The Moroccan government should protect the rights to privacy and a fair trial, Human Rights Watch and the Moroccan Human Rights Association said today. Human Rights Watch and the Moroccan Human Rights Association called on the government to repeal a law that provides prison terms for consensual homosexual acts, and launched a petition demanding that the government repeal article 489 of the penal code. They also demanded the release of the six men currently imprisoned under this article.

Police arrested the men in November 2007, after a video was circulated on the internet showing a private party in Ksar el-Kbir, a town between Rabat and Tangiers. The prosecution produced no evidence at trial that the defendants had violated Article 489, which provides prison terms for persons who commit “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.” The men all denied the charges. On December 10, after demonstrators marched through the town demanding that the men be punished, a court in Ksar el-Kbir sentenced them to between four and 10 months in prison. A Tangiers appeal court on January 15 upheld their conviction but reduced their sentences slightly.

“This trial shows how an unjust law can be used to violate the basic right to privacy and fuel social prejudice,” said Joe Stork, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division.

The Moroccan Human Rights Association and Human Rights Watch invite people from anywhere in the world to sign the petition by emailing petitionmaroc@hrw.org with their name and country of origin, or by visiting https://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/02/15/morocc18076.htm. The petition will eventually be presented to the Moroccan government but names will not otherwise be made public.

“When a trial is as unfair as this one, people should protest to the authorities,” added Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Human Rights Association. “Beliefs may differ, but everyone shares the desire for justice.”