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Amnesty: Egypt disappearing, torturing children

November 21, 2018 at 1:41 pm

A “40,000 Detainees Without Charge, Children, Girls, Youth” poster held by demonstrators during a protest marking the fourth anniversary of Rabaa Al-Adawiya massacre in Times Square, New York, United States on 13 August 2017 [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

New findings released by Amnesty International have laid bare the Egyptian government’s violations against children, including forcibly disappearing and torturing minors.

Released on the occasion of World Children’s Day yesterday, Amnesty has collected evidence documenting at least six children who have been tortured in custody, and a further 12 who have been disappeared from their families since 2015.

“These findings reveal how Egyptian authorities have subjected children to horrific violations including torture, prolonged solitary confinement and enforced disappearance for periods of up to seven months, demonstrating an absolutely shameful disregard for children’s rights,” Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa campaigns director, said.

“It is particularly outrageous that Egypt, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the rights of the child, is breaching the rights of children so flagrantly.”

Six families interviewed by Amnesty and the Egyptian Front for Human Rights told of how their children were severely beaten while detained by the authorities; they were also suspended by their limbs and given electric shocks on their genitalia and other parts of their body. In some cases, children were also made to confess to crimes that they did not commit.

Abdallah Boumidan was one such child; he was 12 years old when he was arrested in December 2017 by the Egyptian military in Arish City in Northern Sinai and was then forcibly disappeared and tortured. He was held incommunicado for seven months before being charged with “membership of a terrorist group” and transferred to solitary confinement, where his medical situation severely deteriorated.

READ: 40 human rights workers arrested since October 2018, says HRW

Children have also been subject to unfair trials, some in front of military courts, by being questioned without lawyers or parents present, and with the courts using information obtained through torture. At least three children have been sentenced to death following three different trials – two of the sentences have been overturned, another is pending appeal.

Amnesty has called on Egyptian authorities to release all children that have been arbitrarily detained.

The authorities must also quash any sentences issued to children in adult courts or after unfair trials and retry these children in juvenile courts,” Bounaim said. “Any allegations of torture or enforced disappearance must be investigated and those responsible must be brought to justice.”

International NGOs have condemned Egypt’s worsening human rights record since the ousting of democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Amnesty has previously described the situation in Egypt as the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades, with the state systematically using arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence any criticism of the government.

READ: Egypt upholds death sentence against 80-year-old Quran tutor

Egypt has justified its crackdown on opponents as necessary to protect national security. Last year, the Egyptian government pledged to take action against Human Rights Watch after it released a damning report on state torture. The Egyptian Human Rights Committee denied the allegations, claiming that no political prisoners had ever reported incidents of mistreatment.

Two weeks later, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi told US officials in New York that human rights should not be judged from a Western perspective, arguing that Egypt had taken numerous measures to ensure the economic and social well-being of its citizens.