An Algerian court sentenced 2 men to jail and gave 42 others suspended sentences after mass arrests at what authorities called a “gay wedding.” According to Human Rights Watch, police in the north African country raided a private residence last July and made mass arrests following complaints by a neighbor. Authorities claimed in court that the decorations, flowers, food, and the men’s "gay" appearance were evidence of a gay wedding celebration.
“Algerian authorities’ attack on personal freedoms is nothing new, but arresting dozens of students based on their perceived sexual orientation is a flagrant infringement on their basic rights,” Rasha Younes, the LGBT rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “They should immediately release from prison the two men who would be free today were it not for Algeria’s regressive anti-homosexuality laws.”
The arrests took place in the el-Kharoub district of the Constantine Province in the northeastern part of the country on July 24. Most of 35 men and 9 women arrested were university students. They were convicted on charges of same-sex relations, public indecency, and subjecting others to harm by breaking quarantine restrictions. The two men sent to jail received three years sentences and a fine, while the others received suspended sentences of one year.
Reflecting its most recent history, the Algerian legal system is a combination of French and Islamic law. Same-sex relations are forbidden in the deeply religious and conservative state, and penalties for some acts of public indecency are increased by up to three years if the alleged “acts against nature” involve members of the same sex.
Algeria is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and the arrests and convictions violate protections for consensual adult activities enshrined in those human rights agreements.
Younes said Algerian authorities should stop using the global pandemic as a cover for continued acts of oppression against the LGBTQ+ community in Algeria.
“While people in Algeria continue to demand their basic rights to protest, the authorities are dedicating their time and resources to crack down on students and stockpile discriminatory charges against them,” Younes said. “Instead of policing its citizens’ private lives, the Algerian government should carry out reforms, including decriminalizing same-sex conduct.”