UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Political Developments - 2016

The most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties. Excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture. Due process problems included the excessive use of preventative custody and pretrial detention, the use of military courts to try civilians, trials involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis, and arrests conducted without warrants or judicial orders. Civil liberties problems included societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and the media, as well as on the freedoms of assembly and association in statute and practice.

Other human rights problems included disappearances; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; a judiciary that in some cases appeared to arrive at outcomes not supported by publicly available evidence or that appeared to reflect political motivations; reports of political prisoners and detainees; restrictions on academic freedom; impunity for security forces; harassment of some civil society organizations; limits on religious freedom; official corruption; and limits on civil society organizations.

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings while making arrests or holding persons in custody. There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during disputes with civilians. There were a few reports of such killings while the government or its agents dispersed demonstrations. There were also reports of civilians killed during military operations in the Sinai. Impunity was a problem.

There were instances of persons tortured to death and other allegations of killings in prisons and detention centers. Amnesty International (AI) reported eight deaths due to torture as of March 29. The government charged, prosecuted, and convicted perpetrators in some cases. On 03 February 2016, authorities found the body of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni with what forensics officials said were signs of torture, including cigarette burns, broken bones, and head injuries. Local and international human rights groups stated such signs of torture were consistent with forms of abuse committed by security services. Some human rights groups further alleged torture by security services was responsible for Regeni’s death. An international news agency reported security services detained Regeni prior to his death, citing intelligence and police sources. The Interior Ministry denied such claims and any connection with Regeni’s death. As of November 2016 an investigative team led by the Prosecutor General’s Office had not released its conclusions.

There were reports of suspects killed in unclear circumstances during or after arrest. On July 24, police detained Mohamed Samir and later beat him to death, according to Samir’s family members’ comments to media. The Interior Ministry stated Samir escaped from police while being escorted to a police station and authorities later found him dead in the Nile River.

There were reports of police killing unarmed civilians during personal or business disputes, which local academics and human rights groups claimed were part of a culture of excessive violence within security services.

There were continued reports of suspected terrorists and other suspected criminals killed during security raids conducted by police. The Interior Ministry claimed police officers fired at suspects only when suspects fired first. Rights groups claimed these shootings might have amounted to extrajudicial killings. In some of these cases, media reported that family members said there was evidence that police detained suspects before killing them.

On February 7, police reportedly killed four alleged members of the terrorist group Ajnad Misr during a raid on a house near central Cairo. The Interior Ministry claimed those killed were suspects in the killing of two police officers, a soldier, and a civilian. On March 24, police killed four members of a criminal gang during an exchange of gunfire in New Cairo, according to an Interior Ministry statement. The ministry alleged the gang members were responsible for killing Regeni and claimed that police found Regeni’s passport at the gang’s apartment. Family members of those killed denied these allegations, Italian investigators highlighted inconsistencies in the ministry’s account linking the gang to Regeni, and the public prosecutor initially denied such a link.

On October 4, the Interior Ministry stated that security forces had killed a senior leader of a Muslim Brotherhood faction, Mohamed Kamal, whom it described as responsible for the group’s “armed wing,” as well as his aide, Yasser Shehata, in an exchange of gunfire during a raid on an apartment in Cairo’s southern Bassateen District. A lawyer representing the two men’s families told media they both surrendered as soon as police arrived around 6 p.m. on October 3, and after police searched their apartments, police shot the men.

The government used force, and at times used excessive force, to disperse both peaceful and nonpeaceful demonstrations. According to local media reports, on February 26, security forces shot and killed two protesters, al-Sayed Abu al-Maaty and Mohamed al-Badawi, who the Ministry of Interior claimed were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Interior Ministry stated the two men were armed and initiated the attack on security forces, while the Muslim Brotherhood claimed police and “thugs” fired randomly at the protesters.

Rights groups and international media reported the armed forces used indiscriminate force during military operations that targeted widespread terrorist activity in the northern Sinai Peninsula, resulting in killings of civilians and destruction of property, particularly along the border with Gaza, where there was extensive smuggling of weapons and other equipment to terrorist groups. The government did not report any civilian casualties during operations in the Sinai.

Several international and local human rights groups, including the quasi-governmental National Council on Human Rights (NCHR), reported a spike in enforced disappearances, alleging authorities increasingly relied on this tactic to intimidate critics. According to a July AI report, authorities had forcibly disappeared at least several hundred individuals since the beginning of 2015. In all of the cases AI presented, authorities arrested those forcibly disappeared in a manner that did not comply with due process laws.

The constitution states that no torture, intimidation, coercion, or physical or moral harm shall be inflicted upon a person whose movements are restricted or whom authorities have detained or arrested. The penal code forbids torture to induce a confession from a detained or arrested suspect but fails to account for mental or psychological abuse against persons whom authorities have not formally accused, or for abuse occurring for reasons other than securing a confession. The penal code also forbids all public officials or civil servants from “employing cruelty” or “causing bodily harm” under any circumstances.

Local rights organizations documented hundreds of incidents of torture throughout the year, including deaths that resulted from torture. According to domestic and international human rights organizations, police and prison guards sometimes resorted to torture to extract information from detainees, including minors. Reported techniques included beatings with fists, whips, rifle butts, and other objects; prolonged suspension by the limbs from a ceiling or door; electric shocks; sexual assault; attacks by dogs; and forced standing for hours. Government officials denied the use of torture was systemic. Authorities stated they did not sanction these abuses and, in some cases, prosecuted individual police officers for violating the law.

The government claimed there were no political prisoners and all persons in detention had been or were in the process of being, charged with a crime. Human rights groups and international observers maintained the government detained or imprisoned as many as several thousand persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs or opposition to the government. One local rights organization estimated there were 60,000 political prisoners. A local rights group considered any persons arrested under the 2013 demonstrations law to be political prisoners. In their view these persons were political prisoners or detainees because authorities held them based on laws that restricted the exercise of a human right, because charges were false or inflated motivated by the individual’s political opinion or membership in a particular group, or because some individuals faced unduly harsh and disproportionate treatment due to their political opinions or membership in particular groups.

Thousands of persons remained imprisoned whom authorities arrested during 2013 and 2014 due to their participation in demonstrations (some of which were peaceful); however, authorities released others who had completed their sentences. Authorities held such individuals under charges of attending an unauthorized protest, incitement to violence, or “blocking roads.”

Citizens expressed their views on a wide range of political and social topics. The government investigated and prosecuted critics for alleged incitement of violence, insults to religion, insults to public figures and institutions such as the judiciary and the military, or violation of public morals. Individuals also faced societal and official harassment for speech viewed as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, such as using a hand gesture showing four fingers, a reference to the 2013 security operation to disperse the sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

The law provides a broad definition of terrorism, to include “any act harming national unity or social peace.” The president stated in a September speech that lying was a form of terrorism. Human rights observers expressed concern that authorities could use the ambiguous definition to stifle nonviolent speech and nonviolent opposition activity.

According to media reports and local and international human rights groups, state and nonstate actors arrested and imprisoned, harassed, and intimidated journalists. Foreign correspondents reported cases where the government denied them entry, deported them, and delayed or denied issuance of media credentials; some claimed these actions were part of a government campaign to intimidate foreign media.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, and its NGO remained illegal, and the Muslim Brotherhood was a legally designated terrorist organization.

Terrorist groups, including Da’esh Sinai Province (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis) and Ajnad Misr, among others, conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets throughout the country, including schools, places of worship, and public transportation. On May 8, terrorists killed eight police officers in an attack on an unmarked police microbus in Helwan. Both a Da’esh Egyptian affiliate and terrorist group Popular Resistance claimed responsibility for the attack. On November 15, the press reported that authorities had arrested more than 30 suspects following the attacks. Official investigations continued at year’s end.

The government attempted to disrupt the communications of terrorist groups operating in northern Sinai by cutting telecommunication networks: mobile services, internet, and sometimes landlines. Cuts generally occurred from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Networks were again fully accessible at approximately 8 p.m. and sometimes later. This tactic disrupted operations of government facilities and banks.

There was no published official data on the number of victims of terrorist violence during the year. According to local media reports, terrorists killed hundreds of civilians throughout the country. In Sinai alone, as of the end of October, militant violence had killed at least 230 civilians and 299 security force members (police and military), according to publicly available information. During the same period in Sinai, the government killed 2,436 terrorists, according to official public statements.

In February 2016 the president acknowledged that terrorism caused the October 2015 crash of Metrojet flight 9268, which killed all 224 individuals on board. Da’esh Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack; official investigations of the crash continued at year’s end.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list