Human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that Algerian authorities must immediately release and drop the charges against 44 people for attending a “gay wedding”.
According to reports, on July 24 the police raided a private residence and arrested the 44 people, including nine women and 35 men, most of them university students.
The arrests took place in el-Kharoub, a district in Constantine Province, north-eastern Algeria, after the neighbours complained.
Human Rights Watch reported that an Algerian lawyer involved in the case told the rights group that the court used police reports describing the decorations, flowers and sweets indicative of a wedding celebration, and the men’s supposedly gay appearance, as evidence of guilt.
“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,” said Rasha Younes, a researcher on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights at Human Rights Watch.
According to the report, the court convicted the 44 of same-sex relations, public indecency and subjecting others to harm by breaking Covid-19 quarantine measures.
Two men were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine, and the others to a one-year suspended sentence.
The rights advocacy group said these convictions contradicted the right to privacy under international human rights law.
It said this right was also reflected in Algeria’s constitution, which provides for the protection of a person’s “honour” and private life, including the privacy of their home, communication and correspondence.
According to LGBTQ+ media outlet Equaldex, homosexuality in Algeria is illegal and punishable by imprisonment.
Same-sex relations are punishable under article 338 of the penal code by up to two years in prison.