[5 September 2014] -
On 27 August 2014, Alkarama referred the cases of 52 children subjected to torture and sexual abuses in Alexandria's Koum El Dekka prison to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. Aged between 15 and 18, they were arrested for demonstrating peacefully against the regime; most have now been detained arbitrarily for over eight months.
Now charged with "demonstrating without authorisation", "assaults on police officers" and "affiliation to a prohibited party" – indictments usually held against political opponents – these minors are at risk of seeing their preventive detention being renewed several times, as permitted under Egyptian criminal law. In fact, despite the strong concerns for their physical and moral integrity raised by their lawyers at their respective hearings before the Alexandria's Court of Misdemeanours, the judge refused to acknowledge the victims' statements and renewed their preventive detention.
The signs of torture are, however, obvious, as is their degrading physical and mental health in the appalling hygiene conditions in which they're detained. Subjected to constant harassment and ill-treatment by the prison guards, the children are regularly beaten by the military officers in charge of the prison's surveillance, who sometimes unleash their dogs onto them, terrorising and scarring them for life. The children also reported to their lawyers being led to specific isolated cells where they are subjected to severe torture, such as burns with cigarette butts, electrocutions including on their genitals, sexual abuse, and sometimes rape, all that whilst being hung by their hands for hours. Most show signs of torture and fractures on their entire bodies.
"Our organisation is particularly concerned by those reports," said Rachid Mesli, Legal Director at Alkarama. "As stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children, 'by reason of [their] physical and mental immaturity, need special safeguards and care, including legal protection' – as a vulnerable group, they do therefore enjoy greater protection in international law. The attitude of the Egyptian judges and prison officers is inexcusable. The Egyptian authorities must stop this systematic and widespread practice of torture, which, because of its scope, could make them liable for prosecution for crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute."
In view of the facts described above, Alkarama sent a communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, asking the Egyptian authorities to investigate these allegations urgently and bring their perpetrators to justice. The Egyptian authorities cannot remain accomplice of such gross human rights violations and should put an end to these children's torture and ill-treatment, and release them immediately.
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