A 14-year-old boy who says he was raped in detention by Egyptian National Security agents must be immediately released and those responsible for torturing him brought to justice, Amnesty International said today.
Mazen Mohamed Abdallah’s family told the organization the teenager was repeatedly tortured in custody, given electric shocks on his genitals and had a wooden stick repeatedly thrust into his anus as police forced him to confess to protesting without authorization and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.
“The horrific abuse described by Mazen Mohamed Abdallah gives a sickening insight into the widespread and routine use of torture and ill-treatment by Egyptian security forces in police stations,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“That such abuse is meted out against children in detention is utterly deplorable.”
Mazen Mohamed Abdallah was seized by heavily armed security forces from his family’s Cairo home on 30 September 2015. After questioning the teenager at home and searching his mobile phone and the house, two national security officers blindfolded Mazen and told his mother they would take him away to ask two questions and then return him home. They did not show a prosecutor’s arrest or search warrant to the family.
For the next seven days, Mazen was detained without being allowed visits or contact with his family or lawyers. The authorities denied he was in custody when the family searched for their son in police stations and prosecutor’s offices. Mazen’s family also filed reports to the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecutor about the disappearance with no success.
Mazen said that after his arrest, he was interrogated in First Nasr City Police Station in Cairo about his membership of the Muslim Brotherhood, his participation in protests and the names of other protesters.
After denying the claims, Mazen described being repeatedly beaten, raped with a wooden stick and given electric shocks, including on his penis, until he was willing to “confess” to “anything just to stop the torture”.
He said National Security officers forced him to memorize “confessions” admitting to belonging to the group, participating in protests and printing flyers inciting demonstrations.
After being transferred to the Second Nasr City Police Station in Cairo on 7 October, Mazen said the torture intensified and that his anus was injured as a result of repeated rape with a wooden stick. National Security agents also told Mazen he would be questioned by another National Security officer the next day, and warned he would be tortured further and his parents would be arrested if he retracted his “confession”.
The next day he was transferred to the National Security prosecutor’s office. Mazen’s family learned of his whereabouts through a contact present at the office by chance, and a lawyer was able to attend the final five minutes of his questioning.
The lawyer explained to Mazen that he was being questioned by the prosecutor, rather than National Security officers as he had previously been told, and advised him to divulge the details of his torture, which Mazen did. The lawyer also requested that the child be examined for signs of torture, which were apparent on his body.
However, the prosecutor charged Mazen with belonging to a banned group, protesting without authorization and printing flyers inciting protests. He was ordered to be detained for 15 days, thus violating Article 119 of Egypt’s Child Law which prohibits the pre-trial detention of children less than 15 years old. His detention has been repeatedly renewed and he has now been held for two months in an overcrowded cell with adults at the First Nasr City Police Station. His lawyer has also been refused access to the forensic report.
Mazen has developed a skin disease due to the poor hygiene conditions. His family is allowed to visit him once a week for one minute only – during which time his mother is able to kiss him once from behind iron bars and then leave.
She tearfully told Amnesty International: “We voted for al-Sisi to protect my sons and their future. Even his 80-year-old grandfather [did]. Now my son’s future is damaged with the [rape] incident. How am I going to teach Mazen to belong to this country and love it after he saw its darkest side?”
Amnesty International has documented a rise in reports of torture, cases of deaths in custody and enforced disappearances across Egypt since the appointment last March of Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Gaffar, who comes from a national security background.
Said Boumedouha added: “The Egyptian authorities must promptly launch an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into Mazen Mohamed Abdallah’s allegation that he was tortured by security forces. Anyone against whom there is sufficient admissible evidence of involvement in torture must be prosecuted in a fair trial.”
“Mazen is accused of nothing more than the peaceful expression of views. Detaining a child of his age is illegal, he must be released immediately.”
The UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Committee have called on states to avoid, wherever possible, the use of pre-trial detention for children.
International law stresses that no child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. Deprivation of a child’s liberty, including before trial, must be a measure of last resort and implemented for the shortest appropriate time. Alternatives to detention must be available and their appropriateness explored.
Amnesty International has documented repeated incidents of rape against men in custody by security forces under the rule of Hosni Mubarak and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including cases where National Security officers used it to force detainees to extract “confessions”.