CAIRO: The Administrative Court Tuesday banned the practice of virginity tests conducted on women inside military prisons, in a landmark case filed by protester Samira Ibrahim who was subjected to this test in military prison last March.
The court obliged the ruling military council to execute the court order.
Ibrahim, along with 16 other female protesters, were arrested by military police during a Tahrir sit-in that was violently dispersed. All were referred to a military trial. Seven of them were forced to undergo the virginity tests.
Each of the 17 women received a one-year suspended sentence.
"The court obliges the defendant [in this case the military insitution] to end the procedure in question," Head of the Administrative Court Judge Ali Fekry said to the loud applause of Ibrahim’s supporters who filled the courtroom.
Howver, Head of Military Judiciary General Adel El-Morsy said the court order cannot be implemented since the bylaws of the military prison do not include undertaking virginity tests in military prisons in the first place, according to a statement published by Al-Ahram.
Lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Ahmed Hossam, representing Ibrahim, said he expected the Supreme Council and the Military Prosecutor to appeal the verdict.
"They will appeal the verdict and we will have to take the case to the Supreme Administrative Court," Hossam told Daily News Egypt.
Ibrahim had filed two other cases, one at the administrative court against referring her as a civilian to a military court, while the other at the military court against the army officers who performed the virginity tests.
Lawyer Ragia Omran told DNE Tuesday that it is hard to know whether this court order will help Ibrahim’s case in front of the military court.
"You cannot foresee the procedures of the military judiciary, and we can’t be sure that this court order will help Samira’s case," Omran said.
Hossam agreed that it was difficult to predict the impact of the ruling.
"The military court is independent of civil courts, hence it has the choice whether to consider the court ruling or not. But of course it is a legal victory that the military court will at least think about while looking into the case," Hossam added.
Head of EIPR Hossam Bahgat said that only one soldier will be tried in the case in front of the military court scheduled to start Jan. 3, on charges of public indecency and breach of military procedures.
"The soldier in question is a doctor performing his obligatory military service and we are fighting to change the charge from public indecency to sexual assault against a female," Bahgat said.
Hossam explained that Tuesday’s verdict was only the urgent part of the case.
"The other part pertains to canceling the previous procedure against Ibrahim to undergo the virginity tests and compensating her for the damage caused to her by the defendants," Hossam said. This part, he continued, takes time until State’s Commissioners examine the case and refer it again to the Administrative Court.
Following the verdict, hundreds of supporters marched from the State Council to Tahrir Square chanting against military rule. Tens had been chanting against military violations outside the State Council since early morning.
"We are here to express a national consensus of rejecting injustice. Many were injured and martyred in this revolution. Humiliation of women will never hold us back … and will never stop people from demanding their rights," said Ashraf Abdel Moniem, a leading member in the Salafi Front group.
Members of the group, not to be confused with the Al-Daawa Al-Salafia, held placards outside the State Council reading “Egypt’s women are a red line.”
Human Rights Watch had condemned earlier the military’s reluctance to investigate the sexual assault of female protesters and other documented torture cases of more than 170 protesters arrested during a crackdown on a Tahrir Square sit-in last March.
“Egypt’s military rulers are trying to cover up one of the most terrible abuses their forces committed this year,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “After the trauma of sexual assault, these women have been denied the protection of the law.”
Major General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, head of Egypt’s military intelligence, reportedly told Amnesty International in June that the military conducted the virginity tests in preemptive self-defense against potential rape allegations.
It was the first time that a member of the military council ruling Egypt since former president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February has been named confirming that the military carried out these forced tests.
CNN had previously quoted an anonymous senior military officer who confessed performing virginity checks on arrested female protesters.
"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general said. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)," said the high ranking officer.
"We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were [virgins]," he added.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had promised in its 29th statement that allegations of torture cases will be investigated.
HRW said it was told by a SCAF member that the incidents are still under investigation.
“We cannot confirm or deny that this happened because it is currently under investigation,” HRW was told.
A SCAF member also told HRW that SCAF had “issued instructions that this should not take place again.”