In Egypt, detained children as young as 12 face horrors of 'machinery of repression'

In Egypt, detained children as young as 12 face horrors of 'machinery of repression'
Human Rights Watch and Egyptian NGO Belady have documented cases of torture against children as young as 12.
3 min read
23 March, 2020
HRW has documented torture against 15 Egyptian children [Getty]
Egyptian security forces under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have arbitrarily arrested, forcibly disappeared and tortured children as young as 12 while prosecutors and judges turned a blind eye, a leading rights group said on Monday.

"Children are describing being waterboarded and electrocuted on their tongues and genitals, and yet Egypt's security forces are facing no consequences," said Bill Van Esveld, associate children's rights director at Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based rights group has called on the United States, France and other European Union countries to halt their support to Egyptian security forces until Cairo takes steps to end the abuses and hold those responsible to account.

"Governments that want to end these horrors should end support to Egyptian security services and condition any future agreements on there being real reforms," Van Esveld said.

Human Rights Watch said it documented abuses against 20 children who were aged between 12 and 17 when they were arrested.

Fifteen of them said they were tortured in pre-trial detention, usually during interrogation while held incommunicado.

Seven children said security officers tortured them with electricity, including stun guns, the group added in its 43-page report.

The group quoted a boy arrested aged-16 as telling a relative that he worried he might "never marry or be able to have children" because of what security officials had done to him in detention.

HRW said it and Belady, a non-governmental organisation aiding street children, corroborated statements from the children, their families and defence lawyers, using court documents, appeals to authorities, medical records, and videos.
"The harrowing accounts of these children and their families reveal how Egypt's machinery of repression has subjected children to grave abuses," said Aya Hijazi, co-director of Belady.

Hijazi is a dual US-Egyptian citizen who has been held in detention for nearly three years over accusations related to work with the NGO Belady, which is Arabic for "our nation".

She was arrested along with her husband and six others in May 2014 on charges of abusing children; she was acquitted and released three years later. 

According to the HRW's report, Belal B. was 17 years old when Egyptian security officers arrested him and put him in solitary confinement at a Cairo police station.

"I knew nothing about my parents and they knew nothing about me," he was quoted by HRW as saying. Officers then "tied me to a chair for three days", causing severe pain, he added.

The group said Egypt's criminal justice system has failed to "seriously investigate the children's allegations of torture and ill-treatment".

The report alleged that a prosecutor in one case threatened to send a boy "back to the officer" who had tortured him if the boy refused to make a confession.

Egypt launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent after Sisi seized power in a 2013 military coup from Mohammed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected but divisive president.  

Sisi's regime has imposed tight control of the media and rolled back freedoms won in the 2011 revolution, jailing thousands of Islamists and secular, pro-democracy advocates.

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