A member of State Security in Lebanon was arrested this week on suspicion of being gay, a spokesperson from the agency confirmed Wednesday, after reports in local media said security agencies were undertaking a “campaign” to “combat homosexuality” in security forces.
A State Security spokesperson confirmed that a male member of the agency – “not of a high rank” – had been arrested earlier in the week for “homosexuality,” which she said contravened the internal laws of the organization. She declined to elaborate, citing internal processes related to the case.
“We work with these cases based on our internal regulations in accordance with [Lebanese] law. Maybe these people have a hormonal illness or mental illness and we deal with them on this basis, but they violate the regulations of State Security,” she said.
In 2013, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society declared that “homosexuality is not a mental disorder and did not need to be treated,” becoming the first country in the Arab world to remove the designation of people attracted to the same sex as afflicted by a disorder.
The security source went on to say that the person arrested “did not pose a threat to national security.”
Her comments come after a report published Tuesday by local daily Al-Akhbar said that Lebanese security agencies were undertaking a “campaign [to] combat homosexuality,” which included the recent arrest by State Security and several others by the Internal Security Forces.
An ISF source disputed this claim, saying there was no organized campaign and that ISF personnel were not being actively pursued for being gay.
“It’s something normal that happens from time to time, like other crimes. It’s not like we are following them, searching for them and testing them,” the source told.
The source would not confirm whether the ISF had arrested employees in recent days, saying “it happens, it’s not important when.”
The source said there were no measures in place to intercept the communications of their personnel for such issues. When asked how cases came to light, he replied it could happen “by coincidence,” or in a host of other ways, “but if we find something that contravenes the law, we follow up on the issue.”
“Even some advanced countries have a problem with homosexuality, and this specifically is something concerning security personnel,” the source said, pointing toward the U.S. which, until recently, forbade openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving in the Army under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“There are also religious and cultural differences in the East, and these issues must be dealt with carefully, this is something that, in Lebanon, still contravenes the law,” the source said.
A General Security spokesperson said he had “no comment” on whether the agency had arrested any of its personnel, including officers, at any time in the past for being gay.
“But if it appeared to us that there was someone involved in such things, actions would be taken,” a source in the force said. He added the actions would be based on the Lebanese Penal Code criminalizing acts “contrary to nature.”
Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits having sexual relations that “contradict the laws of nature,” punishable by up to one year in prison. However, there have been several high profile cases in recent years in which judges have ruled that being gay is not necessarily within the scope of these limits.
A 2009 ruling by Judge Mounir Suleiman said that consensual gay relations were not “against nature” and could therefore not be prosecuted under Article 534. This was further solidified in 2014 when Judge Naji al-Dahdah cleared a transsexual woman of having a relationship with a man.
Dahdah ruled that Article 534 did not provide a clear interpretation of what type of sexual intercourse was considered “unnatural.”
However, Genwa Samahat, executive director of LGBTQ rights group Helem, said cases involving members of Lebanon’s security agencies would fall outside the realm of these civil rulings, as their personnel would be prosecuted in military courts.
Samahat said that Helem was still trying to verify whether a spate of arrests had taken place, and whether the arrests came as part of a “purification movement,” within state security agencies.
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She said there were previous individual cases of arrests targeting gay people in government institutions, but said that it would be a serious move if there was indeed a concerted campaign underway.
“Are they making lists of names? Are they monitoring phone lines?
“While we still don’t have a solid case, even one person being arrested is not okay, we are with everyone’s right to freedom of self-determination and expression,” she said.
Samahat added that Helem was open to help anyone, on an anonymous basis if requested, and that this included government employees. She urged anyone affected by such cases to reach out on the NGO’s hotline on 71-916-146.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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