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Amnesty International: Assault on human rights defender a further obstruction to effective investigation of torture

PUBLIC STATEMENT

AI Index: MDE 12/008/2008 (Public)

Date: 02 May 2008

Egypt: Assault on human rights defender a further obstruction to effective investigation of torture

The assault on a human right defender and doctor denouncing torture in Egypt two days ago is a disturbing development at a time when the Egyptian authorities purport to be combating torture.

Magda Adly, Director of the Nadim Center for Psychological Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, was pushed on the floor and had her handbag stolen by a man on 30 April inside the Kafr Dawwar court building where she and other human rights lawyers were waiting to attend an appeal hearing against the pre-trial detention of three torture victims members of Sobhi Mohammed Hussein family. As a result of the assault, she sustained two fractures to her shoulder, a cut to her left eyebrow, and bruises on her left leg, according to medical reports.

The assailant, who was apprehended by members of the public present in the courthouse, said he was acting upon instructions from a chief investigations officer at Kafr Dawwar police station. In an attempt to have the complaint against their son dropped, the assailant’s family told members of the Nadim Center yesterday that their son was summoned to the Kafr Dawwar police station the day before the assault, ordered to hit Magda Adly and steal her bag and was threatened with criminal charges if he refused to abide by these instructions. He and his sister, who agreed to testify to this before the prosecutor, have reportedly been detained at Kafr Dawwar police station where they are currently held.

The assault on Magda Adly came few hours after the Nadim Center issued a statement calling for the investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of members of the Sobhi Mohammed Hussein family, following a visit to the family by a delegation from the Nadim Center and the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre.

Sixty-seven years old Sobhi Mohammed Hussein and his two sons, Ahmed and Mohammed, were all arrested on 22 April and detained at the Kafr Dawwar police station, apparently for seeking to complaint about an early morning raid by police officers to their home. They were accused of resisting the authorities. The father was allegedly burnt with cigarettes on his chest and thighs. His son Ahmed, aged 36, had bruises all over his body and an internal bleeding in his left eye. The other son Mohammed, aged 38, sustained broken bones on his right hand. Ahmed was reportedly also beaten with wooden and metal sticks during the arrest and reportedly dragged to the nearby Kafr Dawwar police station. Mohammed was arrested while he was seeking to submit a complaint to the public prosecutor about the arrest of his brother, mentioning that one police officer fired seven bullets in front of their home. The father was arrested following a phone call from the police station asking him to come for reconciliation and the release of his two sons. All three remain in custody pending renewal of their detention.

The alleged treatment of the Sobhi Mohammed Hussein family and the assault on Magda Adly form part of a pattern of abuse and impunity. Police officers have often put pressure on torture victims by threatening to re-arrest them or arrest their relatives in order to prevent them from lodging complaints. Journalist and human rights organizations and lawyers who defend torture victims or seek to expose abuses have in the past been harassed by the authorities, including through judicial proceedings against them.

Amnesty International urges the Egyptian authorities to investigate the assault on Magda Adly and the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of the members of the Sobhi Mohammed Hussein family. The Egyptian authorities must ensure that all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are investigated promptly, thoroughly and impartially, and that those accused of perpetrating or of ordering or authorizing such abuses are brought to justice. By allowing such abuses to go unpunished, the Egyptian authorities would in effect be giving the security forces a licence to torture and to do so with total impunity.

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