A 22-year-old Tunisian man accused of engaging in homosexual acts was last week sentenced to a year in prison, reports Human Rights Watch.
Tunisian authorities also forced him to undergo an anal examination, a form of torture, to use as “evidence” in the case.
The man, whose name is being withheld to protect him, was arrested in the town of Hammam Sousse, 120 kilometres south of Tunis, on September 6.
His lawyer, Fadoua Braham, claims that the man was targeted after police found his telephone number on the phone of a man murdered a week earlier.
Braham said the man was questioned about his homosexuality and confessed to committing sodomy because, he told the lawyer, police threatened to bring a murder charge against him unless he did so.
The police also ordered the man to undergo an anal examination by a forensic medical doctor at the Sahloul Hospital in Sousse on September 9.
The prosecutor of the Sousse First Instance Tribunal then charged the man with “homosexual acts” under article 230 of the penal code, which calls for prison terms of up to three years.
“The Tunisian government should not be prosecuting people for private and consensual sexual acts,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.
“If Tunisia truly aspires to be a regional leader on human rights, it should lead the way in decriminalising homosexual conduct,” Goldstein said.
Human Rights Watch also called on the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Health to immediately order an end to the use of forced anal examinations by police investigating consensual sexual conduct.
Such examinations are grossly intrusive, invasive, and abusive, violating the individual’s rights to integrity, dignity, and privacy, said Human Rights Watch. They constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that may amount to torture, violating the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all of which Tunisia has ratified.
Forced forensic anal examinations are also contrary to medical ethics, according to the World Medical Association and the UN Principles of Medical Ethics Relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, Particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
“Medical professionals who participate in forced anal examinations of people suspected of homosexuality violate medical ethics and facilitate serious miscarriages of justice,” Goldstein said.