Viernes, 07 de junio, 2024

The authorities in Qatar must quash the conviction of British-Mexican national Manuel Guerrero Aviña, who was sentenced to a suspended six-month prison-term and a fine following a grossly unfair trial before the Al Sadd Criminal Court in the capital, Doha, Amnesty InternationalFairSquare, and National AIDS Trust said today.

The Qatari authorities detained Guerrero Aviña without charge for over six weeks, interrogated him about his sexual relations and subjected him to ill-treatment on the basis of his sexual orientation and his HIV positive status.

Security forces in plain-clothes arrested Guerrero Aviña, who had been living in Doha for seven years and worked for Qatar Airways, on 4 February, shortly after he agreed to meet another man through Grindr, a gay dating app. His family told Amnesty International that they believe the online profile of the person he agreed to meet was fake and had been created by law enforcement officials to entrap him. The authorities subsequently charged him with possession of drugs and other drug-related offences, charges that he denies.     

“The Qatari authorities must overturn Mr Guerrero Aviña’s outrageous conviction and lift his travel ban. There are serious fears that Guerrero Aviña was targeted for his sexual orientation and was coerced into providing the authorities with information that they could use to pursue a wider crackdown on LGBTI individuals in Qatar,” said Aya Majzoub, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“Guerrero Aviña’s treatment in custody and his unfair trial was utterly horrific. Instead of convicting people after unfair proceedings, Qatar’s authorities must urgently end the discrimination and persecution of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identities and repeal all laws that discriminate against LGBTI people.”

There are serious fears that Guerrero Aviña was targeted for his sexual orientation and was coerced into providing the authorities with information that they could use to pursue a wider crackdown on LGBTI individuals in Qatar

Aya Majzoub, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

According to his family, security officials interrogated Guerrero Aviña without a lawyer and forced him to thumbprint a so-called confession in Arabic, which he did not understand, without providing an interpreter or translation of the document threatening him with physical abuse if he did not sign. Amnesty International reviewed this document, which stated that Guerrero Aviña confessed to using and possessing drugs during his interrogation on 5 February at 5:07 AM.  Six hours after he signed this “confession”, he told the Public Prosecutor in a court session that he denied all drug-related charges. Guerrero Aviña also told his family that during his interrogations, security officials threatened to whip him if he did not unlock his phone to identify other LGBTI people, including his previous sexual partners. 

Guerrero Aviña repeatedly asked for a lawyer during his time in detention but did not have an opportunity to take legal advice until 15 March. The authorities also denied him access to any documents relating to his case for over two months following his arrest and only granted him and his lawyers access to the casefile days before his first trial session, denying him adequate time and facilities to prepare and present his defence and to contest the arguments and evidence put before the court on a footing equal to that of the prosecution, thus violating his right of defence.

Guerrero Aviña told his family that during the second week of his detention, he was placed in solitary confinement and denied access to food and water for 15 hours a day and forced to beg for food. The authorities refused to provide Guerrero Aviña his essential HIV medication for a month following his arrest and did not grant him to access an adequate medical evaluation to re-assess his medication needs.

Guerrero Aviña was provisionally released from detention on 18 March under a travel ban. This restriction on his movement put his health and life at risk, as the specific HIV medications that he was taking before his arrest are not available in Qatar. 

Deborah Gold, CEO of National AIDS Trust, a UK-based HIV-rights charity, said:

“Throughout this whole process of arrest, detention, and trial Manuel has been unable to have uninterrupted access to life-saving medication and proper tests and assessment. We are hugely concerned that he will not be able to access the ongoing medical care and treatment that is his human right while in Qatar. We urge the British government to do all it can to ensure Manuel’s health, rights, and wellbeing.”

On 22 April, Guerrero Aviña appeared in court for his first hearing on drug-related charges, under law No 9 of 1987 on Control and Regulation of Narcotic Drugs and Dangerous Psychotropic Substances.

According to the casefile, the authorities informed Guerrero Aviña at the time of his arrest that they had found traces of crystal methamphetamine residue, as well as various other drug paraphernalia. He strongly maintains that the drugs and related items were not his and were planted by law enforcement officials.

A Qatari official told Amnesty International on 24 March in response to the organization’s      request for information on the case that: “Mr Aviña was arrested for possession of illegal substances on his person and in his apartment … A drug test later came back positive,” and that “Mr Aviña’s arrest and the subsequent investigation are related solely to the possession of illegal substances with the intent to supply.”

According to Guerrero Aviña’s family, his arrest report states that he was arrested based on information from a secret source received by the General Directorate for Drugs Enforcement, and that nothing illegal was found on his person. All evidence was collected during a search of his accommodation on 4 February.

This case has been a travesty of justice since the moment Manuel was seized in the lobby of his apartment.

James Lynch, co-director of FairSquare

The Qatari authorities are using this case to stigmatize and criminalize LGBTI people. Thus far, the authorities have relied on a questionable handwritten urine test result to prosecute Guerrero Aviña for drug-related charges although he has strongly denied having used or possessed illicit drugs and despite the fact this would not in any way serve as evidence of his possession. According to international standards, conducting drug tests without consent constitutes a violation of the right to privacy and must not be used as evidence for prosecution.

James Lynch, co-director of FairSquare, which works on human rights in the Gulf, called on the British government to raise concerns about the fairness of Guerrero Aviña’s trial with the Qatari authorities:

“This case has been a travesty of justice since the moment Manuel was seized in the lobby of his apartment. Following his conviction, the British government has a responsibility to make urgent representations to the Qatari government about the deeply unfair and discriminatory process their citizen has been subjected to. They must also press the Qatari authorities to stop the persecution of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”


The Qatari Penal Code criminalizes a range of same-sex consensual sexual acts under Articles 285 and 296 of the Penal Code. People found guilty can be jailed for up to seven years.

According to Human Rights Watch, police in several MENA countries are known to have used fake profiles on LGBTQI-friendly dating apps to entrap and arrest people. In 2022, activists reported that security officials arbitrarily arrested, tortured and otherwise ill-treated six people in Qatar for their sexual orientation. Human Rights Watch also documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022 solely based on the individuals’ gender expression. In some cases, security forces mandated that transgender women detainees attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored “behavioral healthcare” center as a condition for their release from detention. Media investigations have also documented the use of LGBT friendly dating apps to arrest people in Qatar.