• Press Release

Torture and Arbitrary Arrest Continue in Egypt, Despite Disbanding of Feared Security Forces

May 6, 2011

Amnesty International Press Release
For Release Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]

Torture and Arbitrary Arrest Continue in Egypt, Despite Disbanding of Feared Security Forces, Amnesty International Reports, Urging Immediate Reforms

Security Force Must be Held Accountable for Brutal Repression of Past, Amnesty International Says

(New York) — Despite abolishing the much-feared State Security Investigations Service, Egypt  is continuing the same patterns of abuse now, including torture and arbitrary arrest,  Amnesty International said today in a damning new report that calls for the immediate end to ongoing brutal repression along with punishment for past offenses by the security forces.

"The uniforms may have changed, but we have seen the same patterns of abuse continue," said Amnesty International in its report, Time for Justice: Egypt’s Corrosive System of Detention.

On March 15, following mass protests in Egypt, the Interior Ministry announced that the SSI had been abolished, and that a new national security body would be established in its place.

But no details have been given as to what will happen to SSI officers, whether any will be subject to investigation and whether any vetting system was put in place for their integration in the police force.

In recent weeks, Amnesty International has documented the continuing use of torture, arbitrary detention, trials of civilians before military courts and repression of freedom of expression by authorities.

"This is a moment for fundamental change," said Amnesty International. "It demands immediate concrete steps from the authorities so that those responsible for serious human rights violations are held to account. Egyptians must see justice done for the human rights abuses of the past."

The report calls for the immediate establishment of an independent inquiry into human rights abuses committed by the State Security Investigations Service.  "Accountability for past crimes is essential to send out a clear message that violations will no longer to be tolerated," the report said.

The organization said it was prepared to make its archive of human rights reports available to the Egyptian authorities to assist with an investigation.

Amnesty International also called for the 30-year-old state of emergency to be ended immediately, and said that all provisions of the emergency law must be repealed.

Former President Hosni Mubarak used the state of emergency to commit serious human rights abuses without scrutiny or punishment.

After the army violently cleared Tahrir Square of demonstrators on March 9, women protesters told Amnesty International that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

In the past, SSI officers used administrative detention to hold people who were critical of the Egyptian authorities, human rights activists and criminal suspects for as long as they wanted and without intent to prosecute them in a criminal trial.

The authorities have never disclosed how many people were held in administrative detention. National and international human rights organizations estimated the number in the last years of Mubarak’s rule to be between 6,000 and 10,000.

In the hundreds of cases that Amnesty International has examined, detainees were never informed of the reason for their arrest, many were not allowed to contact the outside world or have legal assistance, and some disappeared for months.

Torture of detainees was routine, including electric shocks, beatings, suspension, whipping and sleep deprivation.

Mohamed Abu Essaoud Ismail, 52, was one of many people held for up to 20 years.

He was arrested in 1991 for alleged membership of Gamaa al-Islamiya, at that time an armed Islamist group. His family knew nothing of what had happened to him until 1998.

He was only released in February this year after the fall of President Mubarak. He had been tortured and denied adequate medical care for long-term health problems.

Following the fall of President Mubarak, a newly-installed Interior Minister announced on  March 12 that 1,659 administrative detainees had been released since early February. But it is unknown how many people remain in detention.

Amnesty International called for victims of human rights violations to receive reparations, including financial compensation and guarantees that there will be fundamental reform.

"The authorities cannot expect to simply sweep the past under the carpet without addressing the needs of the victims of years of ruthless repression," said Amnesty International.

"They have an obligation to tell their victims why they were victimized and who was responsible for their ordeal."