Press Room

March 08, 2005

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HRC Urges Attorney General to Fight Torture in All Forms

'The attorney general condemns torture but would send a gay man home where he likely would be tortured,' said HRC's David Smith.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign urged Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to support a policy that ensures asylum is granted to those who would face violence or torture based on their sexual orientation or gender identity upon returning to their home countries.

"The attorney general claims to condemn torture while sending a gay man home where he will likely be tortured," said HRC's David Smith. "This duplicity is putting people's lives at risk and it must stop. We urge the attorney general to ensure that asylum policy doesn't turn a blind eye to violence that amounts to torture based on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination."

According to a March 8 Associated Press article, the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is under the Justice Department's purview, denied asylum to a gay Lebanese man with AIDS who feared persecution in his home country where homosexuality is considered a crime. According to the article, the government argued that if Nasser Mustapha Karouni refrained from having sex upon his return home, he could avoid the fate of gay friends who were beaten, jailed or killed.

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Monday reversed the Board of Immigration and Appeals decision, saying that "the record demonstrates that οΎƒ militants and certain factions of the Lebanese and local governments are a credible threat to homosexuals like Karouni."

A review of the case showed that before Karouni fled Lebanon in 1987, he was physically detained and threatened at gunpoint by members of Hezbollah, a militia group that the United States has officially designated as a "terrorist organization." Hezbollah detained and threatened Karouni when it became aware of his relationship with another man, who was also arrested and beaten by Hezbollah. Eventually, the man "repented" and assumed a heterosexual life. Hezbollah also killed Karouni's cousin, who was also a part of discreet gay circles in Lebanon.

"Had the court not stepped in, the attorney general's actions would have resulted in a man being sent back to terrorists who may have beaten and possibly killed him for being gay," added Smith. "Whether or not it was their intent, the federal government was asserting that this man deserved what amounts to torture unless he stopped being gay - which every reputable science and health organization says can't happen."

Gonzales indicated during his congressional confirmation hearings and again in a March 8 Washington Post article that U.S. policy is not to send detainees "to countries where we believe or we know that they're going to be tortured."

"The attorney general needs to back up his word with solid policy," said Smith "The government must ensure that no one, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is denied the opportunity for asylum in the United States when they prove that they face the threat of harassment and violence when leaving the safety of this country."

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