Tortured and Imprisoned: Children are Unsafe in Sisi’s Egypt

September 21, 2019

Children pay the price of the political struggle. If the systematic targeting of human rights defenders, protesters, and the use of death sentence following unfair trials continue in Egypt, human rights, especially children's rights, will continue to be gravely violated.
A woman holds a placard as a group of protesters stage a protest against President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi outside the Chancellery during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany on October 30, 2018. AA

According to a report published by Amnesty International on June 21, 2019, an Egyptian court issued a death penalty to Karim Hamada who was 17 years old when he was arrested during a raid on his home in Giza in November, 2016. According to documents obtained by Amnesty International, Karim Hamada was forcibly disappeared for 42 days within which he was tortured with electric shocks in order to obtain a forced confession. Karim was accused of attacking a tourist bus in Giza Governorate in the Greater Cairo in Egypt. This case included 26 defendants among which eleven were children aged 15-18 years old who are now waiting verdicts issued by the Egyptian Supreme Court. 

This report revealed that the Egyptian lower courts have sentenced at least three individuals to death for crime which happened whilst they were under 18 years old, before the sentences were overturned by higher courts. These sentences were applied despite violating Egyptian laws which ban the application of the death penalty against juvenile wrongdoers according to Article 111 of Egypt’s Child Law. However, Article 122 of the Child Law includes a loophole that permits death sentences for children. It stipulates that if mass trials are held by Egyptian courts, including where hundreds of defendants are responsible for one alleged criminal offence, and if there is even only one adult among the defendants, any children aged over 15-years-old among those defendants will not be referred to a juvenile court due to the presence of adult accomplices.

According to the report, another Egyptian child, Aser Mohamed was aged 14-years-old when he was sentenced to incommunicado detention for 34 days, and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment if convicted. Aser was arrested by Egyptian authorities in January, 2016. Aser says that he was tortured using electric shocks by the National Security Agency. He also said he was hung up by his limbs for hours in order to confess a crime that he did not commit. Aser said also that he was threatened by the public prosecutor that he would be sent back to the National Security Agency if he did not confess to committing the alleged crime. Both Karim and Aser faced many charges alleged to have occurred between mid-2015 and February 2016 such as being members of a terrorist group, as well as the use of force, possession of firearms and assaulting police officers. Both of them were under 18 years old at the time the crimes were alleged to have been committed. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) commenting on the incident, stated that prolonged pre-trial detention of children is a grave violation of international law. 

On November 20, 2018, Amnesty International published a report outlining children rights violations committed by the Egyptian authorities under the Sisi administration. Amnesty detailed the detention of six Egyptian children. The families of the children said that their children were beaten and tortured mercilessly to confess to committing crimes they did not do. They were detained in small cells that lacked proper lighting, ventilation or beds, forcing them to sleep on the floor, and were sometimes prohibited from using toilets when they needed them. They were also provided insufficient food. The children were not given fair trials as they were not allowed to have their lawyers present during their questioning. However, Egypt’s State Information Service issued a press release in response to Amnesty’s findings denying that any violations against children have taken place. It stated that Amnesty International’s information was “not based on well-grounded sources” and did not provide “reliable evidence” to validate its claims of torture and enforced disappearance, arguing that it had complied with Egyptian and international law. 

One of those innocent children, Abdallah Boumidan, was 12-years-old when he was arrested in December 2017 by the Egyptian military in Arish City in Northern Sinai. Afterwards, he was forcibly disappeared and severely tortured. He was held incommunicado for seven months before facing charges which included being a member of a terrorist group. He was transferred to solitary confinement, where his medical situation badly deteriorated. 

According to an earlier report by Amnesty International in 2018, twenty two children were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from five to fifteen years by the Cairo Criminal Court for participating in the sit-in protest at Cairo’s Rabaa- Al-Adawiya square. This protest was broken up by the Egyptian authorities and became one of the largest massacres in modern history with over 817 people killed.

In July 2019, Human Rights Monitor (HRM) reported that in the past six years since Sisi’s military coup against the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi, who passed away in a courtroom on June 17, 2019, Egyptian authorities have been committing severe human rights and children’s rights violations ranging from illegal systematic torture, widespread enforced disappearances, and murder of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as massacres such those committed in sit-ins both in Rabaa and Nahda squares. HRM called on the international community to take the necessary measures to hold those perpetrators accountable, bring them to justice, put an end to these practices, and to compensate the victims.

Another report published by HRM on April 2, 2019 recorded severe violations of children’s rights in Egypt including: detention without a judicial authorization, arbitrary abductions, torture inside places of residence, as well as by Egyptian police and security personnel. The report noted that the number of detained Egyptian children has reached more than 2200 while 400 of them are still under arrest. It reported that more than 950 children were subjected to cruel, psychological and physical torture and there were 78 cases of sexual violence against children in Egypt. HMR called on the United Nations and the international community for accountability for those involved in these violations against children, stressing that the continuation of violations and crimes against children requires criminal prosecution and investigation and that collusion and the cover up of these crimes increases tension in Egypt.A report published by ‘My Country for Freedoms and rights’ showed that in 2017 a total of 889 recorded cases of child violations were made against 461 children. 418 of them were males, 31 were females while the identity of the remaining 13 children was unknown. In this period, 89 children faced charges over political issues, participating in protests or demonstrations. Verdicts were issued by the court against 49 children. Fifty-two children were found to be forcibly disappeared while being exposed to physical coercion and medical negligence. The report also showed that there were 61 children who were tortured to such an extent they acquired a disability. The report also showed that 66 children were sentenced to death illegally, and that provinces of Cairo, Giza and Alexandria had the largest share of the violations committed against the children.

According to the report, violations committed against children included: extra judicial killings, enforced confinement, beating and injuring torturing to the extent of disability, medical negligence, kidnapping, illegal detention, arrest without warrant, questioning without lawyers, death penalty, sentence to imprisonment, sentence to life imprisonment, the decision to repeat confinement and so many other violations that are committed by the Egyptian authorities. The statistics gathered by the organization found that repeat confinement has been the most common violation by the authorities against the children. The report revealed that throughout the 2017, fifty-one children whose ages ranged from 15 to 18 and one only 14-years-old were forcibly disappeared by Egyptian authorities. One of those children is Omar Al-Sayed A-Haty. According to his mother’s witness, Omar was kidnapped on December 5, 2015. It was reported that he was tortured through the use of electric shocks and was forced to drink excessive amounts of water until he fainted. The authorities thinking him dead, threw him on a rural street where he later regained his consciousness. Omar was again kidnapped while he was in a bookstore and he was threatened. He was also incorrectly arrested by the police force when he was in preparatory school.

According to unofficial statistics, there are about 4.000 children that have been arrested since 2013 and 800 of them are still in detention. One of them is Anas Husameldien Badawy who was arrested when he was 13 years old. He was forcibly disappeared for about a year and a half until it was known that he was in al-Ismailiye Prison. He is still under arrest. Yusuf Khalid Hussein was 15-years-old when he was arrested by the authorities. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment. He has spent four years in prison and has a year left until his release. Another child is Yahya Ahmed Ali Serag. He was 16 years old when he was placed under arrest. While Ahmed Baumi Mansour was 15-years-old when he was detained, he was sentenced to prison for seven years and has already completed four and a half years in detention. His family say that his life is at risk as he acquired a serious illness after medical negligence from prison authorities. 

According to Rassd Website, Mohammed Al-Shimi was 10-years-old when he was shot by police when they stormed the village of Mansouriya in 2015. He was then arrested from Sheikh Zayed Hospital near Cairo just hours after undergoing serious surgery to treat his injuries. He was transferred to the Central Security Camp on the Egypt-Alexandria Desert Road.

An earlier report by the United Nations on July 22, 2015 recorded that there were more than 3.200 Egyptian children who were placed under arrest by the authorities between June, 30, 2013 until May 2015 and that these violations have occurred since the start of the military coup. The UN Arbitrary Detention Panel issued a decision in May 2015 in which it considered that the arbitrary detention of children in Egypt was “systematic and widespread” after considering the complaint filed by the Karama Foundation on the case of the detention of 16-year-old Ahmed Taha. “He was tortured by electric shocks immediately after his arrest at his detention place in Nasr City’s first section to force him to confess that he was one of the manufacturers of weapons used to attack security personnel Ahmed’s mother said, adding that she was surprised by the media reporting about him by showing photos of the children with some weapons in front of him.Another case is that of Alaa and her father Yasser Faruk were forcibly disappeared by Egyptian national security on 3 August 2019 for 24 days. Alaa was brought before the prosecution and whilst in detention, the 17-year-old Alaa told lawyers that she was forced to listen to her father being tortured by national security forces, and was threatened with torture herself if she refused to confess joining and funding the Muslim Brotherhood. A group that was labelled a terrorist group by Egyptian authorities after Sisi’s military coup.

There are now more than 45.000 political detainees in Egypt. Their children are often neglected in news stories and suffer psychologically from being separated from their parents. The case of Hams and Hamiya however have captured attention. The two girls aged six and eight stay in front one Egypt’s worst prisons, called Al Karap or the “Scorpion prison”. They wait outside for their parents who were detained by Egyptian state security. Their father, Hassan Al Kapany is a journalist who was accused of spreading ‘fake news’. He is under arrest since 2015. While their mother, Aya Alaa, also a journalist, was detained by the police who accused her of contacting news challenges opposing Sisi’s regime. The girls have no relatives to take care of them, and authorities have left them to fend for themselves in the streets. This is not the first time such a miserable scene has occurred in Egypt. 

All reports clearly illustrate that innocent Egyptian children suffer under Sisi’s plan to crush the opposition across the country. So far, 10 children have been issued the death penalty under Sisi’s regime. Children pay the price of the political struggle between the coupists and the opposition groups, especially Muslim Brotherhood members who are frequently tortured, detained, and killed by the regime. Sisi’s crackdown on human rights, which he launched right after the 2013 military coup worsens every day. If the systematic targeting of human rights defenders, protesters, and the use of death sentence following unfair trials continue in Egypt, it seems that human rights, especially children’s rights, will continue to be gravely violated.

*Written by Rahma Elfeky – ISTANBUL

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