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Doctors ban anal exam used to charge men with homosexuality
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BEIRUT: The Order of Physicians issued a circular Tuesday telling doctors they will face disciplinary measures if they carry out anal examinations ordered by the judiciary intended to provide evidence of homosexuality.

“Such techniques do not give the desired result and constitute a gross violation of the rights of persons who are subject to it without their consent,” the circulation, which is signed by the head of the Order, Sharaf Abu Sharaf reads.

“The practice is humiliating and is torture in violation of the [United Nations] Convention Against Torture. Therefore, we ask you to avoid carrying out any similar action under penalty of disciplinary prosecution.”

The practice, which is carried out on those suspected of homosexuality under Article 534 before charges are handed out, gained media attention after the arrest of 35 individuals on July 28 in a police raid on a porn cinema in Beirut’s Burj Hammoud district. All 35 were subject to the test before three were charged under Article 534.

The case and subsequent outcry prompted legal rights research group Legal Agenda to issue letters to the Order of Physicians and the Justice Ministry to cease carrying out the tests.

Human rights lawyer and co-founder of Legal Agenda Nizar Saghieh welcomed the order’s response. “I am really thankful that [our] demands were accepted,” he said.

He called on the Justice Ministry to follow suit in banning the practice and criticized its response so far. The ministry Sunday reissued a circular which says prosecutors must obtain consent before the tests take place. But in a twist, the circular adds that refusing the test can be used as evidence of homosexuality, according to a copy printed on Legal Agenda’s website.

Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi insisted that the memo was sufficient. “I am sure prosecutors will not continue doing anything like that,” he said.

But Saghieh asked for a much clearer response from the ministry. He’s asking Qortbawi “to clarify this position, to say in a very clear way that he is for or against these tests,” he said.

The order’s dismissal of the test’s scientific value weakens the Justice Ministry’s logic for continuing to use it, Saghieh said, and may also provide a basis for removing such evidence from ongoing cases, including those of the three men recently charged.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 08, 2012, on page 4.
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