Teenager arrested and tortured for wearing anti-torture t-shirt is part of crackdown as country reverts to full ‘police state’ behaviour
Call on David Cameron to tackle President al-Sisi during recently-announced UK visit
A crackdown by the Egyptian authorities is “crushing an entire generation” of young activists, said Amnesty International in a new report published today (30 June)
The 25-page report, Generation Jail: Egypt’s youth go from protest to prison, focuses on the cases of 14 young people who are among thousands to have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and jailed over the past two years in relation to protests. The briefing shows that Egypt has fully reverted to being a police state.
A crackdown that began with the arrest of Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters in July 2013, has rapidly expanded to encompass the whole of Egypt’s political spectrum. More than 41,000 people have now been arrested, charged or indicted with a criminal offence, or sentenced after unfair trials, according to estimates by Egyptian human rights activists. Meanwhile, a Protest Law, passed in late 2013, enables the authorities to arrest and prosecute peaceful demonstrators on a whim, and criminalises the very act of taking to the streets without prior authorisation. It also grants the security forces free rein to use excessive and lethal force against peaceful protesters.
More than a year after he came to power, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has shown no sign of easing its repressive rule. A new wave of arrests in mid-2015 saw at least 160 people detained in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance, according to the Egyptian activist group Freedom For the Brave. The Muslim Brotherhood has also reported new arrests of its members.
The thousands of protesters convicted on spurious charges or because of laws that arbitrarily restrict freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, stand in stark contrast to the paltry number of the security forces prosecuted for human rights violations since 2011. Not a single security force member has faced criminal charges over the deaths of hundreds of Morsi supporters at Rabaa Adawiya and al-Nadha Squares on 14 August 2013.
The Egyptian authorities have sought to justify their heavy-handed tactics, saying they’re maintaining stability and security. While some demonstrators have used violence, the response of the security forces has routinely been disproportionate. Many of those detained have found themselves brought before courts on trumped-up or politically-motivated charges, or sentenced during mass trials in which hundreds have been convicted based on little or no evidence, or solely on the basis of testimonies from the security forces or investigations by National Security.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“By relentlessly targeting Egypt’s youth activists, the authorities are crushing an entire generation’s hopes for a brighter future.
“After the 2011 uprising, Egypt’s youth were lauded as a beacon of hope by the country’s military leaders and its international partners alike.
“The scale of the crackdown is overwhelming. The Egyptian authorities’ have shown that they will stop at nothing in their attempts to crush all challenges to their authority.
“World leaders are breaking the pledges they made to stand by Egypt’s young people when Mubarak fell in February 2011.”
Teenage student detained and tortured for a t-shirt
One of the tens of thousands of people detained in the past two years is 19-year-old student Mahmoud Hussein, who was arrested for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” t-shirt and a scarf marking 2011’s “25 January Revolution”. Hussein, was arrested - on 25 January 2014 - after taking part in a protest marking the anniversary of the revolution.
In detention Hussein, then 18, was reportedly interrogated and tortured by National Security officers. He was allegedly blindfolded, with his hands cuffed behind his back, and told by an interrogating officer that they intended to dictate Hussein’s “confession” which they would videotape him doing. After refusing to do this, Hussein was allegedly beaten and given electric shocks to his face, testicles, back and hands. After four hours of this treatment, Hussein reportedly told his tormentors that he would “confess” to whatever they wanted as long they stopped his torture.
Amnesty considers Hussein a prisoner of conscience held - without charge or trial for over 16 months - solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly who should be released immediately. Amnesty supporters are urgently contacting Egypt’s Public Prosecutor
on Hussein’s case.
6 April Youth Movement
Among the youths who have found themselves arbitrarily imprisoned are prominent activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel from the “6 April Youth Movement”, Ahmed Douma a well-known blogger and protester, as well as Alaa Abd El Fattah, a blogger and a vocal critic of the authorities who spent time in prison under Hosni Mubarak as well as under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. They also include prominent human rights activists Yara Sallam and Mahienour El-Massry. They join those detained for protesting against the ousting of President Morsi, such as Irish national Ibrahim Halawa, university students Abrar Al-Anany and Menatalla Moustafa, and teacher Yousra Elkhateeb.
UK invitation to President al-Sisi
Earlier this month it emerged that the UK has invited President al-Sisi to visit the UK, with news of the visit coming a day after a court in Cairo confirmed a death sentence against the former president Morsi following legal proceedings condemned by Amnesty as a “mockery of justice”. More than 100 other people, including senior Muslim Brotherhood members, also had their death sentences confirmed on 16 June.
Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth said:
“We want to see David Cameron personally raising human rights issues in any face-to-face talks with President al-Sisi, and we also want to see these issues addressed in public.”
Amnesty is warning Egypt’s international partners not to sacrifice human rights in any talks with the Egyptian authorities. The US government announced in March that it was lifting a freeze on arms transfers to Egypt and would also offer continued military and security assistance to the country’s army and security forces.