With the news of Hobni Mubarak’s decision to finally stand down as the leader of Egypt last week, one would have hoped for better times in the troubled nation. Young Academic has learnt that this is unfortunately not the case as several claims of military brutality are coming to light. As always, Amnesty International are on hand to provide us with some startling information…
‘When we got out of the vehicle our blindfolds were taken off and soldiers started beating us with whips and truncheons’ – 18-year-old student.
Amnesty International is urging the Egyptian military to take urgent action to stop the torture and ill-treatment of detainees amid fresh evidence of abuse.
The call comes as former detainees told Amnesty that they were tortured, including by whipping and with electric shocks, after being detained by members of the military in the last days before Hosni Mubarak stood down as president.
Recently-released detainees told Amnesty researchers in Egypt that members of the armed forces used beatings, whippings and other forms of torture and ill-treatment to intimidate protestors and to obtain information about plans for the protests.
One former detainee, a 29-year-old decorator from Gharbiya Province north of Cairo, told Amnesty he was tortured by soldiers on 3 February in an annexe to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities; “They called me a traitor and a foreign agent and forced me to take off my clothes except my underwear and to lie face down on the floor. Then they beat me with a whip and stepped with boots on my back and on my hands. They kicked me. Many other detainees there were also beaten with a whip”, he said.
After an interrogation by a man in plain clothes, the 29-year old, whose name is being withheld to protect his security, was beaten over the head with a chair by a soldier, leaving him unconscious. He told Amnesty that on 4 February he was moved to another location where he was beaten, subjected to electric shocks and threatened with rape, and then taken to a military prison in El Heikstep, northeast of Cairo. He said he was repeatedly beaten by soldiers until his release on 10 February.
In a separate case, an 18-year-old student from Cairo told Amnesty that he was tortured at an unknown location after being arrested by soldiers near Tahrir Square on 3 February.
“They put a chain or rope to my legs and lifted me up – so that my head was hanging down. From time to time they would let me down into a barrel that was filled with water. They told me to confess that I was trained by Israel or by Iran. They also put electric shocks to my body and I fainted,” he said. (Longer account below).
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said; “The Egyptian military authorities have committed publicly to creating a climate of freedom and democracy after so many years of state repression. Now they must match their words with direct and immediate action.
“The military authorities must intervene to end torture and other abuse of detainees, which we now know to have been taking place in military custody.
“The authorities must immediately issue clear instructions to all security forces and members of the army that torture or other ill-treatment of detainees will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for these abuses will be held to account.
“They must immediately disclose the names and whereabouts of all detainees and either release them promptly or charge them with recognisable criminal offences.”
Amnesty also spoke to relatives and friends of two brothers in their late twenties who are still being detained without charge in Tora prison, south of Cairo. Arrested on 30 January by military police while carrying leaflets in support of the protests, they were held in the Nasser Military Academy in Cairo’s Agouza district, where they say they were whipped and subjected to electric shocks.
An 18-year-old secondary school student from Cairo told Amnesty that he was tortured after he was arrested at about 3pm on 3 February 2011 by soldiers near Tahrir Square; “I was walking with a friend towards the square when soldiers stopped us and asked for our IDs. They seemed to be suspicious of my friend, because he holds a UK residence permit. They took us to the museum area which is controlled by the army and held us there in an outdoor area. After a while we were blindfolded and handcuffed and I could not see what happened to my friend. I could only hear him screaming and believe he was severely beaten. I was only slapped in the face but not severely beaten while held at the museum.
“That night we were transferred to another location about 30 minutes away from Tahrir Square. When we got out we had to lie down on the floor and were beaten. Then I was taken for interrogation where they insulted me and my family. They said things one should not say. They took off my handcuffs, because they ordered me to take off my clothes, except my underwear, but I remained blindfolded. Then they handcuffed me again and tied my legs. They put a chain or rope to my legs and lifted me up, so that my head was hanging down. From time to time they would let me down into a barrel that was filled with water. They told me to confess that I was trained by Israel or by Iran. They also put electric shocks to my body and I fainted. This continued for several hours. After the torture finished I was so exhausted that I slept for hours.
“The next day I was taken in a group of about 30 people to another location, which – as I learned later – was Sign al-Harbi [a military prison at El Heiksteb, northeast of Cairo]. When we got out of the vehicle our blindfolds were taken off and soldiers started beating us with whips and truncheons. There are still scars on my back from the beatings. We were led to our cells where I soon fell asleep. They kept beating us, including when we went to the bathroom. The last days of my detention I refused to eat to protest against the treatment. Finally we were released. They left us on the road to Cairo and told us to walk back.”
He was released with hundreds of other detainees from the military prison on 10 February. Amnesty delegates interviewed him several days later when scars were still visible on his back.
On 12 February the Supreme Military Council announced that Egypt would abide by its international treaties. Egypt has been a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since 1987.