Amnesty slams Egypt for illegal detention of thousands

Sarah El Sirgany
4 Min Read

CAIRO: The Ministry of Interior holds around 18,000 administrative detainees in “degrading inhumane conditions, Amnesty International said in its 2008 report on human rights in Egypt.

“Some had been held for more than a decade, including many whose release had been repeatedly ordered by courts, the report said.

The report said the conditions in which these detainees are held are cruel. It said hundreds were reportedly ill with tuberculosis, skin diseases and other ailments.

The report, which was released Wednesday, also stated that Egyptian nationals suspected of terrorism “who had been unlawfully transferred to Egypt by other governments, also remained in prison.

It criticized the constitutional amendments that were “rushed through parliament in March 2007 as “the most serious setback for human rights since the state of emergency was introduced in 1981.

“The amendments cemented the sweeping powers of the police and entrenched in permanent law emergency powers that have been used systematically to violate human rights, including prolonged detention without charge, torture and other ill-treatment, restrictions on freedom of speech, association and assembly, and grossly unfair trials before military courts and special emergency courts, the report said.

The report said that torture is “widespread and systematic and that it led or contributed to at least 20 deaths in 2007. It said that the few prosecutions of alleged tortures were not related to political cases and were usually in cases where the victim died.

The report cited the Emad El-Kabir case as one of the “rare successful prosecutions of an alleged torturer; the two officers implicated in the case were sentenced to three years in prison.

On the issue of violence, the report cited statistics by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) saying that two women were being raped every hour in Egypt, which has witnessed an increase of sexual harassment and sex crimes. ECWR had said that only 12 percent of the 2,500 women who reported sexual harassment to the center took their cases to the police.

Amnesty also noted the increase in the number of strikes taking place across the country, although Egyptian law deems them “illegal and “unauthorized by the state-sponsored General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU).

The strikes, the report explained, “sparked by rising living costs, growing poverty and other grievances, coincided with political protests by the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition force, and secular opposition groups campaigning for democratic reforms. Political activists, journalists and bloggers were jailed for peacefully expressing their views.

In response to the wave of strikes, the report continued, the authorities increased the “repression of trade unionists as well as NGO activists.

The report said authorities closed three offices of the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS), which Amnesty described as the main independent group defending workers’ rights in Egypt.

It also mentioned the shut down of the Association for Human Rights and Legal Aid (AHRLA) by the authorities.

In March and April, the authorities closed three offices of the main independent group defending workers’ rights – the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS) – in Naj’ Hammadi, Mahalla Al-Kubra and Helwan. The GFTU and the Minister of Manpower had blamed the CTUWS for the strike wave. The authorities continued to refuse applications by the CTUWS to be registered as an association.

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