Egypt: Dozens of civilians detained in military prison

Doctor Power via Flickr Creative Commons

Doctor Power via Flickr Creative Commons

Amnesty International (AI) reports that dozens of Egyptian civilians have been subjected to unlawful arrest and are currently detained at Al Azouly prison. The UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance defines enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person.” While AI constitutes these civilian arrests as enforced disappearance, the whereabouts of these particular detainees is known. The prison is found inside Al Galaa Military Camp in Ismailia, about 130 km northeast of Cairo. According to recent evidence gathered by AI, the 30 civilians have undergone ill-treatment and, in some cases, torture.

According to AI, certain Egyptian lawyers and activists describe an emerging pattern of abductions and unlawful detentions of prisoners, including those at Al Azouly. These prisoners are being tortured to extract “confessions” about criminal activity or to implicate other criminals before being brought before state security prosecutors. The detained have no access to lawyers or family, and they are often held without knowledge of their crime. Some individuals are secretly detained for months and subjected to practices such as electric shocks and burns during interrogations.

One recently released prisoner describes his experience to AI:

“The military arrested me in January [2014]…and took me on the same day to Al Azouly prison after they beat me in a military camp in my town for four hours. I was held in Al Azouly prison for 76 days without seeing a judge or a prosecutor; I was not even allowed to talk to my family. They put me on the third floor of the prison in solitary confinement. The authorities there interrogated me six times. They took off my clothes and gave me electric shocks all over my body during the investigations, including on my testicles, and beat me with batons and military shoes.”

AI released this evidence two weeks before former Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was declared the victor of Egypt’s presidential election. El-Sisi was army chief at the time of the coup last July that removed Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president since Mubarak’s ouster, from power.

Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, AI’s Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director, says that the aforementioned practices “are associated with the darkest hours of military and Mubarak’s rule.” The Missing Blog also reported on the individuals who went missing during Egypt’s 2011 revolution, which amounted to more than 1,000 people. A report to former President Morsi highlighted the Egyptian military’s role in the disappearances in addition to torture and killings of civilians. The military is also accused of forcibly disappearing former aides in the Morsi administration as well as other members of the Muslim Brotherhood since the 2013 coup.

The current rise of civilian arrests is yet another obstacle to ensuring justice and democracy under the el-Sisi administration. Egyptian authorities should end the practices of disappearance and illegal detention and guarantee criminals the right to fair trial. Amnesty International, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Violence and Torture in Egypt call for independent investigations into any alleged offenses committed by the detainees.