Egypt must investigate human rights abuses, watchdog says

As allegations of torture and abuse by military police continue, international human rights watchdog Amnesty International released a report on Tuesday calling on Egypt to investigate past human rights abuses, hold abusers accountable and pay reparations to victims.

The report, which focuses on administrative detention by the State Security Investigation Service (SSIS), was produced before the revolution that brought an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, but notes that many of the abuses perpetrated under Mubarak’s regime continue under the country’s new military rulers.

The administrative detention system allows for the detention of suspects without charge or trial and is part of the Emergency Laws that have been in place for 30 years, giving police and the SSIS heightened power in investigating crimes and detaining individuals. Some detainees have been held for up to 20 years under administrative detention without charge or trial.

“They must be held to account. SSIS has been dissolved, but we don’t have any information about whether there is any system for [bringing to justice] those officers who were part of SSI,” said Said Haddadi, an Egyptian researcher for Amnesty International.

The interim government dissolved the SSIS in mid-March, days after protesters stormed their headquarters in Cairo. The internal security agency has since been incorporated into the National Security Agency, but there are no guarantees of major personnel changes.

“It’s a very positive first step. It needs to be followed by holding those responsible to account by putting a mechanism in place to file complaints and get reparations,” Haddadi said.

The Emergency Law, which was amended last June to apply only to terrorism and drug-related cases, remains in place. Claims of ongoing abuse are widespread.

The Ministry of Interior under the Mubarak regime used administrative detention extensively for political opponents, including militant Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-democracy activists. Amnesty International highlights several cases of men who were held for years without charge or trial. Amnesty International says these cases show that the men’s basic rights were violated.

While most administrative detainees have been released, according to Amnesty International, there are widespread allegations that the military, which currently rules Egypt, has continued the patterns of abuse that persisted under the previous regime. Activists and witnesses claim that the military rounded up protesters and subjected them to torture inside the Egyptian museum in March of this year.

A thorough investigation of those who held administrative detainees for years without charge or trial will be a first step to eradicating this kind of behavior, Haddadi says.

“Once those involved in policing citizens, whether from military or the SSIS or any other security body, are brought to justice, we think that will be a very strong signal that those who committed violations either under the regime or during the uprising or since will be held to account.”

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