Ministry of Interior regulations require that a child arrested for being "vulnerable to delinquency" be held in the police juvenile lockup of the local governorate's Juvenile Welfare Administration (idarat ri`ayat al ahdath), pending review of his or her case by the Public Prosecution Office. According to Ministry of Interior officials, children also may be held for very short periods at adult police lockups, separated from adult detainees, pending transfer to the juvenile lockup. Gen. Sayyed Mohammadayn, the director of the ministry's General Administration for Juvenile Welfare Investigations, told Human Rights Watch, "The rule is no sleeping at [adult] police stations. The child should be sent to the al Azbekiya [juvenile lockup] very quickly, because there is no place for him to sleep at a police station." In an apparent admission that this rule was not always followed, General Mohammadayn added that his agency had issued strict instructions to all police officers that "as soon as the arresting police complete the investigative report the child should transferred to the juvenile lockup. This should be the next day, and should never take more than twenty-four hours. . . . [but] there may be problems in the adult police stations due to the pressure of many arrests during arrest campaigns against children `vulnerable to delinquency.'" According to General Mohammadayn, under normal circumstances a child taken to an adult police lockup would be processed and transferred to the juvenile lockup within "one to two hours."100
In contrast to the government's claims, children we interviewed said they regularly spent at least one night, and often several nights, detained with adult criminal detainees at an adult police lockup before being transferred to the juvenile lockup. In many cases, children said they were detained and released without ever being transferred to the juvenile lockup. Detention at adult lockups exposes children to serious human rights violations at the hands of adult criminal detainees and police, including sexual abuse and violence, police beatings, and violence by other detainees. Extremely poor conditions in adult lockups, including overcrowding and the denial of basic necessities such as food, medical care, and bedding, often are so severe as to endanger children's health and well-being and in many cases directly contribute to the likelihood that children will be subjected to extortion, exploitation, and violence by police or other detainees.
Children detained at the Cairo Security Directorate Juvenile Welfare Administration's al Azbekiya juvenile lockup suffer serious human rights abuses at the hands of police and other detainees. Every one of the nineteen children Human Rights Watch interviewed who had been detained at least once at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup reported that police there had beaten and/or sexually abused them. Police at al Azbekiya also routinely mix older and younger children, and mix children deemed "vulnerable to delinquency" with children charged or convicted of serious crimes, placing children at risk of violence, extortion, and recruitment for illegal activities. Children's access to food, medical care, bedding, and other necessities at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup is somewhat better than in adult police lockups, but nevertheless violate international standards for the treatment of children deprived of their liberty.
Police at adult police lockups and at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup routinely beat children "vulnerable to delinquency" with their hands or batons. In addition, police at adult lockups sometimes beat children with rubber hoses or whips, while police at al Azbekiya frequently beat children with belts. Police beatings are so common that most children we interviewed described being beaten as merely one stage children pass through between arrest and release. "They take us to the station to make a police report for begging, then to the Police Directorate [to check for outstanding warrants], then back to the station. When they don't find [an outstanding warrant] they hit us and let us go," said Samira Y., fifteen. 101
Egyptian police routinely torture and ill-treat adult detainees to obtain information.102 However, none of the children we interviewed had been beaten to elicit information. Seif S., fourteen, described a beating at the Giza police station during an arrest campaign a few months prior to our interview. "We were in a big cell with adults," he said. "The smallest kid I saw was eleven or so. My six friends and I are all thirteen, or fourteen, or fifteen. The police hit us with a thick stick and a rubber hose. They don't say why. They don't say anything."103 Sixteen-year-old Tariq A. said, "Two months ago I was in the metro and two police grabbed me and a friend. They took me to [the adult lockup in the al Azbekiya police station] and beat me. They don't say anything. They just hit you with their stick. I was there for about five days and then they sent me home."104
Police beatings of children "vulnerable to delinquency" appear to be purely punitive, intended to punish children either without apparent reason or for minor infractions committed while in custody. A mid-level police officer at the Bulaq al Dakrur police station told us that he beat children brought there to discourage them from staying on the streets, although he doubted that beatings were an effective deterrent: "I hit them and still they come back. I choke them and still they come back. These children are a lost cause." The same officer complained that children were not treated severely enough in government social welfare institutions and expressed his desire for broader powers to punish children. "I go [to the Dur al Tarbi`a social welfare facility] to turn over a child and I see the door open and the kids playing ball outside," he said. "That isn't the correct treatment. That isn't reform. These children need a strict system to punish them when they do wrong and to get them used to right behavior. Like in the army. If you give me a child for three months I will make sure that he learns right behavior and never does anything wrong again."105 A nineteen-year-old woman recounted a particularly degrading beating she received when police re-arrested her and a group of younger friends during an arrest campaign only one day after they had been released from an earlier detention. "The officer beat me with a shoe on my head and on my legs. He said, `Didn't I just release you? Don't come here again. If I see you again I'll make up a case against you to make sure you will never see the sun again."106
Children who had been detained at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup told us that most abuses at that facility were committed by mukhbir (plural mukhbirin) and askari (plural asakir) rank police, low-level positions used as assistants to higher ranking officers or as guards. "The worst thing at al Azbekiya is the mukhbirin," said Tariq A., sixteen. "They keep hitting us. I don't know why they hit us. The bigger officers don't stop it. The mukhbirin are even worse than the adults in the [adult police station] cell."107 Nasir Y., fifteen, specified by name a female staff member who he said "beats us with a belt," but did not know if the woman was a police officer or a police social worker.108 An expert familiar with conditions at al Azbekiya told Human Rights Watch that poorly trained staff was the greatest danger to children at that facility. "Since 1996 there has been a lot of improvement in the physical structure of al Azbekiya, but there really needs to be training of the police and social workers. It isn't a matter of renovations; it is a matter of training in how to deal with children. The mukhbirin are the ones who first arrest the child and then deal with the child in the police station. They need to be trained."109
Children consistently reported that guards at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup beat them with belts for fighting among themselves, making noise, or other minor infractions. In some cases, guards beat all the children in a cell because one child had misbehaved. Marwan `I., thirteen, said, "Every little bit they hit us. They hit us with belts. When they come to wake us, they wake us up with belts. If someone says anything, they hit all of us."110 "I saw the one who brings tea hit a boy because we were joking," said Yahiya `I., eleven. "He hit the boy on his head and shoulders with a belt."111 Fourteen-year-old `Abdullah A. told us, "The good officers bring us food. The bad ones hit us. I haven't been hit, but I've seen them hit others. They use belts. They take off the belt and hit us with the leather part."112 Mansur N., a fifteen-year-old whose family moved to Cairo a few years ago, told us that police at al Azbekiya beat him a few days earlier because he refused to say that he was from a different district after he was arrested near the Ramsis train station. "The mukhbir told me I was from `Ain al Sira, then he hit me with a belt. I still have marks on my back."113 "They hit us with belts," said sixteen-year-old Widad T. "The most important thing is for them not to hit us."114
In a few cases children described prolonged beatings that left them unable to stand. Rabi` S., thirteen, described a severe beating he received at the Muharram Bey Juvenile Police Lockup in Alexandria. "They stood me on a post and grabbed my feet and hit me on my feet with a fat hose like a watering hose." Asked why he was beaten, he said, "Because I was coughing." Asked if any other police officers witnessed the beating, he said, "The captain asked the guard, `Why do you beat him?' and the guard said, `Because he is a pickpocket.'"115
Sexual abuse and violence by male guards and officers supervising children is a serious problem both at adult police lockups and at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup.116 Police frequently use obscene and degrading language to intimidate and humiliate children in their custody, and during our interviews children consistently listed such language as one of their main complaints, along with police beatings and prolonged arbitrary detention. While both boys and girls reported being subjected to certain types of offensive language-summed up as "curses of religion, of mothers, of fathers" by one child-police often singled out girls arrested for prostitution or for being "vulnerable to delinquency" for highly sexualized harassment. This verbal degradation sometimes was a prelude to other forms of sexual abuse or sexual violence, as police apparently presume girls arrested on these charges to be sexually available and to have relinquished their right to refuse sexual contact. Girls known to have entered into sexual relationships with police in exchange for protection from other men (see Police Extortion, above) are also vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence by police.
As with police beatings, children told us that most sexual abuse and violence was committed by low-level male police who had regular, unsupervised access to children. Higher-ranking police officers frequently let sexual abuse and violence go unpunished, and girls who complained about police sexual abuse and violence often faced retaliation from their abusers or higher-ranking officers. Nora N., nineteen, described routine sexual abuse of girls and women detained at the Qasr al Nil police station by male police guarding the cells. "There are some guards who are bad, who grab girls' breasts or say filthy things. The officers don't do this. Some officers will let the guards do what they want, and some will punish them."117 Samira Y., fifteen, told us, "Rod al Farag police station is famous for the filthiness of the police there. They say filthy things, sexual things, to the girls." According to Samira, girls who complained were often punished by higher-ranking officers, or detained for longer periods. "Some girls laugh with them so that the police leave them alone," she said. "Others bear it in silence. The last time [we were arrested] we were quiet because we had already been detained for a long time and didn't want to be held any longer."118 Amal A., sixteen, told us that an officer at the Sahel police station beat her until she collapsed because she answered back when low-level guards used sexually derogatory language about her mother. "The guards at the [Sahel police] station curse us with curses about our mothers and so sometimes they hit us. My mother is dead so I don't let anyone curse her. If the guards do curse me I curse them back. Sometimes the guard tells the officer, and then the officer hits me. Twice the officer has done this-it is the same one. He curses me and makes me stand while he hits me with a stick. When I fall to the ground he makes me stand again. He hits me all over my body-from my head to my feet."119
It is difficult to assess how widespread a phenomenon police sexual abuse and violence against girls in custody is, but the girls that we interviewed clearly feared sexual abuse and violence by police. Several girls told us that sexual abuse and violence was common at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup and even singled out certain police as being known for raping girls, but declined to discuss specific incidents. "I've heard about Captain [X] at al Azbekiya," said sixteen-year-old Widad T. "I've heard he does bad things to girls."120 In other cases, girls reported that they or others in the cell avoided rape only because other girls joined in to help beat the guard who was attacking them.
In addition to authorities' failure to investigate and punish sexual abuse and violence by guards, poor facility design and a lack of female guards significantly contributed to girls' vulnerability to sexual abuse and violence by male guards at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup. According to the facility's director, no female guards are on duty after 10 p.m., and female social workers are only in the building from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.121 When Human Rights Watch toured the facility on the afternoon of July 27, 2002, no female officers, guards, or social workers were visible at any time during the three-hour visit.122 Both the girls' cell and the girls' toilet are located directly adjacent to the guard station, giving male guards easy access to detained girls at all times, and girls must leave the cell to use the toilet, during which time they can easily be isolated from the protection of their cellmates.
A Human Rights Watch researcher interviewed three of the four girls detained at al Azbekiya juvenile lockup on the day of our visit.123 Two of the girls said a guard had sexually abused them shortly after they arrived at the facility; the third girl reported that she had been sexually abused by a guard earlier, while in a police transport vehicle.124 The experience of Warda N., quoted at the outset of this subsection, demonstrates one way guards at the al Azbekiya lockup used sexual language to intimidate girls and coerce sexual contact. The sixteen-year-old told us that she had left home about a year and a half earlier, after her stepmother tried to force her to work as a prostitute. She has been raped twice since running away. Warda was arrested in a city near the Suez Canal after approaching police there for protection from a group of boys who were following her. "I turned myself in because I was afraid of the boys," she said. "But the police won't believe me. They say I am a prostitute." As indicated above, a male guard has verbally abused Warda almost continually since her arrival at al Azbekiya and physically attacked her on one occasion.125
Hala S., fifteen, told us that police had arrested her one day earlier after she fought with a group of boys who then told police she had stolen 5LE (U.S.$1.10) from them. Like Warda N., guards began to harass her using sexual language as soon as she arrived. "The police curse us with filthy language here. They call us `whore' and things like that," she said. Hala told Human Rights Watch that a guard attempted to rape her in the cell on her first night at al Azbekiya, "but we beat him and he hit us and left." Another girl had told her of a similar attack the night before her arrival, and she and other girls feared they might be attacked again. As a precaution, the girls did not leave the cell at night to go to the adjacent toilet, even though this meant "some times we urinate on ourselves rather than go out at night." Hala expected to spend another three nights at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup before being transported to her home governorate.126
The detention of children with unrelated adults places children at extreme risk of abuse and is prohibited under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.127 Yet fifteen of the thirty-five children Human Rights Watch interviewed who had been arrested had been detained with adult criminal detainees at least once. These children reported being held with unrelated adults in adult police lockups for periods averaging from one to three days, and sometimes lasting as long as two weeks. Girls reported being held with women detainees, while boys were typically detained with men.128
The children Human Rights Watch interviewed had been detained at one or more of twelve adult police stations in the Greater Cairo area.129 They described large, crowded, unsanitary, and poorly supervised cells where violence was common. The account of Yasir I., fourteen, was typical of many children's experience. "The last time I was arrested was a month ago," he said. "The police grabbed me and two other kids, but when we went to the police station there were a lot of kids there. I was there for about a week. It was the Sayyida Zaynab police station. I was in very big cell. There were a lot of people, adults and kids... There were two adults who got in a fight and were hurt. One was wounded on the neck; the other had a knife wound on the shoulder. The police don't do anything."130 Sixteen-year-old Tariq A. described his detention in the adult lockup at the al Azbekiya police station, two months earlier. "I was in a big cell, the size of three rooms, with my friend. There were bigger and smaller kids with us. The smallest was ten. There were adults with us. The adults hit us. I was hit a lot. We were there for about five days, and then they sent me home."131
Police lockups for women and girls are usually smaller than lockups for men and boys, but share problems of crowding, unsanitary conditions, poor supervision, and violence. "The lockup at the station in Ahmad Helmi smelled very bad from the filth there," said Ilham N., fifteen. "When I first got there there was a woman [detainee] in the lockup. She made me clean the whole lockup. There was a small toilet in the lockup so I got water from there. There were only two of us, this older woman and I, and then the second day two girls and a boy joined us. They were fighting with each other, tearing each other's clothes, and the officer came and hit them with his hand, hard."132 "Sometimes there are women in the lockup who are mean and curse and hit us, but most of the time the women are OK," said Amal A., sixteen.133
Egyptian police do not provide food, bedding, or regular medical care to detainees held in adult police lockups, and detainees must either have visitors bring them food, blankets, and medicines, or bribe guards to purchase these items for them. Children arrested from the street on charges of being "vulnerable to delinquency" rarely receive visitors because their guardians generally do not learn of the arrest until the child is ordered to be returned home, and in some cases guardians are never notified. Even if guardians do learn where the child is being held, distance, poverty, anger at the child, or fear of the police may keep them from visiting the police station. According to staff at one nongovernmental organization that works to re-integrate street children with their families, "the police's treatment of parents makes the situation worse," because parents forced to come to the police station to take a child into custody are frequently cursed, forced to wait long periods, and sometimes pay fines. "The parents are humiliated and take it out on the kids," which in turn encourages children to give false names and addresses to police.134
Without access to regular visitors, children who lack money to bribe guards must beg food and bedding from adult criminal detainees. Samira Y., fifteen, said, "In Rod al Farag station the women and girls are in a room half this size [i.e. half the size of a 3.5 meter by 3.5 meter room]. We sleep on the ground with no blankets. There is no food; we eat from what the visitors of others bring."135 Sixteen-year-old Yusif H. described three days he spent at `Abdin police station about a month earlier. "The adults are mixed with the kids in the same cell at `Abdin. The smallest kid there was five. After that there was a seven year old.... There are no blankets; you sleep on the tile floor. Sometimes there is space to stretch out and sometimes not. I didn't get food from the police. I got food from other detainees." Asked about how the adult detainees treated the children, Yusif first denied there were serious problems, and then said, "Any way, the kids are used to it."136
While children were reluctant to discuss the details of their relationships with the adult detainees who provided them with food, dependence on adult criminal detainees for such basic necessities can only increase children's vulnerability to sexual exploitation inside the lockup and to recruitment for criminal activities after their release. In a random survey of 104 children who had been detained in Greater Cairo, Alexandria, and al Minya, twenty-four of the children reported witnessing sexual violence against small children while in detention, and twelve children said they had themselves been attacked sexually. This survey may underreport cases of sexual abuse and violence by adults because some of the children surveyed had been detained in short-term punishment institutions or observation houses where adults are not detained.137
Seventeen-year-old Badr A. told us that he used his connections with officers at the Sayyida Zaynab station to avoid spending the night in the lockup, but other children had told him about sexual violence by adults there. "The police officer isn't always watching, so sometimes there are rapes. No one does anything. Maybe there will be someone standing at the door [of the cell] to make sure that no one calls the officer. A small kid among fifty or sixty adults-what can he do? A kid of ten or eleven doesn't have any idea of how to defend himself."138
Children who are not detained with adults are also at risk of violence, ill-treatment, or recruitment by other children if they are not properly classified and separated on the basis of each child's particular characteristics and needs. The Ministry of Interior official in charge of juvenile investigations told Human Rights Watch that the juvenile lockup in each police directorate has a staff of two to three female social workers and female police officers whose responsibilities included preparing a social inquiry report (bahith ijtima`i) on the circumstances of each child, to be used in determining each the child's treatment.139 However, only one child we interviewed recalled ever having been interviewed by a woman at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup, a person who, the child said "beats us with a belt."140
Although the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup has six rooms labeled as cells for children-five labeled as cells for boys of various ages and one labeled as a cell for girls-when we visited the facility in July 2002 only three of the cells appeared to be in regular use. One cell held four girls, a second held nine older boys, and a third held eight young boys.141 Al Azbekiya Director Brigadier Abu Shahdi described the younger boys as "vulnerable to delinquency," and the older boys as having committed misdemeanors. Two other rooms labeled as boys' cells were being used for storage (see below), and a third room labeled as a boys' cell was empty except for a single bunk bed. According to Director Abu Shahdi, the two rooms used for storage were never used to house children, and the room with a single bunk bed was only used when it became necessary to isolate children with infectious diseases.142
Director Abu Shahdi told Human Rights Watch that he separated children entering the facility "depending on the number of children and their ages. If I have a lot of children and a lot of different ages then I have to put a larger number of ages together, against my will. I have only four cells available." Abu Shahdi added that even with limited space there were things he would not allow: "I don't take children under three years old and I don't put a girl coming in on a prostitution case with an orphan, for example."143 However, an expert familiar with the police station told us that in normal practice the fourth "isolation" cell was not used, and children were only classified by age, with "one cell for girls of all ages, one for twelve- to fifteen-year-old boys, and one for fifteen- to eighteen-year-old boys."144
This level of classification is grossly inadequate to meet individual children's particular needs and to ensure protection from harmful influences and risk situations. The provision of a single cell for girls is especially troubling because girls convicted of serious crimes in other governorates often are detained for a time at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup before reaching the facility where they will serve their sentence.145 This virtually ensures that very young girls and girls arrested for truancy, begging, running away, or being homeless will be detained with much older girls who have committed serious crimes.
Both boys and girls detained at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup told us that they were often held with children significantly younger or older, and boys complained that guards rarely intervened when older or bigger children beat younger or smaller children. When we interviewed children at the facility in July 2002, one fourteen-year-old boy's cheek was visibly red. Asked why, `Abdallah A. said, "One of the other boys hit me on the face a half hour ago. We were fighting. The guards didn't do anything."146 Nine-year-old Ayman M. told us that guards intervened when children were fighting during the five nights he spent at al Azbekiya in early July 2002, but only to beat children. "I was held with the kids," he said. "The oldest kid was about twelve. The older boys cursed me and hit some other kids but didn't hit me. There was a boy my age who hit me, so I hit him back. Then the officer came and that is when the officer hit me and cursed me. The officer would come and hit us all when there were fights in the cell."147
Children arrested on charges of being "vulnerable to delinquency" often suffer from serious health problems predating their arrest. Most of the children Human Rights Watch interviewed had lived on the street for long periods of time, a factor that significantly increased their risk of chronic health problems, including skin diseases, anemia, intestinal parasitic infections, respiratory diseases, infections from untreated wounds, drug addiction, and malnutrition.148 None appeared to be eligible for the government's subsidized medical care for school-age children because they were not currently enrolled in school, and, as a consequence, children told us they only sought out medical care when they had serious injuries.149 "It costs 3LE (U.S.$0.66) to go to the public hospital, plus the cost of medicine," said fourteen-year-old `Azza S. "I'll be very sick but I grit my teeth and bear it."150
Girls living on the street often had additional health problems linked to their high risk of rape, early pregnancy, and general lack of access to reproductive health care. Social workers at one nongovernmental organization working with street girls told us that many of the girls had been raped and all of the girls lacked information on menstruation, pregnancy, and prenatal care. "We have to teach them even basic things," said the director of one drop-in center. "Most don't know about personal hygiene and menstruation. We have to tell them what they should eat when they are pregnant and to stop sniffing glue because it harms the baby."151
Police at adult lockups routinely denied children medical care in all but the most life-threatening circumstances. "If you get sick you give the guard money and he goes to buy you medicine," explained Amal A., sixteen.152 Ziyad N. told us he spent three days at the Sayyida Zaynab police station without medical care for wounds he received when police beat him during arrest. "I was bleeding but I didn't see a doctor until after I was released," he said.153 "They don't believe you if you say you are sick," said Samira Y., fifteen. "If they see you are really very sick and look like you will die, they let you go." Children told us that they had never seen a doctor visit detainees in an adult police lockup, but Samira Y. reported having once seen someone hospitalized. "It was a woman visitor who tried to smuggle in painkillers to a male detainee at Rod al Farag police station," she said. "The woman was pregnant but you couldn't tell because she was big and her clothes were loose. The police caught her and beat her and threw her in the cell with us. She bled a lot. We banged on the door and an officer came and took her to the hospital. Four days later she came back to the cell but she had lost the baby."154 Nineteen-year-old Nawal A. was the only other person we interviewed who had seen a detainee at an adult police lockup hospitalized. "I saw a woman with diabetes who was very sick," she said. "If you get sick the police leave you until you die. They waited until the very last minute before they called the ambulance."155
Children's access to medical care at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup was only marginally better than that in adult police lockups. Of nineteen children who had been detained at al Azbekiya, only one child, a sixteen-year-old who had been injured by another child, reported having received medical treatment. "The last time I was arrested I went to the hospital," said Tariq A. "One of the bigger kids had hit me, on my side. I was screaming from the pain and they took me to the hospital. There was no delay. The doctor gave me medicine, and then I went back to al Azbekiya and the police took me home." Although the injury took place two months earlier, Tariq still suffered from pain when he moved. "There isn't a mark on the outside, but it still hurts on the inside," he said.156
More typical was the case of Widad T., sixteen, who said police at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup refused medical care to one of the eighteen girls in her cell in early July 2002. "One was very sick, with a high fever, but the police didn't do anything. We put water on her to cool her."157 Mansur N. was still breathing with difficulty and had a clear liquid dripping from his ear when interviewed a few days after his release in early July 2002. "I was already sick when I got there from smoking too many cigarettes. The crowding and the lack of air made me sicker. There wasn't enough food and there wasn't a doctor there. After I was released I went to a doctor and he wrote me a prescription."158
Gen. Sayyed Mohammadayn told Human Rights Watch that it was not his agency's policy to provide medical care to detained children. "The period the child stays with us is short, so we don't offer health services in al Azbekiya," he said. "There is first aid or the child is sent to hospital, but there is no doctor at al Azbekiya."159 The juvenile lockup's director, Brigadier Yasir Abu Shahdi, told us that "a health inspector from the Ministry of Health comes every two days," but that as director he was the person primarily responsible for determining if a child needed medical care. Abu Shahdi said he did this by visually inspecting the child at the time of admission, although he is not a medical officer and said he had only recently transferred to the Juvenile Welfare Administration after spending most of his career in a police anti-drug unit. "When a child comes in I look at him to see if he has medical problems. If I suspect he has a contagious disease, I send him to the hospital." It seems unlikely that even this inadequate level of medical review and referral takes place: later in the interview Abu Shahdi contradicted his earlier testimony, saying that he detained children he believed to have infectious disease on the premises, and that he supervised the juvenile lockup by mobile phone because he was "almost never" in the building.160
Even if a doctor were to visit the al Azbekiya lockup twice a week, he or she would find few resources for treating children. When Human Right Watch asked to see the "clinic," we were shown a small, narrow room with two tables, a small desk, an examination table, one chair, and a sink. Like the rest of the lockup, the floor had been recently mopped, but the furniture was dusty and stacked high against the walls. Despite sweltering temperatures, the only source of ventilation, a single wire mesh covered window, was covered with a blanket so thickly layered in dust that it appeared to have been undisturbed for at least several weeks. The room contained no medical supplies, medical equipment, or even soap.
Children who had been detained at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup told us that they were typically fed two to three times a day, but the food was of poor quality and left them feeling hungry. Nagla' R., seventeen, said she had been detained at al Azbekiya three times and each time had only been served two meals each day. "You get a piece of bread and cheese for breakfast and bread and jam for dinner," she said. "There is no lunch."165 Muhsin M., thirteen, said he had spent all his money bribing a guard at al Azbekiya to bring him additional food. "When I first came here [seven days earlier] I had money and sent the guard to get food," he said. "He takes 1LE or 1.5LE (U.S.$0.22 to U.S.$0.33) [in addition to the cost of the food]. But now my money is gone."166 Fifteen-year-old Mansur N. described receiving two meals of bread and cheese and one meal of bread and jam, then said simply, "it is not enough food."167
Reem G., seventeen, told us that she believed that a lack of appropriate food contributed to the death of her eight-month-old son, who fell ill during the fifteen days she was detained at al Azbekiya in early 2002. "The police fed us one piece of bread with `nesto' cheese for breakfast; lunch was a piece of bread and a container of cheese that we split among fifteen to twenty people; and dinner was a piece of bread with jam," she said. "They gave me a piece of bread for the baby, but he didn't want to eat it. He was too little. We were so hungry we had to eat the food, but it was disgusting. The jam was like medicine, thin and bad tasting."168
According to General Mohammadayn, the Ministry of Interior's General Administration for Juvenile Welfare Investigations has issued standing instructions to all police stations that detained children should be fed "food equal to what the conscripts (mujannidin) at the station are served."169 Brigadier Abu Shahdi told us that he provided all children detained at al Azbekiya with "the same dry meal (wajba jafa) that conscripts get," which he said consisted of two pieces of "nesto" cheese and one piece of bread for breakfast, 110 grams of white cheese and two pieces of bread for lunch, and 75 grams of jam and one piece of bread at night.170 Abu Shahdi said that he did not order meals based on the number of children detained on a given day, but instead ordered "an average number of meals to cover both the conscripts and the children."171 When we visited the al Azbekiya "kitchen," a small room with an adjoining storage room but no refrigerator or cooking facilities, we observed a few cases of "nesto" cheese and containers of jam, but no bread or white cheese.
Abu Shahdi told Human Rights Watch that children were fed cold meals because he lacked facilities to prepare hot meals, and in any case he preferred cold meals because they offered corrupt personnel and suppliers fewer opportunities for cheating, thereby making it easier for him to ensure quality. He added that charitable organizations occasionally donated food to the facility, which he "tested by giving some of it to the guards" before distributing any leftovers to the children.172 An expert familiar with the facility confirmed that "there used to be a nongovernmental association that provided children with koshari [a lentil, pasta, and rice dish served with tomato sauce] and another that gave them meat on special occasions, not every day," but said that no longer happened on a regular basis. "The Ministry of Social Affairs should provide the food but it doesn't, so the Ministry of Interior has to but it doesn't have the budget."173
Children told us that police at adult lockups routinely held them in overcrowded cells where they slept on bare tile or cement, unless an adult agreed to share his or her blanket. Yusif H., sixteen, spent three nights at the `Abdin police station in early June 2002. "There were no blankets," he said. "We slept on the tile floor. Sometimes there was space to stretch out, and sometimes not."174 `Azza S., fourteen, spent two nights in the women's cell at the Doqqi police station in late June 2002. "Inside the cell there is a toilet and a mastaba [a raised platform] along the wall and one window covered with a screen. We were about seven people, and we couldn't all sleep on the mastaba, so some slept on the floor. There were no blankets."175 "You sleep on the floor unless some of the adult women send for a blanket from home," said Amal A., sixteen.176
Children who were transferred to the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup were removed from the immediate danger of detention with adults, but often found conditions at the juvenile lockup equally crowded, with even less access to clean bedding. The al Azbekiya juvenile lockup director, Brigadier Yasir Abu Shahdi, told Human Rights Watch that crowding was a problem both because of the large population of the Cairo Governorate and because his facility took children in transit from other governorates. "Any child going to a punishment facility comes here, because all the punishment facilities are in Cairo. Any child arrested in a [Cairo] police station also comes here. Children stay here while waiting for trains to other places." Abu Shahdi estimated that "five thousand to six thousand children pass through al Azbekiya each month," and that 3,500 of those children were "regulars" who had been arrested multiple times and were known to the police.177 If this estimate is correct, this would mean that even if no child spent more than one night at al Azbekiya there would still be at least forty-one children held in each cell on any given day, or at least 2.6 children per square meter.178
Children we spoke with said they frequently spent several days at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup, further exacerbating overcrowding. Children who were ordered returned to their families, the most common action taken in cases of children "vulnerable to delinquency," could spend a week or more at al Azbekiya. In some cases, the reason for this was that children could not or would not provide police with a correct home address. Al Azbekiya director Abu Shahdi told us, "I might spend ten days looking for a child's address because he gives the wrong address."179 In other cases, children were held for several days awaiting transport to a different facility or police station. When we interviewed Muhsin M. at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup he had already spent seven nights there. "They called my paternal aunt in [a city in the Delta] and they are going to send me home," he said, "but the day hasn't come for the train for [that governorate]."180 Hala S., who we interviewed on the same day, said she expected to spend five days at al Azbekiya before she was scheduled to be sent to her home governorate.181
In other cases, the reason for the delay was not readily apparent but the impact on children was clear. Wafa' R. spent a week at al Azbekiya in early July 2002. "We slept on the tile floor. There were no blankets," she said.182 "The room was smaller than this room [i.e. smaller than 3 x 3 meters]," said Widad T., sixteen. "There were eighteen of us in the room. There were no blankets. We slept on the floor."183 "The last time I was arrested there were ten or eleven of us in a small room," said Nagla' R., seventeen.184 Nine-year-old Ayman M. spent five nights at al Azbekiya in early July 2002. "There was a mat on the tile floor but no blankets," he said.185 Nasir Y., fifteen, spent three nights at al Azbekiya in early July 2002. "The cell was crowded," he said. "We couldn't sleep lying down. For three days I slept sitting up."186
When Human Rights Watch toured the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup in July 2002, all three of the cells holding children were full of as many bunk beds as they would hold, leaving almost no space for children to stand, and blankets on the beds appeared dusty and had a rank smell that was easily discernable from the cell's doorway. The smallest cell, which held eight young boys, was barely large enough to hold the three bunk beds arranged with their long sides touching each other and the heads of the beds touching one wall. The children had only a strip of bare floor the width of the door to stand in, a space they filled completely when ordered to line up against the single bare wall. A second cell held nine older boys, and was slightly wider, with four bunk beds arranged in the same way as in the younger boys' cell. A third cell held four girls and had four bunk beds, one on each wall with their ends overlapping to leave a small bare space in the center of the room. Despite the crowded conditions, a fourth cell was empty except for a single bunk bed. Children told us that more children had been present earlier but a large number of children had been removed from the facility that morning. "Yesterday there were more than forty boys in the cells," said `Abdallah A., a fourteen-year-old who was being held in the smallest cell. "My room had fifteen kids."187
Al Azbekiya director Abu Shahdi told us that it was sometimes difficult for him to cope with influxes of large numbers of children. "There are beds, but sometimes the cells are full. We have a storeroom for the beds and mattresses. But the children who come here aren't used to beds and destroy them. If there aren't enough beds, I take out the beds and have them sleep on the floor." He added that he lacked washing facilities to keep children's bedding clean. "Every week I wash two or three of the blankets the children sleep on and hang them on the roof. It's the best I can do. I have to call friends to send me the soap to wash them."188 During the visit, we observed two rooms labeled as boys' cells that Abu Shahdi described as "storerooms." One smaller room contained a tall pile of fabric-covered mattresses that appeared to be unused, and a number of dust-covered blankets and pillows that appeared to be new or nearly new. The second, much larger room held a few unassembled bunk bed frames and a few extremely dirty and torn foam mattresses.
Water and Hygiene
Girls detained at al Azbekiya told us that their access to water and toilets varied according to who was on duty. "They didn't want to let us go to the bathroom," said Reem G., seventeen. "It depended on their mood. Some girls urinated on the ground in the cell."191 Girls who had been sexually abused by guards or seen other girls abused at al Azbekiya told us that it wasn't safe to use the toilets there at night.192
Both boys and girls complained that they were not able to properly wash themselves or their clothing while at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup. Asked if he had any complaints about the facility, Muhsin M. said the biggest problem was that "there isn't a place to wash." Throughout the interview he had been scratching his arms.193 Reem G. told us that she believed a lack of clean water for washing had contributed to the death of her eight-month-old son after the two spent fifteen days at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup in early 2002. "The baby was urinating blood," she said, "but the police wouldn't give us water all the time. We would ask for water to drink, but they would bring it according to their whims. Only rarely they would give me water to wash the baby's clothes. I would try to dry the clothes on the mesh covering the window and the guard would make me take them down. What could I do? I didn't have any changes of clothes for him. The other girls would take off their clothes so that I would have clothes to change the baby. They gave me their blouses, underskirts, anything they had." Reem's son died two days after her release.194
Children detained in adult police lockups typically had access to drinking water and toilets inside the cell, but no access to bathing facilities. Toilet areas were often the filthiest areas in the dirty, overcrowded cells. "There is one toilet [at Rod al Farag police station], and it is putrid," said Samira Y., fifteen.195 "The water in the lockup tasted very bad. I didn't drink it because it was so bad," said Ilham N., fifteen.196 Anwar R., fifteen, said when he and other children spent a week at the Giza police station the cell was so crowded that the adult criminal detainees forced the children to stay in a filthy toilet area. "The adults would hit us and tell us `get back, get back' and make us sit in the bathroom. There were three toilets, all full of water and filth. They made us sit there."197
Education, Recreation, and Work
One individual familiar with conditions at the al Azbekiya juvenile lockup explained, "The police believe that girls' normal duty is to clean so they make them clean. I often saw them clean the stairs and the cells on that floor. If there are no girls, the boys are forced to clean. It is a police station; the children have no choice."202 Two of four boys detained at al Azbekiya on the day we visited confirmed this pattern, saying they too had been forced to clean the facility because "a visitor was coming." "We just cleaned today," said `Abdallah A., fourteen. "They give us rags to clean the floors. We cleaned the whole section that we are in."203
102 Egyptian security forces and the police routinely torture or ill-treat detainees. Torture and ill-treatment is particularly common during interrogation, but often is also used against relatives of suspects or as a favor to a third party in a personal dispute. For a more detailed discussion of the role of the Ministry of Interior in these abuses, see Chapter VII, below.
106 Many Egyptians consider shoes to be unclean, and beating or threatening to beat someone with a shoe is serious insult to that person's dignity. The woman who gave this account was so embarrassed by the attack that she repeatedly asked that her name not be used when reporting on this incident. Human Rights Watch interview, Cairo, Egypt, July 14, 2002.
116 The term "sexual abuse" here refers to sexual harassment and forced sexual contact that does not include rape; the term "sexual violence" refers to rape. For a discussion of sexual abuse and violence in custodial settings in the United States, see Human Rights Watch, All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996).
127 The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires children deprived of their liberty to be separated from adults "unless it is in the child's best interest not to do so"; the ICCPR prohibition has no such exception. See Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, U.N. Doc. A/RES/44/25 (entered into force September 2, 1990), article 37(c); and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force March 23, 1976), article 10(b).
128 Only one boy reported being held with women detainees. Sixteen-year-old `Amr R. spent three days in a cell with women detainees at the Sayyida Zaynab police station near the end of March 2002. "I was in a room about this size (3.5 meters x 3.5 meters), with the women [detainees]. All the kids there were there with women, and I was the only one whose mother wasn't there. The police only bring food once in a while (biyigibu akl kul fain wa fain). There is someone who sells ful and tamiya [inexpensive foods made of fava beans] and I had LE 5 with me so I bought some." Human Rights Watch interview with `Amr R., Cairo, Egypt, July 9, 2002.
129 Children identified the police stations in Greater Cairo as Giza, Sayyida Zaynab, `Abdin, `Aguza, al Khalifa, Sahel, Rod al Farag, Qasr al Nil, Doqqi, the adult lockup and the juvenile lockup at al Azbekiya, Shobra al Khayma, and what appears to be a police substation in the Ahmad Helmi neighborhood. Two children also described being detained at the Muharram Bey juvenile police lockup in Alexandria.
132 Several children we interviewed described being taken to "the Ahmad Helmi police station." This appears to be a reference to a police substation near a busy bus station in the Ahmad Helmi neighborhood of Cairo. Human Rights Watch interview with Ilham N., Cairo, Egypt, July 16, 2002.
137 The survey asked children if they were detained with adults, and those who answered yes were then asked, "Did one of them try do something bad to you?" (had hawal ya`amal ma`k haja wahsha?), followed by additional questions to clarify the meaning of "something bad" (haja wahsha). Mohammad `Abd al `Athim, Under Detention: A Study of Detained Children, (Cairo: Association for Human Rights Legal Aid, 2002), pp. 94-96, 108-109 (in Arabic).
141 Children told us that a much larger number of children had been at the facility the day before, but had been transferred out on the morning of Human Rights Watch's visit, an account that the director later confirmed.
145 Egypt has no punishment facilities for girls over age fifteen and only seven social welfare institutions that accept children "vulnerable to delinquency" or girls under fifteen who are convicted of crimes. Four of those facilities are in the greater Cairo area, two are in Alexandria governorate, and one is in Port Said governorate. Girls from governorates lacking facilities must be transferred to governorates that have them, and Cairo-based facilities are the closest for most cities. Human Rights Watch interview, Wafa' al Mistikawy, Director, Administration for Studies, Planning, and Follow-up, Social Protection Sector, Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs, July 18, 2002.
148 A 2001 study of street children in Cairo and Alexandria found evidence of high rates of anemia, respiratory problems due to glue sniffing and cigarette smoking, and skeletal problems due to violence. Children frequently complained of headaches, heart pain, chest pain, abdominal colic, renal colic, back pain, blood in the urine, shortness of breath when running, cough, wounds and bruises, diarrhea, dental problems, fever, and discharge from the ear. Nongovernmental organizations providing services to street children reported scabies, tinea, anemia, intestinal parasitic infections, skin abscesses and septic wounds, tonsillitis, otitis media, and hair lice as common problems. Abt Enterprises LLC, Rapid Situation Assessment of Street Children in Cairo and Alexandria: Final Report, March 29, 2001, Prepared for the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, the World Food Program, and the U.N. International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), pp. 26-28.
149 The School Health Insurance Program, established by Law 99 of 1992, provides preventive and curative health care services for school children until secondary school. Children pay a LE4 (U.S.$ 0.88) fee to register, and registration takes place through their schools. See A.K. Nandakumar et. al, "Health reform for children: the Egyptian experience with school health insurance," Health Policy, vol. 50, issue 3, January 2000, pp 155-170, and Hassan Abd El Fattah, MD, et. al, The Health Insurance Organization of Egypt: An Analytical Review and Strategy for Reform, Technical Report no. 43, (Bethesda, MD: Partnerships for Health Reform Project, Abt Associates Inc., August 1997).
161 Most children we interviewed reported being held in adult police lockups for three days or less, but one child reporting being held a week, and another child reported being held approximately two weeks.
170 "Nesto" is a term used in Egypt to refer to any of several brands of processed cheese food that come packaged as individually-wrapped triangles in a round box. A single triangle of one such brand, Laughing Cow, weighs about 18 grams. Human Rights Watch interview with Brigadier Yasir Abu Shahdi.
177 Ministry of Interior arrest figures for the Cairo Governorate's Juvenile Welfare Administration alone list 3,360 children arrested for being "vulnerable to delinquency," 1,568 children arrested for misdemeanors, and 269 children arrested for felonies in 2001. In comparison, the governorate with the second highest number of children arrested for being "vulnerable to delinquency," Alexandria, reported 1,891 cases in 2001. Human Rights Watch interview with Brigadier Yasir Abu Shahdi. Ministry of Interior, Social Protection Sector, General Administration for Juvenile Welfare Investigation, The Administration's Efforts Year 2001 (Cairo: Ministry of Interior, 2002) (in Arabic), p. 105, 108.
178 Abu Shahdi's estimate appears high, given that the Ministry of Interior lists 42,505 as the total number of arrests of children in Egypt in 2001, but may reflect inaccuracies in the Ministry's statistics or be a result of counting each time a child passes through al Azbekiya separately, even when they occur during the same arrest. Our estimate of crowding is based on Abu Shahdi's lower figure of 5,000 children per month, spread among thirty days, with no child staying more than one day, and children spread among four cells with an average size of sixteen square meters per cell. However, according to Abu Shahdi, only three cells are in regular use and the policy of separating girls from boys necessarily prevents an even distribution of children among all three cells. Ministry of Interior, Social Protection Sector, General Administration for Juvenile Welfare Investigation, The Administration's Efforts Year 2001, pp. 95-97.