The 3rd of July, 2013 military coup in Egypt that toppled the country’s first democratically-elected president marked the beginning of unprecedented crackdown on political dissent, which resulted inover 28741 people arrested until the end of July 2014.
The figure is set to rise exponentially as the regime continues to target political opponents ,some of whom were arrested during raids on their homes or places of work but the vast majority had been detained during security forces attacks on demonstrations and sit-ins. Arrests reached record levels in August 2013 soon after the violent dispersal of the Rabaa Square sit-in when more than 9823 Egyptians were detained, some of whom had since disappeared without trace.
The indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests spared no one, men, women, the elderly and minors were detained. It is estimated that more than 522 women and 926 minors have been arrested while a record 3686 students were held during security forces’ raids on university campuses. Students usually face quick trials culminating in harsh sentences that put their whole future at risk.
Even doctors who tended to the wounded after government attacks were not spared persecution. It is estimated that 180 medical doctors were arrested on bogus charges.
It was only natural that authorities would seek to hide the truth about events engulfing Egypt and attempt to prevent journalists from broadcasting to the world the flagrant human rights violations by security forces. At least 166 journalists have been arrested and a number of newspapers and satellite channels were shut-down without legal justification.
Moreover, as part of government efforts to deprive detainees of fair trials and legal representation, more than 234 lawyers were jailed for defending political detainees as a deterrent to other legal workers.
The list of charges brought against anti-coup detainees in Egypt rarely varies regardless of the detainees’ line of work, age or background. These charges include: disturbing the peace, attempting to overthrow the regime, attempted murder, inciting violence, premeditated murder, vandalism, arson attacks, resisting arrest, assaulting security officers, possession of deadly weapons, disrupting traffic and demonstrating without permit.
Bogus charges, confessions extracted under torture and trials that lacked due process, fairness and transparency led to the conviction of 6977 detainees. The verdicts against 1275 detainees were referred to the Grand Mufti for review of their death sentences, and of those he approved 259.While 657 detainees were sentenced to life in prison and 6061 were sentenced to less than three years , imprisonment and temporary hard labour for periods ranging between 3-15 years.
Security forces participated in the forced disappearances of opposition activists on regular basis across the country. Most of those arrested usually go missing for a while and neither their families nor lawyers are allowed to visit them. At-least 129 detainees have disappeared without trace after being abducted during demonstrations and sit-ins.
This report documents the deaths of 82 detainees among them 60 political opponents’ detainees, 37 of whom were killed in the Abu Zabaal Prison van transfer incident during which security forces fired teargas into the back of the van which was crammed with detainees on the 18th of August 2014. Others have died of torture or after being denied access to medical treatment.
Egypt boasts more than 328 detention centres across the country in addition to 17 public prisons and 7 prison complexes that incorporate Limans and maximum-security prisons. A number of secret prisons such as Al-Azuli army prison, Central Security and Homeland Security prisons are notorious for housing political prisoners although it is illegal by law to hold civilians there. Prisoners are arrested and held there extra-judicially without proper documentation rendering virtually impossible for them to have any contact with the outside world or for their families to find out where they are being held.
Extreme torture is rampant in detention centres as evidenced by the hundreds of testimonies documented and of which 56 have been attached to this report. Torture methods include the “Welcoming party” – a ritual form of beating that greets detainees upon arrival; overcrowded cells that render it virtually impossible to sleep or move; physical and psychological abuse such as electrocution, sexual harassment, rape, virginity tests, punching, kicking, and brutal beatings which often lead to multiple fractures, paralysis or permanent disabilities. The uniformity of torture techniques at all detention centres and electrocution with purposely-acquired equipment coupled with the refusal of public prosecutors to investigate instances of torture confirm that torture has been sanctioned by the highest authority in the Egyptian regime.
Many torture victims submitted formal complaints to public prosecutors but none, according to this report, have ever been followed up. Judicial orders and decisions against political opponents have time and again shown that public prosecutors have become subordinated to the ministry of interior without any regard for the law. Courts pass very harsh sentences on the basis of bogus charges and false confessions extracted under torture.
Faced with these harsh realities and the collapse of the Egyptian judiciary, Egyptians have no choice but to challenge this ruthless regime. The international community has an obligation to support the growing popular anti-coup movement in Egypt, especially since the silence of the international community has emboldened Egyptian authorities to press on with their repressive and brutal policies. Egypt is in desperate need for an international fact-finding mission with a mandate to monitor prisons and investigate crimes committed against political detainees and bring those responsible to justice.