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The Lebanese authorities’ disruption of activities planned for Beirut Pride Week is an outrageous attempt to deny the human rights of LGBTI people, Amnesty International said today. The authorities cancelled events within the program launched to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), and briefly arrested Beirut Pride Week’s organizer Hadi Damien.

“The shutdown of Beirut Pride and the arrest of Hadi Damien is a blatant case of state harassment. The Lebanese authorities must stop cancelling events to celebrate LGBTI rights, and ensure freedom of expression and assembly for the LGBTI community,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.

“They must also stop arresting those perceived to be LGBTI, and drop charges and release those who have been arrested under the draconian legislation of Article 534. Activists have been bravely struggling to repeal this legislation for over a decade. We hope that the newly-elected members of parliament will recognize this struggle, and move forward with finally repealing it.

“LGBTI rights are human rights. Criminalizing people for who they are and who they love is an aberration. We stand in solidarity with all those affected by the cancellation of Beirut Pride Week and all those arrested for crimes on the basis of this sham law.”

Despite the cancellation of the Beirut Pride Week, other activists and NGOs, including HELEM which has been organizing IDAHOT campaigns for the past 12 years, have decided to pursue their planned activities for this year’s IDAHOT.

Background

This year’s Beirut Pride Week was supposed to run from May 12 to 20 in the program of IDAHOT 2018. However, the director of Beirut Pride Week, Hadi Damien, was arrested on the evening of Monday 14 May following complaints from critics. He was subsequently interrogated for allegedly “encouraging debauchery and offending public decency”.

Damien was released the afternoon of May 15, after the authorities asked him to sign a pledge calling off the rest of the festival’s events in exchange for his release.

Lebanese Internal Security Forces continue to arrest people and press charges under Article 534 of the penal code which is usually used to criminalize homosexuality. The Article states that “all sexual intercourses which contradict the laws of nature” are punished by imprisonment for up to one year and fined a maximum of one million Lebanese pounds (approximately $660 USD).