have stepped up arrests of HIV-positive suspects,
detaining four more men this month in a crackdown that
violates basic human rights, two leading international
rights groups said Friday.
York-based Human Rights Watch and the London-based
Amnesty International warned in a joint statement that
the arrests could also undermine HIV prevention
efforts, as people in Egypt become increasingly afraid
to seek information about HIV prevention and treatment.
arrests brought to eight the number of HIV suspects in
Four other men,
arrested earlier, were convicted in mid January of
''habitual practice of debauchery'' -- a term used in the
Egyptian legal system for consensual homosexual acts
-- and sentenced to one-year prison terms. The
sentence was upheld February 2 by an appeals court, Human
Rights Watch officials said.
not explicitly referred to in the legal code here, but a
wide range of laws covering obscenity, prostitution, and
debauchery are applied to gays in this conservative
misguided attempt to apply Egypt's unjust law on homosexual
conduct, authorities are carrying on a crackdown against
people living with HIV/AIDS,'' said Rebecca Schleifer
of Human Rights Watch. ''This not only violates the
most basic rights of people living with HIV. It also
threatens public health by making it dangerous for anyone to
seek information about HIV prevention or treatment.''
Police deny any
HIV-related arrests, but a police official, speaking on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk
to media, said there is a campaign to get persons who
are registered in hospital records as HIV-positive to
treatment in ''special clinics.''
The official told
the Associated Press that police recently rounded up
four men and sent them to ''precautionary hospital
detention'' for treatment. He declined to elaborate.
The two watchdog
groups called on Cairo to release all 12 men, both the
four convicted and the eight in detention.
arrests came after police followed up on information coerced
from those already in custody, Human Rights Watch and
The arrested were
forced to undergo HIV tests, and two tested positive,
the groups added. One appeared in court February 12 and had
his detention extended for 15 days after the judge and
prosecutor declared him a danger to public health. The
second is to appear in court February 23.
Watch and Amnesty say that those in custody who tested
positive are being held chained to their hospital beds.
arrests, forcible HIV tests, and physical abuse only add to
the disgraceful record of Egypt's criminal justice system,
where torture and ill treatment are greeted with
impunity,'' said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, deputy chief
of Amnesty's Mideast and North Africa branch.
The rights groups
also urged Egypt to undertake training for all criminal
justice officials on medical facts and international human
rights standards in relation to HIV and to immediately
discontinue all testing of detainees that is not
In an earlier
statement last week, Human Rights Watch said the arrests
and trials of HIV-positive suspects reflect the Egyptian
government's criminalization of AIDS.
The wave of
arrests began last October, when one man admitted he was
HIV-positive after he and another man were detained after an
altercation on a downtown Cairo street. Two other men,
whose telephone numbers were among the belongings of
the first two, were later also arrested, and all four
were forced to take HIV tests. The four convicted in January
were arrested last November.
In the largest
case to date here, state security arrested 52 gay
men on a floating restaurant on the Nile River in 2001.
Twenty-three were sentenced to two years in prison,
two got three and five years, and the rest were
acquitted. (Katarina Kratovac, AP)