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HRW slams army investigation into virginity tests as "sham"

Human Rights Watch says the ruling military council has failed to provide redress to women abused in March

Ahram Online , Saturday 12 Nov 2011

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has slammed the investigation launched by the ruling military council on notorious virginity tests conducted on female protesters in March, deeming it a “sham.”

In a statement, the rights group said that seven months after the tests were conducted on seven women on 10 March, the military has “not investigated or prosecuted anyone … [and] military prosecutors also have failed to investigate adequately the other documented incidents of torture of those women and 13 others, and of up to 170 men, on 9 March on the grounds of the Egyptian Museum.”

According to HRW, Samira Ibrahim, the only female victim who tried to file a formal sexual complaint with the military prosecutor, received threatening calls.

“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 HRW. “After the trauma of sexual assault, these women have been denied the protection of the law.”

HRW blamed the failure to investigate on the military justice system.

According to the group, it is a system “in which the people investigating and prosecuting cases are within the chain of command and therefore not independent of those they are investigating. Human Rights Watch has called for all cases involving civilians, whether as victims or defendants, to be moved to civilian judicial authorities.”

The assaults took place as the army tried to disperse protesters camping in Tahrir Square on 9 March. The military arrested 20 women, about 174 men, and took them to the nearby Egyptian Museum where they proceeded to torture them.

Three of the women who identified themselves as journalists were released, but the remaining were then taken to the notorious C28 military base before being moved to military prisons.

According to the report, it was in prison that the “sexual assaults took place under the guise of virginity tests”.

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