Lebanon’s national police and security force raided a Turkish bath in the Hamra-Concord section of Beirut on Aug. 9 and arrested 27 men.
The men were questioned about their sexual orientation and held for at least three days without being told the charges against them, a group of human rights and LGBT rights organizations said.
The organizations have protested the actions and demanded the men’s immediate release.
The raid and arrests by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) occurred when “no public sexual act was taking place at Agha Hammam, and the investigation at the police station revolved mainly around the detainees’ alleged homosexuality,” the protesters stated.
The following press release about the incident is the collaborative work of the Lebanese LGBT organization Helem, the Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality (AFE), the regional HIV/AIDS advocacy network M-Coalition, the Marsa Sexual Health Clinic, and the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health LebMASH:
On Saturday night the 9th of August 2014, the ISF raided the Agha Hammam [Turkish bath] that is located in the area of Hamra-Concord. According to Col. Tony Haddad from the Hbeish police station, the raid followed the arrest of an individual who pointed to the Agha Hammam as a gathering place for men who are seeking sexual encounters with other men.
The incident came to our attention on Monday night 11th of August and we initiated an investigation of the reasons behind the raid and the status of the detained. We were able to confirm the arrest of 27 men who were present at the venue. Among the arrested men were the owner of the Hammam, the employees and several clients. All the men were still held in custody at Hbeish police station at the time this press release was written; four days following their arrest.
According to the information that Col. Haddad provided us with and which we cannot confirm beyond his words, Hbeish personnel investigated the detainees and their files have been transferred to the General Prosecutor awaiting charges.
When asked, Col. Haddad denied that any of the detainees were subjected to any physical or verbal violence or abuse – nor to the anal probe test – throughout the investigation.
Col. Haddad also informed us that the investigators were able to obtain confirmations from some of the detainees concerning their sexual orientation.
Based on this information, we contacted the General Prosecutor Bilal Dinnawi to follow up on the charges. Mr. Dinnawi told us that overall the General Prosecution is not interested in charging the detainees with article 534 [which provides for up to one year in prison for “any sexual intercourse against nature.”]
However, in this particular case Mr. Dinawi confirmed that he might charge the detainees under public indecency article 521.
We made contact with the detainees who expressed their discomfort and confusion regarding the process of the investigation and the charges.
It has also come to our attention that at the time of the raid no public sexual act was taking place at Agha Hammam, and the investigation at the police station revolved mainly around the detainees’ alleged homosexuality.
We denounce this incident as a case of homophobic practice that aims to police the sexual rights and liberties of the individuals involved and we call on the General Prosecutor and Hbeish police station to respect the dignity of the detainees and their rights to their sexual bodies.
We also specifically denounce the use or the implication of use of anal tests and we want to stress the physical and mental harm that such treatment could cause.
We call for the immediate release of all the detainees from under charges which violate their sexual and bodily rights and integrity. We will follow up on the cases as needed.
For more info please contact helem: [email protected]