Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1202, (19 -25 June 2014)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1202, (19 -25 June 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The truth about Qanater

The Interior Ministry denies reports of torturing women and juveniles in custody, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Interior Ministry dismissed reports of verbal and physical abuse of Al-Azhar University female students in custody. A statement on Thursday by the Prisons Sector of the ministry said, “These allegations are not at all true.” According to rights organisations, student supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi at the Al-Qanater Women’s Prison were brutally beaten by inmates held on criminal charges and prison security last week.

In a statement the Egyptian Observatory for Rights and Freedoms (EORF) called for an investigation into alleged verbal and sexual assaults. “Such assaults [by female inmates in the presence of security personnel] go against honour and chivalry and violate international human rights norms and conventions,” the EORF statement says. The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Europe (AOHRE), a rights organisation generally believed to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, was the first to document the case. “Such practices reveal systematic violence against detainees inside Egyptian prisons,” the AOHRE said in a statement titled “No Dignity for the Female Detainees in Egyptian Prisons”.

Islamist lawyer Montasser Al-Zayat, who has been involved in the girls’ cases, said that assaults on at least 25 detainees led to severe injuries including fractures and serious bleeding. “The incident started when one prison guard insulted a medical doctor called Samah, which angered female students who objected,” Al-Zayat said. They too were then given the same treatment.

The ministry’s statement, however, said that such allegations only aim to “cause confusion and draw sympathy for a number of female prisoners in particular. The Prisons Sector is credited by government and non-government legal organisations for applying international human rights standards in dealing with all prisoners with no exceptions,” it added.

On Monday, however, eight rights groups also demanded an independent investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment by security forces at the Kom Al-Dekka Juvenile Detention Facility in Alexandria. In a joint statement released Monday, the groups reported that 48 students, aged 14-17, have been tortured by security forces tasked with securing the facility.

“The undersigned organisations demand the opening of a serious, independent and comprehensive investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment by security forces,” the statement said, adding that detainees should be allowed to meet with forensic investigators “to demonstrate their physical and psychological scars, and hold those responsible accountable. The undersigned organisations insist that these events indicate the failure of the authorities concerned to carry out their duties in monitoring places of detention, and to ensure that detainees are not subjected to torture or excessive use of force. Similar allegations regarding events at the Wadi Al-Natroun Prison at the end of May have not been investigated.”

Among the signatories are the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Al-Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

Cases of torture and ill-treatment have been reported since Mohamed Morsi was ousted last July. However, the Interior Ministry insists that the police force was reformed following the toppling of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, under whose rule police brutality was widespread. The Interior Ministry routinely denies reports of human rights violations inside prisons and asserts that all those detained are held on criminal, not political, charges.

Educational institutions have turned into political battlefields for supporters of Morsi. According to a recent survey themed the “Educational Institutions’ Indicator” by the International Development Centre, a local NGO, 611 politically motivated protest activities have been staged in universities, schools and educational institutes since the beginning of the current academic year on 1 September 2013. The survey also states that 232 protest activities were organised to demand the reinstatement of Morsi and end what the demonstrators described as the “coup against him”.

Students backing the Egyptian Army staged a total of 33 protests during September and October, it concluded.

A state-affiliated fact-finding committee investigating the violent events that have taken place since Morsi’s ouster last summer has sent a letter to Amnesty International requesting proof of information that Amnesty has published regarding torture and “enforced disappearance” in Egypt. In a statement issued last Thursday, the committee said that this is not the first letter to be sent to Amnesty, explaining that a similar request in May received no response.

Former interim president Adli Mansour had formed the fact-finding committee in December to investigate the violent events following the 30 June 2013 protests that led to Morsi’s ouster. In May Amnesty International issued a report claiming that dozens of civilians subjected to enforced disappearance have been held without charge for months and are facing torture at a secret detention centre known as Al-Azouli Prison, located in a military camp.

On Monday, the Prosecutor-General ordered the release of Al-Jazeera reporter Abdullah Al-Shami, who went on hunger strike for several weeks in protest of his detention without formal charges, and 12 other people pending trial into violence-related charges. In a statement, the Prosecutor-General attributed the move to the “health conditions” of the defendants. Al-Shami was arrested last August while covering the forcible dispersal of Al-Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in.

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