by Sabine Hannakampf
A Tunisian court of appeal upheld the conviction of two men found guilty of sodomy in June. The court only reduced the sentence from two to one year in prison.
The two 26-year-old men had been arrested in June after one of the men filed a complaint against the other for an outstanding loan. Based on suspicion of homosexual behaviour, the police tried to get the men to confess “that they are gay” by threatening and insulting them, Hassina Darraji, the men’s lawyer, told Human Rights Watch.
Based on these alleged “confessions” made by the defendants during the police investigation, a court in Le Kef, a town 175 kilometers southwest of Tunis, sentenced the two men to two years in prison on July 6. On July 28, the court of appeal followed the first-instance decision and upheld the charge of sodomy, but reduced the prison sentence to one year.
Under Article 230 of the Tunisian Criminal Code, homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment for up to three years. Even the method of anal examination for ‘detection of homosexualityʻ, which is internationally outlawed as torture, is still practiced in Tunisia.
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw_de) August 5, 2020
In 2017, Tunisia declared at the 27th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that it would refrain from forced anal examinations and would only carry them out “with the consent of the person and in the presence of a medical expert”. The fact that refusing to undergo this examination is tantamount to an admission of guilt in court has apparently been confirmed in this case too – the two men’s lawyer stated that the defendants had informed her that they had refused the police’s demand to undergo anal testing.
Human rights organisations complain that the conviction violates fundamental human rights principles, including the rights to privacy and non-discrimination protected by the Tunisian Constitution of 2014. “The court’s insistence on upholding the sodomy charge against the defendants and imprisoning them for one year is a grave injustice,” said Rasha Younes, LGBTIQ* rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. Tunisia should
“send a strong message against arbitrary convictions under archaic sodomy laws and release the two men immediately”.
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