By: Emily Crane
Activist group My Country My Rights organized a press conference on Wednesday evening at the headquarters of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo. The group addressed human rights violations committed by the police, armed forces and ministries since the 25 January Revolution.
“No one has been held responsible for the violence that has occurred these last two years,” said Mahmoud Belal, a human rights lawyer. “This must change.”
After opening remarks from three activists for My Country My Rights, four released detainees gave their testimonies. Their stories told of unwarranted arrests, unlawful detentions, and physical abuse.
Mohammed Mostafa El Refai, 24, was taken into custody on 29 January while trying to catch a taxi with a group of his friends from Qasr El Nil to his home in Giza. A group of several armed security officers assaulted them and began shooting them from behind with rubber bullets. They were taken by bus to a camp, which is not a lawful detention facility for civilians, Belal said.
“They threw us to the ground and beat us,” El Refai said. “They took all my belongings and they electrocuted me. I was bleeding from my mouth, my nose and my head. They shot my cousin and my friend in the head with rubber bullets. They died two days later.”
Mohammed Salim, 21, confirmed that many were injured during the arrest, some with deadly wounds, but no medical care was provided when the detainees reached the camp. Though Salim did not sustain any major physical injuries, he says he is still suffering from mental trauma.
“I’ve never felt anything like this,” Salim said. “I’m scared to go out in the street now.”
Salim testified that there were several minors detained with him at the camp. Among them was Mohammed El Saad, 17, whose mother spoke on his behalf. El Saad was held for seven days before being released after a bail payment of EGP 1,000.
“He has been very much affected by this,” she said. “He still refuses to speak to me about it and he is fearful of leaving the house.”
Most of the human rights violations that have occurred are not unprecedented, said Ghada Shahbandar, an activist with My Country My Rights.
“What is unprecedented is the level of violence against children and the number of violations against children,” Shahbandar said. “When we expose our children to violence, it scars them for years to come. And as a result, our children are growing up with no respect for these authorities or institutions.”
Approximately 150 children have been unlawfully arrested since 25 January 2011, one of the activists said. This is against international laws on children’s rights, as well as Egyptian law.
“As the president of the country, we expect Morsi to respond to these atrocities and for those who’ve been wronged to see justice,” Shahbandar added.