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Police brutality persists two years after Egypt revolution: Rights activists

Egyptian activists release report detailing persistent police abuse, illegal detention and torture; rights lawyers say police brutality remains widespread two years after Mubarak's ouster

Ahram Online , Tuesday 5 Feb 2013
Police brutality continues after revolution
Egyptian riot police beat protesters and dismantle a small tent city set up to commemorate revolutionary martyrs in Cairo's Tahrir Square (Photo: AP)
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Following the recent death of activist Mohamed El-Gendy, who allegedly died after being subject to torture by police, several Egyptian rights activists issued a report on Sunday detailing what they see as the persistence of oppressive police tactics employed by the state.

According to the report, which was compiled by rights lawyer Rajia Omran and other members of the No to Military Trials Campaign, 225 people have been detained from the vicinity of Cairo's Tahrir Square since the second anniversary of Egypt's January 25 Revolution, which coincided with mass rallies against the government and President Mohamed Morsi.

Those detained have included minors who were subject to torture and days-long incarceration at Central Security Forces (CSF) training camps, the report asserts. Detentions were officially said to have been "pending investigation," but according to the report's authors, detentions were generally employed as punishment and were unnecessary to investigations.

The report notes one case in particular in which 12 young people – including eight minors – were referred to the Abbasiya prosecutor's office. The young people had reportedly suffered injuries as a result of police torture and were therefore detained for four days "pending investigation."

Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement also released a statement on Sunday asserting that one of its members, Hossam El-Din Abdel-Hamid, had gone missing. The youth group alleged that Abdel-Hamid had been detained, suggesting that that the interior ministry had refrained from referring him to prosecutors – along with others who had been detained with him – in order to conceal the torture he had been subject to at the hands of police.

"Abdel-Hamid was brutally beaten and is suffering from a severe injury and has not been referred to the prosecution until this minute," April 6 stated. "When we asked about him we were told by a police officer that he had been moved to the Khalifa Police Station…but when we went there to ask about him we were told he was at the Qasr El-Nil Police Station and there they again denied his presence."

The rights activists' report echoed the youth group's allegations, stating that many of those reported missing were later found to have been illegally detained, mostly in the Gabal El-Ahmar and Tora CSF training camps. Unlike prisons or police stations, neither of these facilities represent official detention centres.

"Most of those arrested [estimated at more than 600 since 25 January] are now being detained in CSF camps that are not made or equipped for detention," Malek Adly, a rights lawyer told Ahram Online.

"Unlike prisons or police stations, these camps aren't equipped to provide prisoners with meals, so detainees are often left without food or water for long periods," Adly said.

The report added that since detainees were not referred to prosecutors they lacked any access to family members or lawyers.

Only after the media had exposed cases of missing persons, the report continued, eight of them were finally referred to the Qasr El-Nil prosecutor's office on 30 January – following five days of illegal detention. Abdeen's criminal court later ordered their immediate release, arguing that the means by which they were detained had been illegal.

Another five detainees were also allowed to return to their homes after four days of being illegally held, the report added.

On Monday, thousands of protesters marched in the funeral of slain activist Mohamed El-Gendy, who allegedly died from torture sustained while in police custody. The young activist's death has reignited debate on police brutality, against which large swathes of the Egyptian public rose up in the revolution two years ago.

"While many have been shocked by El-Gendy's death, he is not the first to die of torture during Morsi's rule," human rights activist Hossam Bahgat said via Twitter. "You only know his name because he's a political activist."

In January, the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) – of which Bahgat is a founding member – released a report documenting 16 cases of police violence. The report noted that, since Morsi's assumption of the presidency last summer, 11 people had been killed and ten tortured inside Egyptian police stations.

"Police still use excessive force and torture is still systematic, just as it was under the Mubarak regime," the report stated.

In response to the EIPR's study, an interior ministry official – speaking anonymously – told AP that such claims were "untrue" and "full of exaggerations."

In response to El-Gendy's case, the presidency released a statement in which it insisted: "There will be no return to human rights abuses or violations of citizens' freedoms since the January 25 Revolution, especially now with the establishment of a constitutional state."

Nevertheless, a video has recently circulated online showing a man – later revealed to be 50-year-old Hamada Saber – being beaten and dragged naked by CSF personnel. The incident was filmed during Friday's clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces outside the Presidential Palace in Cairo.

The interior ministry has since issued an official apology, asserting that the incident had constituted an "individual act" and did not reflect ministry policy. Public prosecutors are currently investigating the case.

The presidency, too, has condemned the police violence depicted in the footage.

"We are awaiting the outcome of the investigation, which should be released with transparency in accordance with the objectives of the January 25 Revolution," the presidency declared in a statement.

The statement went on to assert that the presidency was currently working "for the enforcement of constitutional articles that prohibit torture, intimidation, or causing individuals physical or psychological harm." 

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