FIDH Denounces Crackdown on Antiwar Demonstrators in Egypt and Reported Torture During Detention

(A Press Release Issued By International Human Rights Federation)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 27, 2003

Paris, 26 March 2003 - The FIDH condemns the violent assault, arrest and reported torture of demonstrators which occurred in Egypt following the demonstrations against the war in Iraq, since Tuesday, March 20, in Tahrir Square of dowtown Cairo, Al-Azhr University, Cairo University, and at the Bar Association. Hundreds of demonstrators who were protesting against the war and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian territories were violently dispersed and arrested by the police. Police forces used sticks, water hoses, tear gas bombs and police dogs against the demonstrators. Once again, the Egyptian authorities violated the right to demonstrate and to peaceful assembly by using disproportionate force against peaceful demonstrators, and arresting them. Among those arrested are opposition members of Parliament, lawyers, antiwar students and journalists, NGO activists and at least three minors. The Bar association was also attacked, and several lawyers have been detained.

According to the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) and Human Rights Watch, many of those who have appeared before prosecutors have been charged with participating in an assembly consisting of more than five people without a permit –a crime under Egyptian law.

Although it is difficult to know the exact number of people arrested and detained throughout the country, EOHR is following the case of 58 detainees arrested in Cairo, including three juveniles and five women. Prosecutors ordered the detention of 43 defendants for 15 days and 12 for 4 days pending investigation. According to the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, in Azbakeyya, prosecutors examining detainees acknowledged that at least four had serious injuries.

The FIDH also fears for the physical integrity of those detained: several sources have reported the widespread use of torture against detainees, including the use of electroshock torture.

In Egypt, over the last months, the authorities have been using Egypt's state of emergency law to administratively detain people who participated in demonstration against war in Iraq. The repression seems to have escalated since the beginning of the war in Iraq.

The FIDH wishes to express its concern at the increasing use by the Egyptian authorities of the state of emergency Law No 162 of 1958, recently renewed, which enables them to suspend basic civil liberties and is used to suppress freedom of expression (see open letter Open Letter to President Hosni Mubarak, 27 February 2003).

The FIDH calls upon the Egyptian authorities countries to :

- Put an end to all forms of harassment against demonstrators and activists, who are exercising their legitimate right to collective peaceful expression.

- Release the people detained and guarantee their physical integrity.

- Drop the charges against them, which are arbitrary since they sanction the exercise of freedom of expression and demonstration.

- Respect the freedoms of expression, of opinion and demonstration, as guaranteed by international instruments to which Egypt is party, and in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Press contact :

Gaël Grilhot + 33