Posted: December 12, 2007 - 1:00 pm ET
(New York City) Criminal verdicts in Morocco against six men sentenced
to prison for homosexual conduct should be set aside and the men
released an international human rights organization said Wednesday.
A court in Ksar el-Kbir, a small city about 120 kilometers south of
Tangiers, convicted the men this week of violating Morocco's penal
code, which criminalizes "lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of
the same sex".
The court sentenced three defendants to six months in prison and two
defendants to four months; it sentenced the sixth, who it also
convicted of the unauthorized sale of alcohol, to 10 months. The
defendants range in age from 20 to 61 years old.
According to lawyers for the defendants, the prosecution failed to
present any evidence that the men actually had engaged in the
"These men are behind bars for private acts between consenting adults
that no government has any business criminalizing in the first place,"
said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at
Human Rights Watch.
"The men's rights to privacy and freedom of expression have been
violated, and the court has convicted them without apparent evidence;
they should be set free."
The men have been in jail since they were first arrested by the police
between November 23 and 25, after a video circulated online purporting
to show a private party, allegedly including the men, taking place in
Ksar el-Kbir on November 18.
Press reports claimed the party was a "gay marriage."
Following the arrests, hundreds of men and women marched through the
streets of Ksar el-Kbir, denouncing the men's alleged actions and
calling for their punishment.
The video showed no indications of sexual activity.
The men all pleaded innocent. At the trial, the judge refused to
release the men provisionally pending their appeals.
Criminalizing consensual, adult homosexual conduct violates human
rights protection in international law, Human Rights Watch said.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which
Morocco has ratified, bars interference with the right to privacy. The
United Nations Human Rights Committee has condemned laws against
consensual homosexual conduct as violations of the ICCPR. The United
Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that arrests for
consensual homosexual conduct are, by definition, human rights
In the preamble to its constitution, Morocco "subscribes to the
principles, rights, and obligations" consequent on its membership in
organizations including the United Nations "and reaffirms its
attachment to human rights as they are universally recognized."
"In applying an unjust law in an unjust fashion, the Ksar el-Kbir
court has fueled the forces of intolerance in Morocco," said Whitson.
"If Morocco truly aspires to be a regional leader on human rights, it
should lead the way in decriminalizing homosexual conduct."