After a Moroccan appeal court upheld convictions of "homosexuality" against six men, we call on authorities to repeal laws criminalising homosexuality and to immediately release anyone convicted solely on the basis of their presumed sexual orientation.
The authorities must also ensure the safety of the six men, in detention and upon their release, given the vilification they were subjected to prior to their arrest.
In a verdict, announced by a court of appeal on 15 January, the convictions were upheld although some sentences were lowered.
We consider people imprisoned solely on the basis of their alleged or real sexual orientation to be prisoners of conscience, and they should be immediately and unconditionally released.
The six men were convicted of "practicing homosexuality" in a trial held on 10 December 2007, in the city of Ksar El Kebir. One of the men, who was also convicted of selling alcohol illegally, was sentenced to ten months' imprisonment, three others to six months' imprisonment, and two to four months. They were arrested at the end of November after public denunciations that a private party they had held was a "gay marriage".
The six men were tried according to Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code, which penalises "lewd or unnatural acts with persons of the same sex".
Laws that criminalise same-sex relations between consenting adults contravene international human rights standards, including the right to privacy, freedom from discrimination, and the right to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.
The public controversy, which this case sparked in Morocco, begs for an urgent review of the country's discriminatory laws that criminalise homosexuality. We urge the Moroccan government to drop the charges.
A video of the party, which was circulated in Morocco and on the Internet, sparked calls for the men to be punished and angry demonstrations in Ksar el Kebir. The video, which was played at the trial, does not appear to show the same-sex relations the men were accused of.
Prior to the appeal trial, our members around the world called on the Moroccan authorities to drop the charges of homosexuality against the men, and to change legislation so that it conformed to international human rights standards.