The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in particular within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and FIDH member organization, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), are alarmed by the multiplication of cases of kidnapping and physical assault targeting activists and protesters in Egypt. In the past two weeks, there have been three reported incidents where activists and protesters were kidnapped and assaulted by unknown men. According to victims testimonies gathered by local NGOs there are strong reasons to consider the individuals behind the attacks to be government-affiliated.
Firstly, in the night of November 29, 2011, Mr. Abdelrahman Amin El-Din (known among activists as Nadim), a member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” Group was kidnapped and physically assaulted. According to Amin El Din’s testimony, after he left Tahrir square and reached Cairo University, he was dragged violently into a blue Jeep by two men who blind folded him, gagged him, and then tied his hands and legs behind his back and proceeded to physically assault him. During the assault, they insulted him and directed random accusations to him. Later, the car picked up a fourth man, who searched Amin El-Din once again. During the remaining hours of the night, the men adjusted his position, tying his hands and legs to his front and left him lying on the floor of the car. According to the activist’s testimony, the men received several phone calls, for which they had to get out of the car to answer until they finally untied him and dumped him in a street off of the Isamiliya desert road.
Secondly, on December 9, 2011, Mr. Zeyad Salem, another member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” Group in Alexandria was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by two men. According to Salem’s testimony, at 9.40 pm, as he was on his way home from the Corniche, 300 meters away from the Alexandria Library, a micro-bus stopped and asked him about his destination. Assuming it was a regular micro-bus, he entered and paid the fare. There were two men in the bus, other than the driver who then took a different route, and moments later one of the two men threw himself on Salem and the second guy moved towards Salem to corner him. The first man, who had a knife, asked Salem for his name. Salem provided him with a different name however the man replied “No your name is Zeyad and we know you”. The first man started to sexually assault Salem, put the knife towards his neck, and threatened to kill him. The man told Salem that “you (in plural form) are the reason my brother is in prison”, while the other said “you (in plural form) ruined the life of my cousin”. He was later dumped on a high way with his bag. All his belongings, which included his wallet, a Blackberry, I-pod and a silver key-chain, were all untouched; only the “No to Military Trials For Civilians” Group phone was taken. Salem also stated that he had received threats on the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” Group hot-line in the past but that he had always disregarded them.
Thirdly, on December 12, Mr. Abdel Rahman Zein El-Din, 19 years old, was kidnapped from his house and then taken to an apartment where he was tortured. He was asked by the perpetrators why he goes to Tahrir and he was asked to give information on two other protesters in Tahrir. His friends later found him in Al Abasseya and took him to a hospital. There were signs of electrocution on his body, bruises and cuts on his chest, and an injury on his head. Salma Said, an activist and a friend of Zein El-Din’s who delivered his testimony to FIDH, believes that he was kidnapped by Government-affiliated forces, however she insisted that the purpose was not to extract information but rather to intimidate the young protesters and deter them from joining future protests.
We fear that these events are a prelude to a new chapter, which we thought have ended with the fall of Mubarak, of kidnapping activists and subjecting them to torture and other forms of ill-treatment and intimidations to intimidate and break them.
Our organisations call upon the authorities to start independent, prompt and impartial investigations into these alarming allegations, more importantly since according to reports collected the attacks were backed by authorities, to ensure that the perpetrators will be held accountable, and the victims given adequate redress and compensation. FIDH, OMCT and CIHRS stress that such incidents cannot go unpunished as it sets a highly dangerous precedent for the safety of activists and protesters, whose safety and protection are the direct responsibility of the Government. Our organisations remind the Egyptian authorities of their obligation to guarantee the respect of the right to freedoms of expression, association and assembly under any circumstances.
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