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Homosexual rights in Egypt

Delivered in Plenary - 4th July 2002

Mr President

I was first concerned with this situation when a constituent of mine sent me the Amnesty International report on the 52 men arrested on the Queen Boat nightclub in May 2001 for presumed homosexuality, satanist practices and offences against Islam. Europeans and women were spared from the charges. It is alleged that they were tortured by whippings, electrocutions and threats from dogs into signing confessions of being homosexual. Allegedly many were not homosexual but just enjoying the western culture of drinking alcohol and dancing. Motivation for the arrest was in part to appease anti-western sentiment and distract the people from the government's economic problems at the time.

In the initial trial in November 2001, 25 were sentenced to jail terms, but the government has decided on a second retrial of its so-called perverts. A number of irregularities were apparent in the first trial. The Egyptian press law prohibits the publication of details in on-going investigations which might prejudice the trial outcome, which was blatantly disregarded with the publications of stories of alleged homosexual orgies, gay weddings and the identity and pictures of all the defendants. The law does not prohibit homosexual acts, only "habitual debauchery", of which there was scant evidence. The men were tried by a state security court rather than a regular court and forced medical examinations were carried out, clearly against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is clear to me that a retrial is a breach of the double jeopardy interdiction of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and also the spirit of Article 2 of the EU-Egypt Euro-Mediterranean Agreement on respect for human rights.

Commissioner Patten replied to me, as did the UK Foreign Office Minister Bradshaw, expressing concern and willingness to monitor the situation, which this House is raising with concern again today.

Regarding the previous debate, I would also like to ask Commissioner Diamantopoulou to use all available means to keep up the pressure on Zimbabwe.