The men were convicted of ‘committing indecent acts’ and ‘inciting debauchery’ in the Islamic country after a video of them dancing at a party, originally thought to be a gay wedding, went viral.
During a television interview on January 22, a local police commissioner confirmed that the men had been arrested for ‘imitating women’ at the birthday party which people thought was Mauritania’s first gay wedding.
According to the police report, the men admitted to being homosexual but had no legal representation at the time. At the trial, the defendants all pleaded not guilty and recounted their earlier statements.
In the report submitted by the police to the courts, the party-goers were described as ‘imitating women’ and as ‘sodomizers.’
A woman also received a one-year suspended sentence for ‘inciting debauchery’ by being present at the event, while the owner of the restaurant shown was acquitted.
‘Mauritania’s authorities have no business sending someone to prison for attending a peaceful birthday celebration,’ said Graeme Reid, the LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. ‘They should immediately release all those who were sentenced to two years for attending this party.’
‘The authorities appear to have imprisoned the eight defendants on the basis that singing and dancing at a birthday party is a crime in Mauritania,’ Reid said.
Mauritania can’t shy away from its obligations to protect basic rights of all its citizens without discrimination.’
Brahim Bilal, the president of a human rights organization in Mauritania also added that: ‘It is a serious attack on the individual and collective freedom of these young people who have the right to display their difference and intimate preferences.’
Mauritania practices strict Islamic law, known as Shariah law, and homosexual conduct between Muslim adults is punishable by death for men, but a de facto moratorium is in place on capital punishment in the country.