UNHCHR: Alleged Detention Of LGBT People In Azerbaijan, Egypt and Indonesia Should Be Investigated And Perpetrators Punished

National Flag Square, Baku, Azerbaijan – Image: Moonsun1981

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,  Rupert Colville, gave a press briefing yesterday, 13th October, in Geneva, stating that allegations of detention of LGBT people in Azerbaijan, Egypt, and Indonesia should be investigated, and the perpetrators punished.

Mr Colville stated:

“We are deeply concerned by a wave of arrests in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Indonesia of more than 180 people perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) – many of whom have reportedly been mistreated by law enforcement officials.

In Azerbaijan, as has just been described by several independent UN experts, more than 80 people presumed to be gay or transgender have been arrested in Baku since mid-September.

Some were allegedly subjected to electric shocks, beatings, forced shaving and various other forms of humiliation apparently in an attempt to make them incriminate themselves and others.

While all those detained have reportedly been released, several served terms of administrative detention based on charges of “hooliganism” and “resisting a police order”. Many were forced to undergo medical examinations, and information about their health status was divulged to the media by the authorities.

In Egypt, more than 50 people have been arrested in recent weeks based on their assumed sexual orientation or gender identity. Two were arrested for waving rainbow flags during a concert, and one for running a Facebook page. In some cases, individuals were reportedly arrested after being entrapped by law enforcement officials on apps and in internet chat rooms. Charges include “habitual debauchery”, “inciting indecency and debauchery”, and “joining a banned group”. At least 10 men have been sentenced to between one and six years’ imprisonment, most others detainees are awaiting trial, and a few have been released. Several of those detained were subjected to intrusive physical “examinations”. In many cases, due process rights appear to have been violated.

In Indonesia, more than 50 people were arrested at a sauna in Jakarta last Friday, based on their perceived sexual orientation. While many have since been released, four men and one woman were charged under Indonesia’s vague “Law on Pornography”, which has been used to arrest people for consensual same-sex relations.

Arresting or detaining people based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is by definition arbitrary and violates international law – including rights to inter alia privacy, non-discrimination, equality before the law and equal protection of the law. Arresting and detaining people for legitimately expressing themselves – including by displaying a rainbow flag – is also arbitrary and violates individuals’ right to freedom of expression. In all three countries, authorities have alleged that those arrested were involved in sex work – although in almost all cases the accused have denied such allegations or indicated that they were coerced into confessing involvement. Regardless, United Nations human rights experts have emphasized that States should repeal laws that criminalize sex workers.

Azerbaijan, Egypt and Indonesia should take immediate action to release anyone detained on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, drop charges based on vaguely worded and discriminatory laws, and should repeal such laws in line with their legal obligations under international law and long-standing United Nations recommendations. They should also release immediately all those detained for legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Egypt should urgently prohibit the practice of  intrusive physical ‘examinations’, and Azerbaijan should immediately cease subjecting people to forced or coerced medical tests and exams, which violate the international prohibition on torture and ill-treatment. Those who have been arbitrarily detained and subjected to these abuses should be afforded effective remedy, including reparations. Allegations of torture and ill-treatment should be promptly and thoroughly investigated; and, if convicted, alleged perpetrators punished”.

Note: A member of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan is obligated to abide by the European Convention on Human Rights ban on discrimination – including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – torture, and arbitrary detention. Azerbaijan is also a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which include similar obligations.

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