Three men arrested over homosexuality in Morocco

Fri 29 May 2015

Three men arrested over homosexuality in Morocco

Three Moroccan men in northeastern Morocco have been accused of homosexuality and sentenced to three years in jail. In Morocco, homosexuality is illegal and can be punished by sentences up to three years in prison, according to article 489.

Legislation unconstitutional

When being accused of homosexuality or homosexual actions one can receive several sentences depending on the weight of the accusation. One will then be accused of violating article 489 of Morocco’s penal code, which criminalizes ‘lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.’ The sentences based on this article can vary between six months and three years in prison. Fines ranging from USD15 to USD150 can be imposed.
The article conflicts with the 2011 constitution of Morocco in which it states that Morocco ‘commits to banning and combatting all discrimination towards anyone, because of gender, colour, beliefs, culture, social or regional origin, language, handicap, or whatever personal circumstance.’ Another article in the constitution states ‘all persons have the right to protection of their private life.’

Earlier cases

Earlier cases on homosexuality in Morocco have raised concern worldwide. In 2007, six men were convicted of violating article 489 of Morocco’s penal code. Next to the alarming article, cases raised fair trial concerns, according to Human Rights Watch. In the case of the six men, the men had asserted they had signed statements on their homosexuality only because of police threats. In their trial, no witnesses were called in, and no other evidence was reviewed.

International criticism

In March, Human Rights Watch called on Morocco to dissolve article 489, saying that ‘criminalising consensual, adult homosexual conduct violates international human rights law.’ "Private life is protected under Morocco's 2011 Constitution, and yet the government persists in enforcing the law that criminalises consensual same-sex conduct," Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at HRW, told reporters. "Convictions under this law are unjust. They also damage people's lives because of the social stigma against homosexuality, which the law reinforces. Morocco should immediately stop enforcing the law, pending its repeal", he said.

Sources: Human Rights Watch; Ibtimes; The Guardian; Al Jazeera; NewNowNext