Egypt: abuses under state of emergency

State Security Police archives of files including monitoring reports on citizens and and activists

State Security Police archives of files including monitoring reports on citizens and and activists

© © Hossam el-Hamalawy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Under the cover of a 30-year state of emergency, Egypt’s security forces, in particular the now dissolved State Security Investigations (SSI) service, have committed gross human rights violations.

A hallmark of the repression has been a system of detaining people without charge or trial, sometimes for more than 10 years, on the basis of administrative orders by the Minister of Interior under emergency and anti-terrorism laws. This has deprived thousands of individuals of their liberty when there was no intention of prosecuting them. In cases documented by Amnesty International, administrative detainees were not informed of the reason for their arrest, many were wrongfully denied their rights to contact with the outside world and to legal assistance. Some disappeared for months. Victims included government critics and opponents, human rights activists and criminal suspects.

Torture of detainees has been routine and allowed to continue with virtual impunity. Methods have included electric shocks, beatings, suspensions, whipping and sleep deprivation.
The Emergency Law and other related measures also suspended some constitutional rights, allowed the creation of exceptional courts, circumscribed opposition activity and civil society organizations, and legalized censorship.

Other restrictive measures include the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Law, which provides an extremely broad definition of terrorism that can be – and has been – used to criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

President Mubarak ousted

In early 2011, millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest against the 30-year-old state of emergency, poverty, corruption and police brutality. On 11 February, after three weeks of mass demonstrations, President Hosni Mubarak was toppled.

In March, SSI premises were the focus of renewed demonstrations following reports that SSI officers were destroying evidence of past human rights abuses. Shortly after, the Interior Ministry abolished the SSI and announced a new national security body. No details have been given as to whether SSI officers were vetted before being integrated into the new force or whether any will be investigated for past human rights violations.

To uproot the culture of human rights abuses and impunity in Egypt, past violations must be addressed and measures taken to ensure truth, justice and reparations for the victims and their relatives.

Amnesty International is campaigning for:

  •  The state of emergency to be ended and all provisions of the Emergency Law to be repealed.
  •  The immediate establishment of an independent and impartial inquiry into human rights abuses committed by the SSI.
  •  Victims to receive reparations, including financial compensation and guarantees of non-repetition.
  •  An overhaul of Egypt’s security apparatus to ensure that members of the security forces are not above the law.

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