Annual Report: Egypt 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Egypt 2010

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Draft laws were proposed that would further restrict NGOs and punish defamation of monotheistic religions or their prophets with imprisonment and fines. In November, NGOs called for a 2007 draft law, which would allow survivors of rape to obtain an abortion, to be brought before parliament for debate.

Rising food prices and poverty fuelled a wave of strikes by private and public sector workers.

Counter-terror and security

Scores of people were arrested following the February bomb attack in Cairo. In May, the authorities said they were holding seven suspects, including a French woman of Albanian origin, who they accused of recruiting foreign students and others to commit terrorist acts in Egypt and abroad. Subsequently, they detained and then deported to their home countries at least 41 foreigners, including nationals of Russia and France, who were residing in Egypt and reported to be studying Arabic and Islam. Some were reported to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated while detained and they were given no opportunity to contest their deportation before the courts. Some were believed to be at risk of human rights violations in the countries to which they were forcibly returned.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism visited Egypt for six days in April. His report, issued in October, criticized the government's counter-terrorism policy and practices for unduly restricting human rights. He urged the government to lift the state of emergency which, he said, had become the "norm" rather than an exceptional measure.

  • Romuald Durand, a French national, was subjected to enforced disappearance for two months after he was arrested at Cairo's international airport in April. He was handed over to the State Security Investigations (SSI) service who initially held him at Nasr City, Cairo. There, he was reported to have been kept blindfolded and handcuffed for the first 10 days, stripped naked and tortured with electric shocks while his arms and legs were tied and stretched, and threatened with rape. He was released in June without charge and deported to France.
  • In August, 22 defendants, plus four people charged in their absence, went on trial before a Cairo (Emergency) Supreme State Security Court. Among them were five Palestinians, two Lebanese nationals and a Sudanese national. The 26 faced a variety of charges, including planning to attack tourist sites, possessing explosives and passing information to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Some of them were accused of helping to dig tunnels under the border to smuggle people and goods into the Gaza Strip from Egypt and assist fighters to cross the border. They all denied the terrorism-related charges. Some told the court that they had been tortured, including with electric shocks, while held incommunicado by the SSI after their arrest in late 2008 and early 2009. In October, their defence lawyers withdrew from the court accusing it of bias against the defendants. The trial continued at the end of the year.

Administrative detention

The authorities continued to use emergency powers to detain not only people suspected of terrorism and offences against national security but also peaceful critics of the government. Some continued to be detained without charge or trial despite court orders for their release. In such cases, the Interior Ministry issued new detention orders to replace those ruled invalid by the courts, undermining the value of judicial scrutiny and oversight.