Since the military coup carried out by the Egyptian army against the elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, a brutal and oppressive campaign has been launched across the country. The police and national security affiliated to the Ministry of Interior have used arbitrary arrest, maltreatment and torture against hundreds of children. Human Rights Watch has issued a lengthy report entitled “No One Cared He Was a Child…Egyptian Security Forces’ Abuse of Children in Detention,” which documents the abuses carried out against Egypt’s children under the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The report documents human rights violations committed by Egyptian security officials against 20 child prisoners. All of them were arrested and prosecuted allegedly for participating in protests or political violence. The authorities arrested the children in several places across the country, including Alexandria, Cairo, Damietta, Giza, Ismailia, Mansoura, North Sinai, and Sharqiyah, which means that this is a systematic process, not a mistake. Human Rights Watch said: “The cases documented in this report represent a fraction of the hundreds of cases of abuse by Egyptian security forces against children and other detainees, including children investigated on suspicion of homosexual conduct. All available information indicates that arbitrary detention and violations against detainees, including children, under al-Sisi’s government, have been widespread and systematic practices.”
Torture and ill-treatment
Fourteen of the children whose cases are documented in this report said they were tortured in pre-trial detention, usually during interrogation. One child was verbally threatened into confessing to crimes, and another was badly beaten by prison guards. One boy said his interrogators tied him to a chair for three days. Seven children said security officers electrocuted them during interrogation, including two children who said officers subjected them to shocks in the face with taser-type stun guns, and two who said officers electrocuted them on their genitals. A boy whom authorities forcibly disappeared and tortured at age 16 told a relative that he was worried he might “never marry or be able to have children” because of what security officers had done to him during interrogations. Two other children, aged 14 and 17, detained in separate cases, said that after authorities forcibly disappeared them, security forces suspended them from their arms which resulted in the dislocation of their shoulders. The 14-year-old boy said that another prisoner who happened to be a doctor was able to re-set his joints in their prison cell. The 17-year-old said that during one interrogation, an officer forced his mouth open and spat in it. Then, after a week of being tortured in detention, he confessed to destroying public property.
Arbitrary detention and forced disappearance
None of the children whose cases are documented in this report were arrested on the basis of a judicial warrant, as required by both Egyptian and international law, except for arrests during an ongoing crime. All but one of the 20 children were subjected to enforced disappearance by security forces, in one case for more than a year, and detained at National Security Agency offices, Central Security Forces training camps, and other locations that are not official detention facilities under Egyptian law. Security forces denied any knowledge of the children’s whereabouts to their families until the children were finally brought before the prosecution, usually weeks or months later. Egyptian law requires authorities to present all detainees before a prosecutor within 24 hours, but in 19 cases, security officials broke this law with impunity. The prosecution falsely reported the date of the child’s arrest as occurring the day before or the same day they were presented to the prosecution.
Poor conditions of detention and denial of education
Children whom authorities held incommunicado in unofficial detention facilities, as well as children who were held in official places of detention, described overcrowded cells, being detained with adults, and deprivation of adequate food. Amr A., 17, said national security forces forcibly disappeared and tortured him before transferring him to a child detention facility where his mother was finally able to see him three months later. At first, she did not recognise her son and described him as looking like a skeleton. Several children were denied the chance of education in detention, despite the fact that Egyptian law preserves their right to education. Another boy was detained in a police station where he was unable to study or take his school examinations and went on a hunger strike demanding to be transferred to a prison where it would be possible for him to continue his education. In another case, a boy was forcibly disappeared for 13 months, during this period he was unable to study because he was not officially in detention – as in the case for all people while they are forcibly disappeared. Another boy’s relatives said they were unable to re-enroll him in school for months after his release.
Stories of tortured children
In December 2017, in Al-Arish, North Sinai, Abdullah Bomedian was arrested by security forces from his mother’s home while he was sleeping. He was 12 years old. Before that, on December 5 2017, military forces forcibly disappeared his father Bomedian Nasrul Deen. Abdullah was forcibly disappeared by security forces for more than six months. He appeared in Al-Azbakiyah police station in July 2018, told his lawyer that he was held in multiple detention centres in Egypt’s North Sinai Peninsula, including the National Security firm in Arish, and the military base of battalion no. 101, besides being subjected to horrific torture including beating, electrocution, and waterboarding. The boy described being handcuffed and suspended by his physically disabled right hand. Interrogators lit a fire under an iron bedframe and forced Abdullah to lie on the hot metal. Security men denied him adequate food and the chance to bathe. At one point, while he was detained in a police station in North Sinai, Abdullah told his lawyers that he heard continuous screams of women apparently being tortured, and officers threatened that his mother would endure the same fate if he did not confess. The prosecution accused him of joining a terrorist group, helping to plant explosives, and endangering national security. He was placed in solitary confinement for 100 days. Police denied him family visits, medical care, and the chance to have a shower, which caused boils on his skin. Egyptian authorities have ignored court orders and broken their own promises to release Abdullah to his family. In December 2018, the Court of Juvenile Appeals ordered Abdullah’s release and the transfer of custody to his guardians. Two weeks later authorities transferred the boy to the second police station in al-Arish. On January 18, 2019, a police officer at the station told Abdullah’s older sister to sign a document confirming that she had taken receipt of her brother and promised to transfer him to her custody the following day. When she returned to receive him, officers denied knowledge of his whereabouts. Since then, the family have lost contact with him. Abdullah disappeared and hasn’t been seen yet, while the Ministry of Interior did not comply with a court order to reveal his whereabouts.