At least 840 people were killed and 6,000 were injured mostly by police and other security forces during the “25 January Revolution” which forced President Hosni Mubarak to leave office in February. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), headed by Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, replaced Hosni Mubarak, who was put on trial with his sons and other officials. However, there were continuing protests; the army and the police responded in some cases with excessive force. The SCAF released political prisoners and allowed the registration of previously banned political parties and independent trades unions, but maintained the 30-year state of emergency, criminalized strikes, tightened restrictions on the media and used military courts to try and sentence more than 12,000 civilians, many of them arrested in connection with continuing protests over what they saw as the slow pace of reform. Hosni Mubarak’s notorious State Security Investigations (SSI) police force was disbanded, but torture of detainees remained common and widespread and took on a shocking new dimension when a number of women were forced by army officers to undergo “virginity tests” in detention. The army forcibly evicted residents of informal settlements (slums) in Cairo and elsewhere, as well as squatters who sought shelter in empty public housing. Women participated prominently in the protests but continued to face discrimination in both law and practice. Discrimination persisted against religious minorities, particularly Coptic Christians. At least 123 death sentences were imposed and at least one person was executed. Border guards continued to shoot migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers seeking to cross Egypt’s Sinai border into Israel. Twenty were reported killed in 2011, including at the border with Sudan; others were prosecuted or forcibly returned to countries where they were at risk of serious human rights violations. Some were reportedly victims of human trafficking.
President Mubarak resigned on 11 February after 30 years in power following 18 days of mass, largely peaceful protests across Egypt to which the security forces responded with lethal and other excessive force. According to official reports, at least 840 people were killed or died in connection with the protests and more than 6,000 others were injured. Thousands were detained; many were tortured or abused. The military assumed power, in the form of the SCAF, but appointed interim civilian prime ministers and government ministers pending parliamentary elections that began in November and were to be completed in early 2012. Presidential elections were promised for mid-2012.
Immediately after Hosni Mubarak’s fall, the SCAF suspended the 1971 Constitution, dissolved parliament and issued a Constitutional Declaration guaranteeing a number of rights. It also released hundreds of administrative detainees. In March, the powerful but long-banned Muslim Brotherhood and other proscribed organizations were allowed to register and operate lawfully, and subsequently contested the parliamentary elections. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, emerged as the strongest party in early election results. Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party was dissolved in April.
In March, the Interior Ministry acceded to weeks of pressure from protesters and disbanded the SSI, the security police force notorious for torture and other abuses. Before the disbanding, activists broke into the SSI headquarters in Alexandria and Cairo after news spread that SSI officers were destroying evidence of human rights abuses. The SSI was replaced by the National Security Agency; it was unclear whether any vetting mechanism was established to prevent the recruitment or transfer of SSI officers implicated in torture or other human rights violations. The head of the SSI was, however, charged in connection with the killings of protesters in January and February.
The SCAF maintained the national state of emergency and in September expanded the Emergency Law to criminalize acts such as blocking roads, broadcasting rumours, and actions deemed to constitute “assault on freedom to work”. Amendments to the Penal Code stiffened the penalties for “thuggery”, kidnapping and rape, up to the death penalty, and Law 34 of 2011 was enacted, criminalizing strikes and any form of protest deemed to “obstruct work”. After violence in October that killed 28 people, mostly Copts, the SCAF prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender, origin, language, religion or belief.Top of page
Despite the dissolution of the SSI, whose officials had committed torture with impunity, there were continuing allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by the police and armed forces, and a number of detainees died in custody in suspicious circumstances. In June, the Public Prosecutor set up a committee of three judges to examine torture complaints. While some of the torture allegations against the police were investigated, none of those against the armed forces was adequately investigated or led to prosecution.
From 28 January, when the army was deployed to police demonstrations after the police were withdrawn from the streets, people accused of protest-related offences and violence were tried before military courts rather than ordinary criminal courts, even though those accused were civilians. The military courts were neither independent nor impartial. By August, according to the military judiciary, some 12,000 people had been tried before military courts on charges such as “thuggery”, curfew violations, damage to property and “insulting the army” or “obstructing work”. Many were released with a suspended prison sentence or after a pardon, but thousands remained in detention at the end of the year.
The security forces used lethal and other excessive force against demonstrators before the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Prison guards also shot and killed some sentenced prisoners. Subsequently, the army, military police and central security forces continued to use force, including excessive force, to disperse renewed protests by demonstrators angry and frustrated at the slow pace of political and human rights reform. On some occasions, demonstrators were attacked by and clashed with “thugs” – armed men in plain clothes believed to be linked to the police or supporters of the former ruling party. In many cases, the security forces fired tear gas, shotgun pellets and rubber bullets at demonstrators recklessly; they also fired live ammunition and on at least one occasion drove armoured vehicles at and over protesters.
Before the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the authorities sought to hamper protesters’ efforts to organize by ordering the cutting of telephone and internet lines. Under the SCAF, new restrictions were imposed on the media, and the security forces raided TV stations and threatened journalists and bloggers with imprisonment. The SCAF also took action targeting human rights NGOs.
The authorities said that they were examining the legal registration and funding of some 37 human rights organizations and that the Supreme State Security prosecution was considering whether to bring “treason” or “conspiracy” charges against those deemed to be operating without being registered, to have received funding from abroad without the authorities’ consent, or to have engaged in “unpermitted” political activity. The Central Bank ordered all banks to provide details of the financial transactions of NGOs and individual activists to the Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice. In December, security forces raided some 17 human rights NGOs and seized their computers and documents.Top of page
Women continued to face discrimination in law and in practice, yet played a prominent role in the protests, both before and following the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Some women activists and journalists were targeted for sexual and other abuse.
The SCAF ended the quota system in the election law that had previously reserved 64 parliamentary seats (12 per cent) for women; instead, it required that every political party include at least one woman on its list of electoral candidates but without requiring that she be high on the list.Top of page
There was a rise in communal violence between Muslims and Coptic Christians, who remained subject to discrimination and felt themselves inadequately protected by the authorities. Sectarian attacks on Copts and their churches by alleged Islamists appeared to increase after the SCAF assumed power, and the killings of Copts at the Maspero demonstration in October exacerbated tensions.
The authorities prosecuted some of those allegedly responsible for orchestrating the killings in January and February but otherwise failed to deliver justice to the relatives of those killed and to people injured during the “25 January Revolution”. Police and other members of the security forces charged with or implicated in the killings or wounding of protesters remained in their posts or were transferred to administrative posts within the Ministry of Interior; many reportedly sought to pressurize or induce families and witnesses to withdraw complaints. Members of the armed forces and the police committed human rights abuses, including torture and unlawful killing, with impunity.
Thousands of people continued to live in localities within informal settlements in Cairo and elsewhere that have been officially designated as “unsafe areas” for residence due to rock falls and other dangers. The residents were also at risk of forced eviction. The army forcibly evicted residents from some “unsafe areas” and also forcibly evicted squatters seeking shelter in empty state housing; those evicted were not consulted or given reasonable notice, and were often left homeless.
Official plans to rehouse residents of “unsafe areas” were devised by governorates in collaboration with the Informal Settlements Development Facility (ISDF), a fund established in 2008, but affected residents were not consulted or even given details of the plans. The Cairo 2050 plan was not published or submitted for full consultation with the communities living in informal settlements who are likely to be most affected, although in August the Housing Ministry affirmed that the plan would not lead to forced evictions.
In the aftermath of the “25 January Revolution”, there was an upsurge of squatting in empty government buildings. Local authorities responded by calling in the army and riot police to forcibly evict the squatters, which they did without warning.
Security forces continued to shoot foreign migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers who sought to cross Egypt’s Sinai border into Israel, killing at least 10 people. They also killed 10 Eritreans who sought to enter Egypt from Sudan. Many others were shot and injured, some seriously, or arrested and tried before military courts for “illegal entry” and sentenced to prison terms. At least 83 refugees and asylum-seekers were deported to countries where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations; many were Eritreans. More than 100 refugees and asylum-seekers remained at risk of forcible return at the end of the year.
People-traffickers reportedly extorted, raped, tortured and killed refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants crossing the Sinai Peninsula into Israel, as well as forcibly removing their organs to sell on the black market.Top of page
At least 123 people were sentenced to death, including at least 17 who were sentenced after unfair trials before military courts. At least one person was executed.