- In her book, "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush
Gang Has Defied the Law," Marjorie Cohn quoted a former CIA agent
- "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a
prisoner to Jordan. If you want them tortured, you send them to Syria.
If you want someone to disappear....you send them to Egypt."
- In fact, Egypt under Mubarak and current military leadership
is proficient in all of the above. These practices go on daily but unmentioned
in US media reports, claiming September elections promise democracy, when,
in fact, everything changed but stayed the same.
- Each year, the State Department publishes human rights
reports on over 190 countries. Its complete one on Egypt can be accessed
through the following link:
- It bears repeating that practices under Mubarak continue,
including harsh crackdowns, mass arrests and torture of protesters and
others challenging regime authority. Emerging democracy in Egypt is nowhere
in sight - never, in fact, as long as its military has dominant power,
with or without the facade of elected civilians.
- That said, the State Department's report covered disturbing
human rights violations, explaining them by category.
- Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
- Security forces "committed arbitrary or unlawful
killings during the year." Examples include a 27-year old businessman
beaten to death in Alexandria, a 19-year old disappeared and murdered in
November, and violent clashes that month with Coptic Christians in Giza,
killing two and injuring dozens.
- In January, security forces attacked other Coptics with
automatic weapons after Orthodox Christmas Mass. Seven died, 11 more wounded.
Numerous other examples highlight state violence against targeted individuals
or groups. Egypt, in fact, is a military junta run police state, tolerating
no opposition to its rule.
- According to the UN Human Rights Council, dozens were
reported, families given contradictory or no information on the whereabouts
of their loved ones.
- Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
- "Police, security personnel, and prison guards often
tortured and abused prisoners and detainees," some held under Egypt's
notorious Emergency Law, in place since 1967, authorizing indefinite detentions.
"The government rarely (holds) security officials accountable, and
(they) often (operate) with impunity."
- Domestic and international human rights groups say Egypt's
SSIS (State Security Investigations Service), police, and military use
torture to extract confessions, including by:
- -- stripping and blindfolding victims;
- -- suspending them by their wrists and ankles in painful
positions, or from ceilings or door frames with feet barely touching the
- -- beatings with fists, whips, metal rods, and other
- -- electric shocks;
- -- dousing detainees with cold water;
- -- sleep deprivation;
- -- sexual abuse, including sodomy; and
- -- other forms of torture.
- A previous article explained the following:
- According to Human Right Watch (HRW) and London Guardian
reports, the professed neutrality and public persona of Egypt's military
belie its harshness.
- On February 9, Guardian writer Chris McGreal headlined,
"Egypt's army 'involved in detentions and torture,' " saying:
- Military forces "secretly detained hundreds and
possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass (anti-Mubarak)
protests began, (and) at least some of these detainees have been tortured,
according to testimonies gathered by the Guardian."
- Moreover, HRW and other human rights organizations cited
years of army involvement in disappearances and torture. Former detainees
confirmed "extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the
military in what appears to be an organized campaign of intimidation."
Electric shocks, Taser guns, threatened rapes, beatings, disappearances,
and perhaps killings left families grieving for loved ones.
- On February 17, Amnesty International (AI) reported released
prisoners saying military personnel used beatings, whippings, electric
shocks and other forms of torture and abuse to intimidate them, extract
confessions, and get information about others involved in protests.
- AI said:
- "The military authorities must intervene to end
torture and other abuse of detainees, which we now know to have been taking
place in military custody."
- The worst of these practices continue daily.
- HRW researcher Heba Morayef said, "I think it's
become pretty obvious by now that the military is not a neutral party.
The military doesn't want and doesn't believe in the protests and this
is even at the lower level, based on the interrogations."
- Allied with Washington, the Pentagon and US intelligence,
it supports power, not populist change, a dark reality street protesters
better grasp to know what's coming from a post-Mubarak regime after elections.
Unless challenged, promised reforms will leave entrenched policies in place,
enforcing predatory capitalism and police state harshness, what Americans
also endure under friendly-face leaders.
- Prison and Detention Center Conditions
- Understating their harshness, the State Department called
them "poor," including overcrowding, inferior medicare care,
bad hygiene, awful food and enough of it, clean water, proper ventilation,
adequate temperature control, and other conditions conforming with international
- As a result, TB and other diseases are widespread. Abuse
is common, and youths are treated like adults.
- Arbitrary Arrests or Detention
- Though prohibited under Egypt's constitution, hundreds,
perhaps thousands, are affected without charge under Emergency Law provisions.
- Police and Security Forces
- Egypt's SSIS conducts investigations. Its paramilitary
CSF (Central Security Forces) maintains public order.
- "There was no systematic prosecution of security
personnel who committed human rights abuses, and impunity (is) a problem."
Few accused of torture are investigated, prosecuted or punished.
- Arrest Procedures and Treatment in Detention
- Emergency Law arrests and indefinite detentions are common,
those held kept incommunicado without access to family members or counsel
before facing trial. Many are tortured.
- Denial of Fair Public Trials
- In violation of constitutional law, Egypt's judiciary
is "subject to executive influence and corruption....State security
courts....share jurisdiction with military (ones for matters) affecting
national security." As a result, defendants aren't afforded due process
protections. Guilty as charged usually prevails.
- Trial Procedures
- Trials are public without juries. Observers need permission
to attend. Human rights activists are excluded from most military trials.
Lawyers get inadequate access to defendants. Justice at best is hit or
miss, mostly the latter.
- Political Prisoners and Detainees
- Thousands are held at any time without charge indefinitely
without access to human rights organizations. Civilians courts also lack
independence, especially for politically high-profile cases.
- Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
- In violation of constitutional law, privacy of homes,
correspondence, telephone calls, emails, and other means of communication
are routinely violated. Moreover, under Egypt's Emergency Law, wiretaps,
warrantless searches, property seizures, mail intercepts, and other privacy
intrusions routinely occur.
- Speech and Media Freedom
- Though constitutionally guaranteed, they're commonly
violated through harassment, censorship, arrests, prosecutions, and detentions.
Opposition political groups, human rights activists, democracy advocates,
and independent journalists are especially at risk.
- Moreover, Egypt's Ministry of Information owns, controls
and operates all ground-based domestic television and radio stations, replacing
real reporting with managed news. Independent newspapers and other publications
are also targeted for revealing abuses of power. So are authors of books
critical of government policies.
- "The Emergency Law authorizes censorship for reasons
of public safety and national security."
- Internet Freedom
- Around one-fifth of Egyptians have access, including
over 165,000 bloggers, about 20% focusing on politics. Monitoring is routine
and occasionally sites are blocked or shut. Moreover, some bloggers and
Internet activists are harassed, intimidated, arrested, prosecuted and
- Academic and Cultural Freedom
- Academic freedom is severely restricted, using various
means, including by installing school administrators to enforce government
policies. Students are also routinely harassed and arrested. Moreover,
Egypt's Ministry of Culture must approve all scripts and final productions
of plays and films, including foreign ones.
- Freedom of Assembly
- Though constitutionally guaranteed, it's commonly restricted.
"Citizens must obtain approval from the Ministry of Interior before
holding public meetings, rallies, and protest marches." Violators
are harassed, beaten, arrested, prosecuted and detained.
- Freedom of Association
- It's also restricted though guaranteed by law.
- Freedom of Religion
- Again, it's constitutionally guaranteed but some practices
are restricted. "The status of respect for religious freedom by the
government remained poor...."
- Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection
of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
- Freedom of movement is mostly, but not entirely respected.
For example, travel in designated military zones is prohibited, and males
who haven't completed compulsory military service can't travel abroad or
emigrate. Moreover, no legislative framework exists for granting asylum,
and refugees are only admitted short-term, provided the UNHCR assumes full
- Respect for Political Rights
- Electoral procedures are constitutionally mandated, but
in practice they're easily subverted. Mubarak, for example, ruled for almost
30 years, easily winning "elections" with overwhelming personal
and parliamentary majorities despite governing despotically.
- Official Corruption and Government Transparency
- It's prevalent at lower levels and rampant at higher
ones. Mubarak is believed to have stolen billions. A February 4 London
Guardian Phillip Inman article suggested his wealth approached $70 billion
in UK and Swiss banks, as well as US, UK, and Sharm el-Sheikh property.
His sons, Gamal and Alaa, are also billionaires. Like other global despots
and many corporate bosses, he made his money the old-fashioned way. He
stole it, stashing most discretely offshore.
- Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
- Despite constitutional protections, these practices commonly
exist. Moreover, no prohibitions against domestic violence or spousal abuse
exist, despite both being significant ongoing problems. Moreover, sexual
harassment isn't criminalized, nor sex tourism in Luxor, Sharm El-Sheikh
or other tourist areas. A shocking 2008 report found 83% of Egyptian women
and 98% of foreign ones faced daily sexual harassment and/or abuse.
- Persons with Disabilities
- Discrimination commonly exists despite legal requirements
for businesses to fill 5% of their positions with physically or mentally
disabled persons. Overall, widespread societal discrimination exists.
- Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
- HIV/AIDS positive individuals, gays, and lesbians are
socially stigmatized in society.
- Worker Rights
- A previous article explained poverty wages, few benefits,
high unemployment, the state-controlled Trade Union Federation (TUC) subordinating
worker rights to demands of government and private sector enterprises,
prohibition of strikes and collective bargaining, corruption, mismanagement,
mistreatment, short-term contracts for temporary workers, and other job
- A Final Comment
- Overall, the State Department's report reveals disturbing
civil and human rights violations, continuing unabated since Mubarak's
ouster. As a result, anyone challenging military junta rule faces harassment,
arrest, detention, torture, and imprisonment.
- Expect little change after scheduled September elections,
installing new faces to continue old practices, unless sustained Arab spring
fervor achieves otherwise, a dim prospect but possible.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays
at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs
are archived for easy listening.