ILGA-Europe letter: Arbitrary arrest of suspected gay men

Published: October 19, 2011

Your Excellency President Ero?lu, Honourable Prime Minster Küçük,

Arbitrary arrest of suspected gay men

The European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) is sending this letter to demand the immediate end to arbitrary detention and prosecution of men suspected of having engaged in consensual adult same-sex sexual activity; to demand the immediate release of those who are being detained; and to demand the dropping of charges against those who are being prosecuted. ILGA-Europe has already expressed its concern and similar demands on numerous occasions with regard to the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus? Article 171 of Chapter 154 (Criminal Code), which is the only article in European national law that still criminalises consensual adult male same-sex sexual activity. On 3 December 2010, we have reiterated this concern in our meeting with the Speaker of the Assembly, Honourable Hasan Bozer. During the meeting Honourable Bozer had informed us that he was well aware of the problem, and ascertained us that the Article was no longer enforced even though it had not yet been officially removed from the statutes. Further to this, he informed us that he was going to raise the definitive removal of Article 171 in the 2011 parliamentary agenda and expressed optimism about Article 171?s removal. In spite of this promise, and in spite of the fact that this Article is in direct breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights as indicated in the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights – Dudgeon v. UK (1981); Norris v. Ireland (1989); Modinos v. Cyprus (1993) – and Article 17 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as indicated in the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Toonen v. Australia (1994), the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus has continued to arbitrarily arrest and prosecute men who are suspected of having engaged in consensual adult same-sex sexual activity. On 20 July 2011, two men were taken in custody and brought to court on an accusation of „unnatural intercourse?. On 14 October 2011, new arbitrary arrests were carried out, this time three men were arrested, included the Former Finance Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Michael Sarris.

The reports that we have received seem to indicate that the three men seem to have been arrested on three counts: (1) suspicion of prostitution; (2) for supposedly having breached Art 171 of the Criminal Code, (3) and a “conspiracy to commit a felony.”

Contrary to these claims, however, it appears that the police does not have any evidence of any sexual relations between the men. Moreover, the legislation of Turkish Republic of North Cyprus does not prohibit prostitution and beyond the definition of a minor as a person below the age of thirteen does not contain any other reference to the minimum age of consent for male sexual relations. Give these facts, the accusations of the police are unfounded and the continuation of the prosecution against the men is both arbitrary and illegal.

On 15 October 2011, further arrests were carried out bringing the number of men that are currently under police custody charged for breaching Article 171 up to seven. To add insult to injury, the reports that have reached ILGA-Europe seems to indicate that these men have been severely ill treated while under police custody, and their dignity was breached when the men were made to undergo anal examinations in a hospital to prove that Article 171 has been breached. In spite of the fact that the medical reports issued by the doctors did not show any signs of anal penetration, the men were arbitrarily retained in police custody. Following yesterday?s court decision, the hearing about the various charges has been postponed by two more days. The seven men will be kept in custody until then.

ILGA-Europe is now calling on you as the President and Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus to uphold international human rights law, free the seven men, and instantly declare Article 171 unconstitutional and proceed to remove it from the statues immediately. We also call upon you to investigate claims of the men?s ill treatment while under police custody.

Yours faithfully,
Evelyne Paradis Executive Director

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