Annual Report: Egypt 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Egypt 2011

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Counter-terror and security

The authorities used their state of emergency powers to detain people suspected of security-related offenses. Detainees were held incommunicado, often for several weeks. Many alleged that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated by State Security Investigations (SSI) officials and forced to make "confessions" that they later repudiated when brought to trial. Other security suspects were deported.

  • Husam Radhwan el-Mar'i, a Syrian resident of Yemen, was detained for 38 days after he was arrested at Cairo airport in April. He was held incommunicado and, he alleged, beaten, whipped and tortured with electric shocks because he was suspected of belonging to a "terrorist group". He was released without charge on 19 May and deported to Yemen.
  • In April, an (Emergency) Supreme State Security Court sentenced 26 alleged members of the so-called Hizbullah Cell to prison terms ranging from six months to life after convicting them of planning to attack tourist sites, possessing explosives and passing information to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Four of the defendants were tried in their absence. The 22 who appeared before the court had been detained incommunicado for months at an undisclosed location by order of the Interior Minister after they were arrested in 2008 and 2009. They were convicted on the basis of "confessions" they repudiated and said had been extracted using torture. The court failed to adequately examine their allegations.

Detention without trial - administrative detention

Despite the May presidential decree limiting the use of the Emergency Law, in practice the authorities continued to use emergency powers to detain opposition activists and to curb freedom of expression. The authorities said that hundreds of administrative detainees were released in accordance with the presidential decree, including detainees held in connection with bomb attacks at Taba in 2004, but disclosed no details about those who continued to be detained. Thousands remained in detention without charge or trial despite court orders for their release; in practice, the Interior Ministry circumvented release orders by issuing new detention orders, undermining judicial scrutiny and oversight.

  • Mohamed Farouq El-Sayyed, a Shi'a Muslim, and seven others arrested with him, remained in administrative detention without charge or trial at Damanhour Prison although courts had ordered his release at least seven times. He and 11 others had been arrested in April/May 2009; all were suspected of trying to set up an organization to promote Shi'a Islam in a manner deemed to be threatening to Islam and the Sunni Muslim community. The prosecution released all 12, but they were detained by the Interior Ministry. Four were subsequently released.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment of security detainees and criminal suspects were systematic in police stations, prisons and SSI detention centres and, for the most part, committed with impunity. In some instances, police assaulted suspects openly and in public as if unconcerned about possible consequences. In other instances, police were reported to have threatened victims against lodging complaints. In April, the Interior Ministry agreed to pay a total of 10 million Egyptian pounds (US$1.76 million) as compensation to 840 members of Gamaa Islamiya, an Islamist group, who had been tortured; however, no action is known to have been taken against those responsible for their torture.

In rare cases, the authorities prosecuted police alleged to have committed assaults, although generally these were cases that had received wide publicity. Those convicted tended to receive lenient sentences.

  • Taha Abdel Tawwab Mohamed, a medical doctor, said he was stripped and beaten by SSI officers in Fayoum on 7 March because of his public support for Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who the authorities consider a government critic. He was released the next day. His lawyer filed a complaint but no action was known to have been taken.

Deaths in custody

At least four people were alleged to have died in custody as a result of torture or other ill-treatment.