Lebanon News

Military prosecutor refuses to file homosexuality charges despite alleged pressure

The military court in Beirut, Friday, April 8, 2016. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top military prosecutor has for a second time ruled not to file charges against an Army officer for “homosexual activity,” despite being asked to do so by the former defense minister.

A senior judicial source told The Daily Star late Tuesday evening that, while acting as caretaker defense minister, Elias Bou Saab “explicitly asked” Judge Peter Germanos to file a case against Lebanese Army Sgt. J.R. for “the criminal act of homosexuality” based on Article 534 of the penal code.

However, Germanos decided to go against Bou Saab’s written instruction and close the case.

The source quoted Germanos as saying that the accused sergeant had engaged in consensual same-sex activity, therefore it could not be considered unlawful.

“If [sexual activity] is non-consensual, we will always file cases, regardless of whether it is homosexual or [heterosexual],” the source quoted Germanos as saying.

The Army opened investigations into the sergeant when it discovered he was in contact with four other soldiers on the popular gay dating app Grindr, the source said.

When asked why he thought Bou Saab had pushed to prosecute the sergeant, the source quoted Germanos as saying that “the dominant mentality in Lebanon is always against homosexuality ... and public opinion is often in favor of prosecution.”

“I think the Army will always push for criminalization,” he added.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Bou Saab denied that he had put pressure on Germanos to prosecute the sergeant, saying he had simply forwarded a request from Army head Gen. Joseph Aoun "in line with military procedures."

He said that he supported gay rights and civil marriage and had in fact pushed for reform of what he called an "outdated law."

Germanos was quoted as saying that the incident highlights the need to abolish Article 534, which states that “any sexual act contrary to nature is punishable by imprisonment of one year.” He explained that the article is not clear in what constitutes such activity.

The article, which was put in place by the French mandatory powers, has been widely condemned by human rights groups and LGBTQ activist organizations, which have called for its abolition.

In April 2019, Germanos made a landmark ruling in the Military Tribunal not to prosecute four military personnel for same-sex relationships.

Judges in civilian courts began challenging the use of Article 534 to criminalize gay and transgender people as far back as 2007. However, it has continued to be used to arrest and prosecute members of the LGBTQ community.

 

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