Egpyt: Protestors Released From Detention Describe Torture Days Before Mubarak Departed

Press Release
February 17, 2011

Egpyt: Protestors Released From Detention Describe Torture Days Before Mubarak Departed

Amnesty International Press Release
Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011

Egyptian Protesters Released from Detention Describe Torture and Beatings with Whips in Military Custody Just Days Before Mubarak Departed, Amnesty International Reports

Human Rights Organization Demands that Egypt’s Interim Leaders Take Immediate Steps to End Torture by the Army and Security Forces

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

(New York) – In the final days before Egyptian President Mubarak stepped down, the army and security forces continued to torture and beat protesters held in military custody, Amnesty International said today, based on testimonies it obtained from newly released detainees. Detained individuals told Amnesty International they were subjected to water torture techniques, shocked with electricity and beaten with chairs and whips.

In light of these new testimonies, Amnesty International urged the military to take immediate action to stop the use of torture and other abuse against detainees.

“The Egyptian military authorities have committed publicly to creating a climate of freedom and democracy after so many years of state repression. Now they must match their words with direct and immediate action,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The military authorities must intervene to end torture and other abuse of detainees, which we now know to have been taking place in military custody.”

Recently released detainees told Amnesty International researchers in Egypt that members of the armed forces used beatings, whipping and other forms of torture and abuse to intimidate protestors and to obtain information about plans for the protests.

“The authorities must immediately issue clear instructions to all security forces and members of the army that torture or other ill-treatment of detainees will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for these abuses will be held to account,” said Smart.

One former detainee, a 29-year-old decorator from Gharbiya Province north of Cairo, told Amnesty International he was tortured by soldiers on February 3 in an annex to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities:

“They called me a traitor and a foreign agent and forced me to take off my clothes except my underwear and to lie face down on the floor. Then they beat me with a whip and stepped with boots on my back and on my hands. They kicked me. Many other detainees there were also beaten with a whip,” he said.

After an interrogation by a man in plain clothes, the man, whose name is being withheld to protect his security, was beaten over the head with a chair by a soldier, leaving him unconscious.

He told Amnesty International that he was moved on February 4 to another location, where he was beaten, subjected to electric shocks and threatened with rape, and then taken to a military prison in El Heikstep, northeast of Cairo. He said he was regularly beaten by soldiers there until his release on February 10.

In a separate case, an 18-year-old student from Cairo told Amnesty International that he was tortured at an unknown location after being arrested by soldiers near Tahrir Square on February 3.

“They put a chain or rope to my legs and lifted me up – so that my head was hanging down. From time to time they would let me down into a barrel that was filled with water. They told me to confess that I was trained by Israel or by Iran. They also put electric shocks to my body and I fainted,” he said.

Amnesty International also spoke to relatives and friends of two brothers in their late twenties who are still being detained without charge in Tora prison, south of Cairo.

Arrested on January 30 by military police while carrying leaflets in support of the protests, they were held in the Nasser Military Academy in Cairo’s Agouza district, where they say they were whipped and subjected to electric shocks.

Amnesty International called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately disclose the names and whereabouts of all detainees and either release them promptly or charge them with recognizable criminal offenses.

“Those now in power must ensure that all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment are investigated promptly, thoroughly and impartially, that officials responsible for such abuses are brought to justice, and that victims receive full reparation,” said Smart.

Separately, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox, in a letter to President Obama, said the organization was concerned that Egypt’s interim leaders are the same people “who actively participated for 30 years in efforts to muzzle civil society, strip the judiciary of its independence and electoral oversight, restrict the freedoms of press and political association and jail political opponents for the legitimate expression of their views.

“We particularly wish to express concern that the current Vice President, Omar Suleiman, has longstanding and significant ties to major human rights abuses,” wrote Cox.

“Credible reports indicate that even while Egyptian government officials praise protesters and assent to the need for reform, critics continue to be rounded up and arrested. Violence from security forces continues unabated. It is not clear why this regime can be depended upon to undo in a matter of months all the damage that they have wreaked in tearing down civil society over three decades. They don’t particularly seem interested in the task, despite certain assurances, and it’s clear the protesters don’t trust them,” Cox wrote. Background

On February 12 the Supreme Military Council announced that Egypt would abide by its international treaties. Egypt has been a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since 1987.

Amnesty International has issued a “Human Rights Agenda for Change” demanding that the Egyptian authorities take concrete actions as part of its political transition, including the following: 

  • Lifting the state of emergency, halting arbitrary arrests and revealing the whereabouts of all those detained.
  • Publicly condemning torture and moving swiftly to eradicate it. Allegations of torture must be investigated, the perpetrators brought to justice and reparations provided to the victims.
  • Ordering independent investigations into all cases where the security forces are reported to have used excessive force.
  • Allowing Egyptians to speak and act freely. The authorities must not criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
  • Reforms of the judicial system to ensure its independence and provide oversight of the security forces.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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