Annual Report: Egypt 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Egypt 2010

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  • Youssef Abu Zouhri, the brother of a spokesperson for the Palestinian organization Hamas, died in October. He was alleged to have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated at Borg al-Arab Prison, near Alexandria, following his arrest in April after he crossed from Gaza into Egypt. The authorities said his death was due to natural causes, but gave no details.

Freedom of expression – the media

The authorities maintained curbs on freedom of expression and the media. Journalists and bloggers who criticized the government were harassed, including with arrest and by being prosecuted on defamation charges. Books and foreign newspapers were censored if they commented on issues that the government considered taboo or a threat to national security.

  • Karim Amer, a blogger detained since November 2006, remained in prison even though the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) ruled in November 2008 that his detention was arbitrary and called for his release. The WGAD also criticized the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers on charges of defamation or insulting state authorities as disproportionate and a serious restraint on freedom of expression.

Freedom of assembly and association

The authorities maintained legal restrictions and other controls that limited the activities of political parties, NGOs, professional associations and trade unions. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which remained banned, and other opposition groups were harassed and arrested.

  • At least 34 people were arrested in April and accused of incitement and distributing leaflets calling for a national strike. They included students as well as members of political opposition groups, including the 6 April Group, the Kefaya Movement, al-Ghad and the Muslim Brotherhood. All were released uncharged.

Discrimination – suspected gay men

The authorities continued to criminalize consensual sexual acts between men.

  • Ten men arrested in January in Cairo and accused of "habitual practice of debauchery", the charge used to prosecute consensual sexual acts between men, were reported to have been beaten, slapped, kicked and insulted while detained by the Morality Police. They were tested for HIV/AIDS without their consent and forcibly subjected to anal examinations to "prove" that they had engaged in same-sex sexual conduct. Such examinations conducted without consent constitute torture. They were detained for five months for investigation and released on bail at the end of May pending their trial, which began on 31 December.

Discrimination – religious minorities

Following a Supreme Administrative Court decision in March that Baha'is could obtain identification documents without having to identify themselves as Muslims or Christians, the Interior Minister issued a decree recognizing the right of adherents of other religions to obtain official identification documents without revealing their religious faith or having to present themselves as Muslims, Christians or Jews.

Administrative courts ordered on several occasions the repeal of decisions by university and ministerial officials banning women and girls from wearing the niqab (face veil) in their institutions.

Right to adequate housing – forced evictions

Residents of 26 areas in Greater Cairo deemed "unsafe" in 2008 in a government master plan to develop the city by 2050 continued to face a double threat: lack of safety from possible rock falls, high voltage power cables or other dangers; and possible forced eviction. There was little or no consultation with affected communities in the "unsafe areas".