Killings, Detentions and Torture in Egypt – by Stephen Lendman
On February 9, London Guardian writer Chris McGreal headlined, “Egypt’s army ‘involved in detentions and torture,’ ” saying:
Military forces “secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass (anti-Mubarak) protests began, (and) at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian.”
Moreover, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other human rights organizations cited years of army involvement in disappearances and torture. Former detainees confirmed “extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organized campaign of intimidation.” Electric shocks, Taser guns, threatened rapes, beatings, disappearances, and killings left families grieving for loved ones.
Under Mubarak, Egypt’s military wasn’t neutral. It’s no different now, cracking down hard to keep power and deny change, policies Washington endorses, funds and practices at home and abroad.
On February 17, even New York Times writer Liam Stack headlined, “Among Egypt’s Missing, Tales of Torture and Prison,” saying:
Trademark Mubarak practices continue under military rule, “human rights groups say(ing) the military’s continuing role in such abuses raises new questions about its ability to midwife Egyptian democracy.”
“We joined the protests to liberate the country and end the problems of the regime,” said a man identified as Rabie. “After 18 days, the regime is gone but the same injustices remain.” Indeed so without letup.
In fact, on February 11, everything in Egypt changed but stayed the same. Mubarak was out, replaced by military despots, reigning the same terror on Egyptians he did for nearly three decades. A new Amnesty International (AI) report explains, titled “Egypt Rises: Killings, Detentions and Torture in the ’25 January Revolution.’ “
Covering the period January 30 – March 3, it documents excessive force, killing hundreds and injuring thousands of Egyptians, as well as mass arrests, detentions and torture, policies still ongoing to prevent democracy from emerging.
On May 18, an AI press release headlined, “Egypt: Victims of Protest Violence Deserve Justice,” calling trying former Interior Minister Habib El Adly “an essential first step, (but authorities) must go much further than this.”
“Families of those who were killed, as well as all those who were seriously injured or subject to arbitrary detention or torture….should expect that the authorities will prioritize their needs.”
AI’s report provides “damning evidence of excessive force” against protesters posing no threat. In addition, it covers brutal torture in detention, “including beatings with sticks or whips, electric shocks,” painful stress positions for long periods, verbal abuse, threatened rape, and other forms of ill-treatment.
Earlier in May, AI released another report titled, “State of Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: January to Mid-April 2011,” covering all regional countries, including Egypt, saying ongoing human rights abuses continue.
Strikes, sit-ins, and protests persist for decent jobs, better wages, improved working conditions, human and civil rights, ending corruption, and real democratic change so far denied. More killings, arrests, detentions, and torture followed, showing that “Egypt’s ’25 January Revolution’ is far from over.” In fact, it’s just begun.
AI’s report documents dozens of individuals Egypt’s security forces killed or injured in Cairo, Alexandria, Beni Suef governorate, Suez, Port Said, and El-Mahalla El-Kubra, Egypt’s industrial heartland.
They attacked peaceful protesters with tear gas, water cannons, shotguns, rubber bullets, live ammunition, and at times running them over with armored vehicles. They also used disproportionate brutality, including beatings with batons or sticks as well as lethal force, followed by mass arrests, disappearances, detentions, torture, and at least 189 confirmed deaths in custody and hundreds injured.
Others targeted included human rights and online activists, independent journalists, people bringing supplies to protesters, doctors treating those injured, and anyone suspected of anti-regime activities. In detention, brutal treatment followed. One man identified as Fouad said:
“As we entered our block, we had to lie face down in the court yard and were beaten by soldiers. They beat us with cables and canes and used electric prods. The most severe beating in Sign al-Harbi (Military Prison) was on the day of arrival.”
Detained for 19 days in numerous locations, Mohamed Hassan Abdel Samiee said he was tortured in all of them. Mohamed Essam Ibrahim Khatib said he was blindfolded, handcuffed, stepped on, beaten with a rifle butt, and administered electric shocks including to his face and neck, adding:
“When we got off the vehicle, we were ordered to take off our clothes, except the underpants, and we had to lie face down in the sand. There were three soldiers in camouflage uniforms belonging to the Saraya al-Sa’iqa (The Lightening Brigade), each of them with a different instrument to beat us. One had a whip, another a wooden stick and another an electric prod. The commander would blow into his whisle and the soldiers would start beating us for a few minutes until he blew his whistle again. They beat all of us without exception,” an ordeal continuing throughout their detention.
Other detainees said they were blindfolded, handcuffed suspended upside-down by a rope, administered electric shocks, submerged head first in water, and ordered to confess they were trained by Israel or Iran. Some lost consciousness during the ordeal.
Another was warned if he didn’t talk he “would face the same situation as (a man) I heard being raped and pleading with his rapist to stop. So I told the interrogator, ‘I prefer that you shoot me.’ “
Moreover, contact with lawyers, doctors, and family members was denied, unaware if loved ones were alive or dead. Thousands endured the same treatment. They still do with no letup under brutal military junta rule.
A Final Comment
On April 29, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) news release headlined, “Egypt: Military Trials Usurp Justice System,” saying:
Egypt’s military “should immediately end trials of civilians before military courts and release all those arbitrarily detained or convicted after unfair hearings….”
Since February, more than 5,000 civilians were tried in military tribunals. Nearly all participated in peaceful protests during and after Mubarak’s dictatorship. “Trials of civilians before the military courts constitute wholesale violations of basic fair trial rights….”
Egypt’s military courts administer wholesale justice for alleged “crimes,” handling multiple cases simultaneously in proceedings lasting 20 to 40 minutes. Those convicted got sentences ranging from six months to 25 years or life imprisonment for protesting peacefully, breaking curfews, and various bogus charges, including possessing illegal weapons, destroying public property, theft, assault, or threatening violence. Those charged were judged guilty by accusation and denied lawyers of their choice to represent them.
Obama’s embracing military commissions “justice” replicates Egypt’s junta. His March 7 Executive Order reversed an earlier EO halting the practice for new cases. In response, the Center for Constitutional Rights condemned the ruling, saying:
His “reopening of flawed military commissions for business does nothing other than codify the status quo. (It’s) a tacit acknowledgment that (his) administration intends to leave Guantanamo as a scheme for unlawful detention without charge and trial for future presidents to clean up.”
Washington’s Guantanamo detentions and “military tribunal system are no longer an inheritance from the Bush administration – they will be President Obama’s legacy.” In fact, they show American justice replicates Egypt, both nations revealed as police states.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.