Human Rights Developments
A state of emergency has been in force in Egypt almost continuously for over twenty-four years. The broad powers of detention that it affords has led to tens of thousands of arbitrary arrests and the related widespread practice of torture.1
Parliament, dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party, voted in May to uphold a presidential decree extending Egypt's emergency law for three more years. President Hosni Mubarak called for the vote without notifying legislators in advance that the item would be on the agenda, preempting a nascent campaign to challenge renewal of the law.
The need to thwart terrorism, prevent assassinations, and control drug trafficking are justifications offered by the government for the continuation of the state of emergency. For example, Prime Minister Atef Sedki asserted that there were "countries that wanted to export their terrorist plots to Egypt after the contemptible occupation of Kuwait."2 However, government critics contend that President Mubarak's latest extension of the emergency law is really part of a strategy for keeping a lid on political dissent, particularly protests over price increases mandated by Egypt's economic restructuring plan. The use of the emergency law during the Gulf war _ and its subsequent application to "profiteers" who might, as the government put it, "exploit" price increases caused by economic restructuring3 _ represent not only an extension of the law's scope, but its apparent institutionalization in Egypt.
In April, leaders of four legal political parties _ al-Wafd, Labor, Liberal and the National Progressive Unionist Grouping _ sent a memorandum to President Mubarak arguing that the law "was originally introduced for special and limited exceptional cases, as stipulated in the Constitution and the law. The legislators' aim was not for that law to turn into a permanent law that obstructs ordinary laws introduced to protect citizens' freedom and security." They stressed that the institutionalization of the emergency law was incompatible with human rights guarantees: "No state in the world has lived under an emergency law for ten years while its government continued to claim adherence to democracy and veneration of human rights."4 Egypt's opposition political parties in 1991 continued to push, unsuccessfully, for reform measures. At a press conference in July, ten parties demanded "genuine democracy" in Egypt and proposed that a constituent assembly draft a new constitution and put it to a national referendum.5 Among the guiding principles proposed were: respect for human rights and civil liberties, press and publication freedom, freedom to form political parties, restrictions on the application of the emergency law, and judicial supervision of elections.
Mass arrests, warrantless arrests, and administrative detention were all used by the Egyptian authorities in 1991. During the Gulf war, the authorities sent strong signals that the public expression of anti-war views would not be tolerated. Journalists, opposition activists, intellectuals, students and Islamists were targeted for arrest and detention. In most cases, the detainees were charged with preparing leaflets for distribution or preparing to incite disturbances harmful to the security of the state. Most were released without charge in March during a Ramadan amnesty announced by the government. Examples of those detained include the following:
o On January 23, Dr. Mohammed Abdel Latif and his assistant, Dr. Abdel Rahman El-Bana, were arrested in Cairo, apparently because Latif's company had taken out an advertisement publicizing statements against the war by several professional associations. Latif had been arrested in 1989 and tortured, and there were fears that he would again be a torture victim. The Egyptian government denied that torture had been used and released Latif on February 7.
o Magdi Hussein, head of the youth organization of the Islamist Socialist Labor Party (SLP) and deputy chief executive of the SLP's weekly newspaper al-Sha'b (The People) was arrested after giving a January 25 sermon at a Cairo mosque in which he criticized both the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf war. A former member of the Egyptian Parliament, Hussein was charged with inciting unrest and criticizing the government. According to Amnesty International (AI), Hussein was brought before a prosecutor who ordered him kept in custody for fifteen days. He was released on February 25.6
o On January 30, Adel Hussein, editor-in-chief of al-Sha'b, and Huda Makkawi, one of the newspaper's journalists, were arrested on the charge of insulting the Egyptian armed forces and revealing military secrets. They allegedly wrote articles urging an Egyptian disengagement from the multinational forces in Saudi Arabia which disclosed U.S. use of Egyptian airfields without prior military approval. Hussein and Makkawi faced a military tribunal on February 6, but were acquitted and released on February 14.
o On February 8, the Cairo-based Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) reported a series of early-morning arrests of some twenty-two student leaders. In addition to the students, the government arrested computer scientist Adel el-Mashad, general secretary of the Committee for Defense of National Culture (CDNC). The CNDC is an intellectual forum that produced, under Mashad, an "alternative" to the semi-official press version of the war.7 Mashad was charged with incitement of hatred for the Egyptian system of government and shedding doubt on the Egyptian armed forces at the front. The charges were reportedly based on a CDNC printed statement about the Gulf war and a handwritten draft of an appeal to world intellectuals that the CDNC was planning to issue. CDNC had sponsored an anti-war conference on February 1 at Cairo University and had been subjected to a raid of its indoor, peaceful, regular meeting of February 3.8
On February 9, in a clear warning to student activists, Interior Minister Abdel Halim Moussa said: "Universities are a place for science and learning and not for political activity. We will take action strongly and firmly against anyone who tries to cause unrest or block the learning process." Midterm university holidays were extended for two weeks, in an apparent attempt to thwart anti-war protests. Nevertheless, protests broke out at several universities when classes resumed.
After the beginning of the ground war in Iraq on February 24, Cairo police used tear gas to disperse peaceful anti-war protesters at Cairo University, and then closed the university, which had recently reopened for the spring term.9 Large-scale demonstrations were also held on February 15 at 'Ayn Shams University and the Delta area universities at Mansoura and Damietta. The largest anti-war protests at the universities occurred in the last five days of February, when the police shot four dead and injured dozens.
Most students detained during the war were released in the Ramadan amnesty of early March. However, nearly twenty of the roughly five hundred arrested Cairo University students were excluded from the amnesty.
The government's use of its extraordinary powers to preempt or suppress dissent was again affirmed in October when security forces detained opponents of the Madrid Peace Conference. On November 1, EOHR reported that Egyptian security forces had detained over two hundred anti-conference protesters. Most were Islamists, especially members of the technically illegal Muslim Brotherhood. The previous day, Interior Minister Moussa acknowledged that sixty-seven people were in detention for producing or possessing anti-conference leaflets.
The State of Emergency provides the government three detention options. First, the Emergency Law allows for administrative detention without charge or trial, pursuant to a detention order issued by an officer of the Ministry of Interior. Under such an order a detainee can be held for up to ninety days even if the order is ultimately ruled invalid.10 Second, the Emergency Law provides for the arrest of persons suspected of involvement in any one of numerous security offenses contained in the Penal Code and the Emergency Law itself. Using this procedure, a detainee may be held up to sixty days on an order that ultimately is determined to be invalid.11
A final state-of-emergency detention option is provided by security provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. Under the security laws, the state security prosecutor may order the arrest of a security offense suspect for fifteen days. Sitting as a "judge of instruction," the prosecutor may automatically extend the detention for an additional forty-five days. A person suspected of involvement in a security offense may, therefore, be held up to sixty days before even being brought before a court.
Notwithstanding the prohibition against torture and the clear duty to prosecute torturers imposed by international and Egyptian law,12 Egyptian security forces in 1991 continued to torture detainees with apparent impunity. In an October 1991 report, AI found the existence of "widespread [and unabated] torture of political detainees in Egypt."13 EOHR reported in August 1991 that there was a "total absence of safeguards for the prisoner while in detention in public prisons." For example, in the case of those accused of the October 1990 assassination of Parliament Speaker Dr. Rifaat al-Mahgoub, EOHR found that Egyptian laws prohibiting security-force access to prisoners without an official permit from the public prosecutor's office were openly flouted.14
[T]he SSI freely transferred the defendants from prison to the SSI headquarters [at Lazoughly] for torture in further violation of the law and the prosecution's decision to incarcerate them in officially designated "public prison." Although the prosecution was informed by the defendants that following each session of questioning by the prosecution they were being transferred to Lazoughly for more torture, it failed to take any action.
In an earlier report, in May, EOHR stated that torture
has become a routine practice by the police and is not confined to a particular prison or to the state security intelligence center in Lazoughly. Torture also takes place in state security intelligence centers in the provinces, the only difference being the extent to which they are supplied with the necessary equipment.
The torture of a leading human rights monitor exhibits a disappointing indifference by Egyptian officials to international condemnation of the practice of torture. Dr. Muhammad Mandour, a member of the EOHR board of trustees, and Dr. Emad Adriss, his colleague at the Palestine Red Crescent hospital in Cairo, were arrested on February 8 and held first at the Lazoughly SSI headquarters and then at Abu Za'bal prison. On February 16, EOHR reported that for eight days Mandour and Adriss had not been permitted contact with either lawyers or their families and had been subjected to long hours of interrogation. Mandour, and possibly also Adriss, were denied adequate medical treatment and subjected to beatings, hanging from the wrists, and electric shocks. After EOHR representatives met Mandour in prison, the human rights organization reported visible signs of torture on his body. According to these representatives, Mandour said that his torturers had threatened his life if he revealed that he had been mistreated. Mandour was released without charges on February 23, while Adriss remained in detention until mid-April.
EOHR told Middle East Watch in September that lawyers affiliated with EOHR had submitted six separate complaints about Mandour's detention and torture to the public prosecutor but had yet to receive a reply. Rather than acknowledge the abuses and vow to punish those responsible, the Egyptian government, through its London Embassy, said that "investigations conducted by the competent authorities in Egypt proved that allegations that [Mandour was] subjected to torture or other forms of ill treatment were unfounded." The Embassy also stated more generally that "allegations that some detainees have been subjected to torture have no basis in truth....They are pure lies and rumors circulated with the intention of hindering security operations."15
In another case, Afifi Mattar, a prominent Egyptian poet and opponent of the Gulf war, was arrested on March 2 and brought to Lazoughly for ten days. Blindfolded and handcuffed throughout, he was tortured with electric shocks, hanged from his wrists for long periods, and beaten with a solid instrument on his head and other parts of his body. "I was treated like an animal," he said after the ordeal. His interrogators sought to force him to confess to links with a Baathist organization. When he refused despite the torture, the SSI obtained an administrative detention order from the Ministry of Interior and brought him to Tora Reception Prison. He was released without charge on May 12.
EOHR reported in April 1991 that "the public prosecution has failed to respond to a number of its complaints regarding the torture of citizens, including the demand for their speedy submission to forensic medical examination before the signs of torture heal." For example, EOHR noted, Mandour was not given a forensic medical exam before or after his release from detention, despite his allegations of torture. Moreover, the provisions of the state of emergency that allow for periods of prolonged incommunicado detention facilitate torture by allowing time for visible signs of torture to disappear.
In 1991, as in past years, EOHR documented and publicized the torture of less prominent Egyptian detainees, but continued to be frustrated by the authorities' lack of response, with one notable exception. In November 1990, EOHR had brought an official complaint to the Egyptian public prosecutor concerning allegations of torture made by defendants held in connection with the assassination of Parliament Speaker al-Mahgoub. The defendants had alleged that at Lazoughly, in an effort to coerce them to confess, electric shocks were applied to sensitive parts of their bodies, including the genitals; they were beaten with whips and thick wooden sticks; they were forced to crawl extended distances; they were suspended by their wrists and feet for long periods; and they were forced to watch the mistreatment of their wives. In a welcome development in July, the State Security Court16 trying the Mahgoub case decided "to charge a member of the Court to investigate the evidence of the torture of the defendants." There has been no public indication of the outcome of this investigation.
In a report issued in August, EOHR examined conditions at four prisons in the Tora district, south of Cairo, and found "a policy in which torture and mistreatment are routine methods of discipline, punishment and the extraction of confessions." However, the report charged, most torture in the Cairo area takes place at SSI headquarters in Lazoughly. In addition to torture, EOHR reported that detainees are subject to long periods of interrogation, deprived of sufficient food and water, denied access to family and lawyers, and held without charge or apparent legal justification. EOHR noted that prisoners are removed "from their prison cells at night, and [transferred to Lazoughly], where they are submitted to repeated doses of torture, and returned to prison before dawn." Sometimes prisoners are kept at Lazoughly for several days. The report details several cases of torture at Lazoughly, providing further documentation of the long-standing belief that the SSI headquarters serves as a major torture center in Egypt.
The Egyptian authorities' use of deadly force against unarmed protesters and in clashes with Islamists became a matter of increasing concern in 1991. In early February, the security chief of Beni Suef, in Upper Egypt, General Mohsen Haroun Sarhan, warned that "strict orders" had been issued to the police to "open fire on anyone trying to undermine security." He explained that "[a]ny illegal behavior will be met with appropriate deterrent measures. There will be no leniency during the current delicate security climate because of the Gulf war."17 On February 25 and 27, responding to the most widespread student demonstrations in Egypt since January 1973, security forces shot plastic and live bullets, aimed above the waist, at anti-war protesters during clashes at Cairo University, killing four students and injuring dozens.18 In July, security forces shot two men, killing one, as they rode a motorbike against the traffic on the street where Interior Minister Abdel Halim Moussa has a home. The pair were apparently innocent victims, having made a wrong turn, but were evidently suspected of planning an attack on the minister's home.
The government's campaign against Islamists continued to focus on the Jihad Organization, a radical clandestine Islamist group alleged to have been involved in the 1981 assassination of President Sadat, the 1990 Mahgoub assassination and other violent activities.19 On June 8, Jihad member Yasir Abdal Hakim Umar, who was wanted in connection with the Mahgoub assassination, was killed in a security-force ambush; another suspect was injured.20 On June 26, 'Abd-al-Ghani 'Abd-al-Gakim, said to be the leader of the Jihad Organization in Beni Suef, was killed when members of his organization clashed with security forces. Authorities claimed that 'Abd-al-Gakim had been killed when members of his group rioted, threw stones and shot at security forces, causing security forces to return fire. Ten people were arrested in the incident and firearms and other assorted weapons were seized.
Freedom of association continues to be limited in Egypt. While the Egyptian Constitution describes Egypt's political system as "a multiparty one" and sets forth the right of all citizens to seek public office, Egypt's political arena is not open to all competing ideologies. The Egyptian law regulating political parties requires that prospective parties apply for legal status to a committee dominated by appointees of President Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party. Legal status continues to be denied to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nasserists and the Communists. Members of these groups are barred from running for office under their party affiliations.
In the case of private voluntary organizations, a 1964 law grants the Ministry of Social Affairs broad powers to reject an organization's application to become legally registered with the government. Groups that have been denied legal status under this law include the independent EOHR and the Arab Thought Forum, a prominent group headquartered in Amman, Jordan, which is concerned with regional economic, social and cultural issues. EOHR's petition to challenge the constitutionality of the law before the Constitutional Court was rejected in November 1991.
For those private organizations that are legally registered, the law grants the Ministry of Social Affairs sweeping powers of control, including the right to appoint government representatives to the board of directors, to call board meetings, to appoint temporary boards of directors, or to dissolve organizations completely. In June, the Cairo-based Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA), a prominent women's rights group, was ordered dissolved by a tersely worded administrative decree that did not provide substantive reasons for this extreme measure. The AWSA assets were ordered transferred to another organization, Women in Islam. Legally registered with the government since 1985, AWSA also holds consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council. AWSA petitioned the Egyptian State Council Court, a three-judge administrative panel, to void the dissolution order. At the first session of the proceeding, on October 31, the Ministry of Social Affairs defended the dissolution order by complaining about AWSA's "dissemination of ideas running counter to the position of the State" and its sponsorship of a September 1990 conference on women and journalism, which "took a stand against the official and public stand of the government with regard to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq."21 The second court session was held on December 5, when AWSA's lawyers responded to the Ministry's allegations. The next session is scheduled for February 20, 1992.
In a September 1991 interview, President Mubarak characterized freedom of expression as "an established right" and admitted that "[s]uppressing opinions is very harmful." However, in the same interview he contradicted himself by describing the broad criteria that could be used to "limit of freedom of expression [in] matters concerning Egypt's interests and reputation."22
While religious minorities are usually not directly persecuted by the government, the arrest of three converts from Islam to Christianity _ Mustafa al-Sharqawi, Mohammed Sallam and Hassan Mohammed _ suggests the limits of religious freedom in Egypt. The three men were arrested in September and October 1990 and charged under Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, which prohibits exploitation of religion, propagation of extremist religious thought, and placing national unity and social peace at risk. Egyptian officials said that the men were being held "to protect social peace and national unity." On March 27, 1991, the Egyptian security court extended their detention for forty-five days. The three were released in July, but the criminal charges against them were not then dropped.
The detention of these men _ a clear restraint on freedom of religion _ highlights a sensitive area for a government that otherwise tolerates non-Muslim beliefs, despite presiding over an overwhelmingly Muslim country with a vocal fundamentalist community. Long an opponent of extreme Muslim fundamentalism, the Egyptian government has remained sensitive to conversion because of the recurrent threat of Muslim-Christian strife. For this and other reasons, Coptic Christians, who comprise about ten percent of Egypt's fifty-five million people, have raised charges that security forces are reluctant to react to Muslim attacks on Coptic churches and property.
In February, Islamists protesting the arrest of leaders of an anti-war protest in Beni Suef began a riot that turned sectarian when Coptic businesses were burned. In September, sectarian strife, usually confined to Upper Egypt, spilled into Cairo when a local dispute led to clashes in the Imbaba section of the city over a four-day period; two Coptic churches and dozens of Christian-owned businesses were targeted by Islamist militants who took to the streets with knives, swords and chains in response to a rumor that a Copt had murdered an Islamist. The attacks in September were preceded in August by violent attacks on Copts celebrating the Feast of the Virgin Mary, in which hundreds of Islamists brandishing sticks, metal rods and swords descended on Imbaba and defaced religious portraits, ripped crosses off Christian women, and wrecked shops owned by Christians. One priest was quoted as saying, "We kept calling the authorities and they did nothing." It was not until the nonfatal shooting by a Christian merchant of a Muslim customer in late September that the authorities brought in police protection for the Coptic community.23
Egypt's Palestinian community has suffered increasing discrimination. Since the beginning of the Gulf crisis in August 1990, long-term Palestinian residents of Egypt reportedly have been denied reentry to Egypt after routine trips abroad, and Palestinian students at Egyptian universities have been deported.24 The above-mentioned detention of Drs. Mandour and Adriss, linked to their work at the Palestine Red Crescent Hospital, was accompanied by the arrest of up to seventy-five Palestinians in early February.
In June, the government withdrew the right of Palestinians to own farmland. The deputy prime minister and minister of agriculture and land reclamation, Dr. Yusuf Wali, approved the reclamation of approximately 2,600 acres of state lands from a number of Palestinian residents _ the latest step in a steadily increasing squeeze on Palestinians. While a 1963 law banning foreigners from owning land in Egypt exempted Palestinians, the preferential treatment was dropped in 1985. Palestinians were given a five-year grace period to sell their land.
Stateless Palestinians holding only Egyptian travel documents who remained in Kuwait after the expulsion of Iraqi forces at the end of February _ a community which numbered eighteen to twenty thousand in October _ were typically unable to obtain visas to enter Egypt, the administering power in the Gaza Strip at the time they or their families left for the Gulf. Although Egyptian authorities have publicly stated that the government does not distinguish between Palestinians and Egyptians, these Palestinians were, except in rare cases (wives of Egyptian men), unsuccessful in gaining access to Egypt as they were expelled from or fled Kuwait.25
Palestinian detainees charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts were excluded from the Ramadan amnesty that freed many of the anti-war protesters detained by the government. EOHR reported in September than 101 Palestinians were being held without charge in Abu Za'bal prison.26
The Right to Monitor
The Egyptian government permits international human rights monitors to visit the country and does not interfere with their work. However, to date the government has denied access to prisons to Middle East Watch, Amnesty International and the U.N. Human Rights Center's Special Procedures Unit. The EOHR operates freely from its Cairo office but the group has been denied official legal status. EOHR reported in May that three other human rights organizations _ in Giza, Cairo and Alexandria _ have received legal recognition from the Ministry of Social Affairs but that "the first suspended its activities fifteen years ago and the other two confine themselves to cultural activities." EOHR also noted the existence of a center for human rights study and research at Cairo University and a human rights association at Asyut University.
Restrictions on Egyptian rights monitors are an issue of increasing concern since the November 22, 1991 detention of human rights lawyer Negad El-Bore'i. El-Bore'i, who was traveling to Kuwait as a member of an EOHR fact-finding mission, reported to EOHR that he was detained in the Cairo airport and questioned for one-and-one-half hours by SSI officers. The officers forced him to leave behind reports, some of them from Middle East Watch, detailing human rights violations in Kuwait since its liberation from Iraqi occupiers. Upon his return to Cairo on November 26, El-Bore'i was again detained for one-and-one-half hours, but none of his papers was confiscated.
Egypt is a key regional ally of the United States and one of the top four recipients of U.S. foreign aid _ second to Israel but ahead of Turkey and Greece. Regrettably, Egypt's human rights record, including a pattern of torture of detainees held in prisons, police stations and SSI detention centers, continues to escape serious public scrutiny by the Bush Administration and Congress. Despite significant U.S. leverage, and the opportunities presented by frequent high-level meetings between Egyptian and U.S. officials in 1991, the Bush Administration refrained from any public expression of concern about human rights violations in Egypt. To the contrary, Egypt received massive debt write-offs and other U.S. and international financial assistance to strengthen its shaky economy. No human rights improvements were required of President Mubarak in return for this assistance. This unconditioned aid was widely viewed as a reward for Egypt's contributions to U.S. policy in the Middle East, including its unqualified support for the U.S.-led alliance against Iraq, its contribution of 36,000 troops to Operation Desert Storm, and its support of U.S. efforts to organize a Middle East peace conference.
While the State Department's most recent worldwide human rights report demonstrates the Administration's awareness of significant violations of human rights in Egypt, the Bush Administration in 1991 avoided any further public mention of these issues in the pursuit of its broader foreign policy goals. The Administration appears to have traded Egypt's support for U.S. foreign policy in return not only for massive financial assistance but also for Egypt's de facto immunity from U.S. public pressure to improve its human rights record.
Post-war U.S.-Egyptian relations were dominated by Secretary of State James Baker's attempts to orchestrate a Middle East peace conference. The Bush Administration's indebtedness to President Mubarak for assisting the process was expressed by Secretary Baker in his October 14 remarks in Cairo to Mubarak: "I don't think anybody has been any more helpful and forward leaning with respect to the efforts all of us have made to create a peace process than have you, in many, many ways."
Another Administration priority that eclipsed human rights concerns was Egypt's pursuit of economic reform. In March, Secretary Baker expressed the Administration's support for Egypt's economic reforms: "The U.S. is frankly very encouraged by and appreciative of the efforts the Government of Egypt is making in the reform of its economy." Baker then pledged U.S. support for Egypt's appeal to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for debt restructuring.
On one occasion, the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, attempting to curb Kuwaiti government abuses against non-Kuwaitis, protested that government's practices. One charge by the Embassy, according to The Washington Post, was that "Egyptian security officers were helping Kuwaiti security police interrogate and in some cases torture detainees."27 But, as noted, the Bush Administration's apparent willingness to reveal Egypt's role in human rights abuses in Kuwait did not translate into a single public statement about torture in Egypt.
The chapter on Egypt in the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in 1990, released in February 1991, is fairly comprehensive in scope, describing a number of violations, but often failing to do so in its own voice. The report typically refers to "convincing reports" of human rights activists to describe key abuses, reserving its own voice to summarize and list only those violations that are widely acknowledged to exist. In the case of torture, the report also fails to reveal its prevalence.
At the beginning of 1991, Egypt was burdened with over $55 billion in foreign debt to governments, commercial banks and private institutions, with approximately $12 billion owed to the United States. In November 1990, the "Paris Club" consortium of creditor nations rejected an Egyptian request to refinance its debt, demanding prior "liberalization" of Egypt's economy. In February 1991, however, at the height of the Gulf war, the United States announced that it would write off Egypt's $6.7 billion debt for foreign military sales.28 The balance of Egypt's debt to the United States, some $5 billion, is authorized to be paid over twenty years on favorable terms that include a four-year grace period and a heavily subsidized interest rate.29 The U.S. action appeared to be a reward for Egypt's role during the Gulf crisis and its "Thousand-Day Plan," announced in late 1990, to liberalize its largely centralized economy. The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) joined the U.S. action, writing off over $7 billion of additional debt.30 Later, after Egypt agreed to implement an IMF economic program, the Paris Club agreed to forgive up to half of the $20.2 billion that Egypt owed its member nations.
In bilateral aid, Egypt in fiscal year 1991 received an estimated $1.3 billion in military assistance, $815 million in Economic Support Funds, $1.5 million for military training and $150 million in food aid from the United States. Despite well-documented abuses in Egypt that are widespread, persistent and serious in nature, including torture, the Administration apparently does not consider aid to Egypt to be barred by Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, which prohibits security assistance to any "country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." A State Department presentation to Congress on security assistance programs for fiscal year 1992 describes Egypt as a "guided democracy" that has "increasingly free political parties." Egypt's government, political parties, judiciary and press are described as "the most progressive of any Arab country with regard to human rights." The presentation argues that the "Peoples' Assembly has increased its authority," while the continued state of emergency is excused in a bland phrase: "[t]he government continues to use emergency law authority to prevent terrorism."
A March 1991 State Department report to Congress on recipients of the Foreign Military Financing program observes that most torture in Egypt is committed by the SSI and that the SSI reports to the Ministry of Interior. The report also notes that U.S. military assistance is not provided to any of the organizations that report to the Ministry of Interior, but to the Egyptian military, thus implicitly seeking to excuse the U.S. aid program. However, Section 502B does not permit funding to nonabusive elements of an abusive government, but bars all security assistance to any government engaged in a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights. Although Section 502B allows the Administration, if it deems it necessary to provide aid to an abusive country, to explain to Congress "the extraordinary circumstances warranting provision of such assistance," neither the Bush Administration nor any previous Administration has submitted such a statement to Congress.
A similar willingness to ignore U.S. human rights law is reflected in the affirmative U.S. votes on three World Bank loans to Egypt in 1991. Section 701 of the International Financial Institutions Act of 1977 requires the Administration to
channel assistance toward countries other than those whose governments engage in...a pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, such as torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, or other flagrant denial of life, liberty, and the security of a person.
The Administration is allowed to vote for assistance to such a country only if the assistance is designed to meet "basic human needs." Although torture and prolonged detention without charge are well-documented and long-standing abuses in Egypt, the United States voted to approve all three loans, none of which was designated to meet basic human needs.31
The Work of Middle East Watch
In 1991, Middle East Watch monitored human rights developments in Egypt, maintaining close contact with the independent EOHR. During the Gulf War, Middle East Watch wrote twice to President Mubarak about human rights issues. A widely circulated February 11 letter protested the arrest of political activists, students, and others known or perceived by the authorities to be outspoken opponents of the war. The letter also raised concerns about the use of a military court to investigate and prosecute journalists from opposition publications.
A second letter, on February 21, expressed concern about the above-noted torture of Dr. Muhammad Mandour, a physician and member of EOHR's board of directors, while he was held in detention at SSI headquarters at Lazoughly. Middle East Watch urged President Mubarak to instruct the appropriate authorities to investigate the allegations of torture and asked to be kept informed about the investigation. In December, Human Rights Watch honored Dr. Mandour at its annual Human Rights Day event.
Middle East Watch met with El-Sayed Abdel Raouf El-Reedy, Egypt's ambassador to the United States, to raise concerns about the prospective deportation from Kuwait of long-term residents carrying Egyptian travel documents, and to urge the Mubarak government to shoulder its responsibilities in this respect. Earlier requests to visit Egyptian prisons, first made in 1990, were repeated at this meeting.
In August, Middle East Watch wrote to President Mubarak to protest the above-described administrative order dissolving the Arab Women's Solidarity Association, the Cairo-based women's rights organization which had been legally registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs. In September, Middle East Watch published a newsletter about the AWSA case, including an analysis of the much-criticized 1964 Associations Law governing the formation, regulation and dissolution of private organizations in Egypt. One of the purposes of the newsletter was to draw attention to the broad powers granted to the state under the Associations Law, and to generate a campaign of international support for AWSA in advance of the organization's challenge of the dissolution order before Egypt's State Council Court in proceedings that began on October 31. The Women's Rights Project of Human Rights Watch distributed the newsletter to its network of women's rights organizations in the United States and abroad.
In October, Middle East Watch and the Women's Rights Project joined the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights of the University of Cincinnati College of Law as amicus curiae in a brief submitted to the State Council Court. The brief argued that the dissolution of AWSA violated Egypt's obligations to protect the rights to freedom of association and expression guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, all of which Egypt has ratified.
Also in October, Middle East Watch published a newsletter on the predicament of stateless Palestinians trapped in Kuwait, an estimated eighteen to twenty thousand of whom carry only Egyptian travel documents (laissez-passers) because they or their families left the Egyptian-administered Gaza Strip prior to the Israeli occupation that began after the June 1967 war. The newsletter included testimony from some of these Palestinians and their relatives about Egypt's denial of visas to them and their families. Without such documents, these Palestinians _ who typically have not been permitted to return to their former public-sector jobs in Kuwait _ and their children cannot resettle in Egypt.
Middle East Watch called on Egypt to state publicly its policy regarding the issuance of visas to this distinct group of stateless Palestinians and to provide information about the guidelines used by the Ministry of Interior to evaluate their applications for visas to Egypt.
Emergency powers are defined in Law 162 of 1958, as amended (the Emergency Law), explained below, and Law 105 of 1980, which permits the detention of persons accused of security offenses outlined in the Penal Code.
"Egypt: Emergency Law Extended Three More Years," Mideast Mirror, May 9, 1991.
Some five hundred "profiteering merchants" were reportedly placed under administrative detention in the first week of May.
Al-Wafd, April 8, 1991, as reported in Federal Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), April 16, 1991.
The parties were: al-Wafd, the Labor Party, the National Progressive Unionist Grouping, the Liberal Party, the technically illegal Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab Socialist Party, the Green Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, Ummah, and Misr al-Fatah.
Hussein was charged under Articles 80 and 102 of the Penal Code, which prohibit spreading false or tendentious information in time of war that could damage war preparations or operations, provoke panic or alarm among people, or put public security or the public interest at risk.
"Cairo Cracks Down on Anti-War Activists," Mideast Mirror, February 7, 1991.
"Mubarak Confident Calls for 'War Footing' as Opposition Organizes," Mideast Mirror, February 4, 1991.
The Interior Ministry estimated that on February 25 as many as eight thousand students attempted to march into the streets near Cairo University to protest the Gulf war, a prohibited act under the state of emergency. The security forces stormed university buildings to quell the demonstration. The clash marked the first time that security forces used tear gas on student protesters since student uprisings in 1972 and 1973.
A detainee has no right to petition a court to contest his detention for thirty days from the date of the order. Thereafter, a petition may be heard, not in regular courts, but in (Emergency) Supreme State Security Courts, which have up to fifteen days to rule. If the court orders the detainee's release, the Ministry of the Interior may object to the order within fifteen days. Objection by the Ministry of Interior requires that the petition be transferred to a similar court within fifteen days of the date of objection. The second (Emergency) Supreme State Court has an additional fifteen days to make a final determination of the validity of the petition. A detainee improperly detained in the judiciary's determination can, therefore, be imprisoned for ninety days. If either court determines the petition to be inadequate, the detainee must wait thirty days to begin the cycle again. Human rights monitors report that detainees are sometimes held without legal justification, even after the second (Emergency) Supreme State Court has ordered their release.
AI has reported that obtaining release on petition is made more difficult by Ministry of Interior practices. Detention orders, for example, are not always delivered to detainees and detainees are often denied access to lawyers, hampering attempts to present successful petitions. Even when the orders are communicated to detainees, they are often delivered orally or are so ambiguous that they provide little guidance for the preparation of a petition.
The state security prosecutor may authorize the arrest of a security offense suspect for thirty days. The suspect may immediately petition the (Emergency) State Security Court for release, but the court has thirty days to rule, the Ministry of Interior has fifteen days to object and send the case to a second (Emergency) State Security Court, and that second court has another fifteen days to rule. If the petition is rejected by either court, the detainee must wait thirty days to submit a new petition.
Egypt acceded without reservation to the Convention against Torture on June 25, 1986. In addition, Article 126 of the Penal Code calls for three to ten years' imprisonment for acts of torture by public officials.
Amnesty International, Egypt: Ten Years of Torture, October 1991, p.2.
The assassination of al-Mahgoub, a leading member of the ruling National Democratic Party and a close associate of President Mubarak, led to widespread arrests of alleged Islamic militants. The radical clandestine Jihad Organization was blamed for the assassination, after a nationwide round-up of approximately three thousand Islamists.
Amnesty International, Egypt: Ten Years of Torture, October 1991, pp. 9, 13.
In addition to creating mechanisms and grounds for detention, the emergency laws create special judicial procedures for trying suspects for security-related crimes. Under the Emergency Law, the Security Law as amended by Law No. 103 of 1983, and Presidential Decree No. 1 of 1981, security-related trials are held before (Emergency) State Security Courts. The Emergency Law holds that "there shall be no appeal whatsoever" to a higher tribunal from an (Emergency) State Security Court. However, (Emergency) State Security Court verdicts are not considered final until ratified by the president of the republic, who may decide to revoke the judgment and order a retrial by a court of the same standing.
As quoted in al-Hayat (the London-based Lebanese daily) and reported in "Police Ordered to Get Tough After Anti-War Protest Sparks Violence in Upper Egypt," Mideast Mirror, February 19, 1991.
EOHR, in a "demand for an investigation into the repression of peaceful student demonstrations," reported:
[B]ombs were fired with great intensity at the university campus, the university residence and even into the students' rooms....Buckshot and plastic bullets were fired into the university campus and residence from outside....Shooting was horizontal, with the result that the bulk of the injuries were in the upper half of the body...[O]ne student was hit in the eye.
On May 31, 'Ali al-Buhayri, leader of the Alexandria branch of the Jihad Organization, reportedly admitted assisting fellow members in assassinating al-Mahgoub. According to the Interior Ministry, al-Buhayri also confessed to aiding three others in the murder of Mishah Idris, a secret policeman who was reportedly assassinated at the organization's order. On May 25, in Beni Suef, security forces arrested another Jihad member, Ashraf Abdal Wahhab, allegedly while attempting to throw an explosive at a security-force building.
See State-run Cairo MENA, "Police Kill al-Jihad Member, Arrest Another, June 8, 1991, as reported in FBIS, June 10, 1991.
In testimony to Middle East Watch, AWSA's president, Dr. Nawal El-Saadawi, said that the conference participants had discussed a wide range of issues, including the Gulf crisis. Participants at the conference voiced opposition both to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and to foreign intervention in the region, advocating an approach based on diplomacy and negotiation, rather than military force and war. Dr. El-Saadawi told Middle East Watch that in November 1990 AWSA received a letter from the director-general of the Ministry of Social Affairs, reminding the organization that under the 1964 associations law it was prohibited from discussing anything related to politics or religion. See Middle East Watch, "Egyptian Government Moves to Dissolve Prominent Women's Organization," September 1991.
Mufid Fawzi, Sabah al-Khayr, September 19, 1991, as reported in FBIS, September 25, 1991.
Chris Hedges, "A Religious War Rends a Cairo Slum," The New York Times, October 22, 1991.
Mitchell Hartman, "Palestinians in Egypt Suffer in Silence," Middle East International, February 8, 1991.
See Middle East Watch, "Nowhere to Go: The Tragedy of the Remaining Palestinian Families in Kuwait," October 23, 1991.
"L'OEDH Appelle a la Liberation D'une Certaine de Palestiniens Detenus En Egypte," Agence France-Presse, September 9, 1991.
Caryle Murphy, "Kuwait Reported Moving to Curb Rights Abuses," The Washington Post, October 2, 1991.
The Washington Post reported that President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting on August 29, approved the write-off of $7.1 billion of Egypt's military debt to the United States. Administration officials told the Post that the president's move was based on Egypt's support for U.S. policy in the Gulf crisis. According to the Post, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Egypt extended to the United States overflight rights and staging and transit rights from Egyptian air bases, and smoothed the passage of dozens of U.S. warships through the Suez Canal. Patrick Tyler, "Bush to forgive $7.1 Billion Egypt Owes for Military Aid," The Washington Post, September 1, 1990.
"Agreement Reached with U.S. on Debt Repayment," Cairo MENA, July 19, 1991, as reported in FBIS, July 25, 1991.
David Lennon, "Gulf Pay-off transforms Egypt's prospects," Financial Times, February 1, 1991. The GCC countries, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, were all part of the allied coalition against Iraq.
The first loan, for $300 million, is to support decentralization and restructuring of the economy. The second loan, for $140 million, is to aid the establishment of a $572.3 million social fund. The social fund is designed primarily to support labor-intensive public works projects that would improve the nation's infrastructure and provide employment during economic restructuring. It is intended also to create a safety net for displaced Egyptian workers, including those returning from Kuwait. The final loan, for $84 million, is designed to support a $285.5 million project to increase Egypt's use of natural gas resources, freeing more petroleum for export.