16th January 2008 10:55
PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
A leading human rights organisation has called on the authorities in Morocco to release six men jailed for "lewd and unnatural acts." They were arrested by police between November 23rd and 25th 2007, after a video circulated online, including on YouTube, purporting to show a private party, allegedly including the men, taking place in Ksar el-Kbir on November 18th.Press reports claimed the party was a "gay marriage."At an appeal yesterday the men's sentences were reduced but their convictions upheld. The six men range in age from 20 to 61 years old.Amnesty International has today issued a fresh call for their release."Rather than just reduce the length of the prison sentences, the Moroccan authorities should have released all of the defendants," said Amnesty International UK Campaigner Kim Manning-Cooper."The use of laws to imprison individuals for same-sex relations is a grave violation of their fundamental human rights."According to lawyers for the defendants, the prosecution failed to present any evidence that the men actually had engaged in the prohibited conduct in the first place.At the trial, all six men maintained their innocence of the charges. All denied that they had engaged in same-sex sexual relations during the party. The Youtube video was broadcast at the trial but did not present any evidence of "lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex."Despite the lack of evidence, the men were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms and fines. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 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 UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that arrests for consensual homosexual conduct are, by definition, human rights violations.