Monday, February 14, 2011

Egyptian military tortured, “disappeared” thousands of demonstrators Feb 12 2011

Now that the wave of riots, demonstrations and strikes has toppled Mubarak
and the military has taken over, this report examines the supposedly
"neutral" role of the military so far.

Since demonstrations and strikes erupted against the Mubarak regime on
January 25, the Egyptian military has arrested, tortured and “disappeared”
thousands, according to reports from the Guardian newspaper and human
rights organizations.

The revelations explode the claim advanced by the Obama administration
that Egypt’s army is a neutral arbiter in the crisis and can lead a
“transition” to human rights and democracy. They also give the lie to the
claim that the military can be relied upon to protect the population from
the hated state security forces, an argument advanced by both Mohammed
ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood. The military has, in fact, assumed
the brutal role of the police and security forces, which have, at least in
part, dissolved in the face of the revolution.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 302 Egyptians have been killed
in the protests, the vast majority of these at the hands of the security
forces, pro-government thugs and the military. Heba Morayef, a researcher
for Human Rights Watch in Cairo who participated in the count, said that
the ultimate number will likely be far higher.

The number of the disappeared—those arrested by the military with no
record or official acknowledgement of their fate—runs into the hundreds,
possibly thousands, Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for
Personal Rights in Cairo, told the Guardian. Their “crimes” include
carrying political leaflets, attending demonstrations, “or even the way
they look,” the newspaper reports.

“Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or
detained for breaking curfew, to those who talked back at an army officer
or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like
foreigners even if they were not,” Bahgat said. “It’s unusual and to the
best of our knowledge it’s also unprecedented for the army to be doing

He continued, “Detentions either go completely unreported or they are
unable to inform their family members or any lawyer of their detention so
they are much more difficult to assist or look for. Those held by the
military police are not receiving any due process either because they are
unaccounted for and they are unable to inform anyone of their detention.”

One person who has vanished after being detained by the military near
Tahrir Square is Kareem Amer, a blogger and opponent of the Mubarak regime
who had only recently been released from a four-year prison sentence for
criticizing the regime.

As is the usual practice for the police and security forces, the military
is subjecting those arrested to torture. The Guardian spoke “to detainees
who say they have suffered extensive beatings and other abuses at the
hands of the military in what appears to be an organised campaign of
intimidation.” Among the documented forms of torture the newspaper
uncovered is the use of electrical shocks on prisoners.

Human Rights Watch reported the military abuse of one anonymous activist
who was stopped at a military checkpoint where a pro-democracy flier was
found in his bag.

“They started beating me up in the street [with] their rubber batons and
an electric Taser gun, shocking me,” the activist said. “Then they took me
to Abdin police station. By the time I arrived, the soldiers and officers
there had been informed that a ‘spy’ was coming, and so when I arrived
they gave me a ‘welcome beating’ that lasted some 30 minutes.”

He was then forced to undress, at which point cables from an “electric
shock machine” were attached to his body.

“He shocked me all over my body, leaving no place untouched. It wasn’t a
real interrogation; he didn’t ask that many questions. He tortured me
twice like this on Friday, and one more time on Saturday,” the man said.

The Guardian spoke with a 23-year-old man, Ashraf, who was detained by the
military on Friday for attempting to bring medical supplies to the
demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Cairo. He described his ordeal in a
makeshift prison at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities on the edge of
Tahrir Square.

“I was on a sidestreet and a soldier stopped me and asked me where I was
going. I told him and he accused me of working for foreign enemies and
other soldiers rushed over and they all started hitting me with their

“They put me in a room. An officer came and asked me who was paying me to
be against the government. When I said I wanted a better government he hit
me across the head and I fell to the floor. Then soldiers started kicking
me. One of them kept kicking me between my legs.

“They got a bayonet and threatened to rape me with it. Then they waved it
between my legs. They said I could die there or I could disappear into
prison and no one would ever know. The torture was painful but the idea of
disappearing in a military prison was really frightening.”

Ashraf, who did not give his last name for fear of reprisals, said that he
was beaten off and on for hours, before being placed in a room with about
a dozen other men who had been badly tortured.

Last week the military allowed pro-Mubarak thugs, many of them
plainclothes security forces, to attack demonstrators over the space of
three days with Molotov cocktails, iron rods, vehicles, horses, and even
guns. An unknown number were killed and scores were injured in these

Human rights organizations say that the military did not generally detain
the pro-Mubarak fighters, and when they did they have not been subject to
the same abuses as the demonstrators. Instead, they have been turned over
to the police and security forces—very likely their employers.

By Tom Eley on

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