Egypt’s Missing Raise Doubts About Army

Ramadan Aboul Hassan left his house one night about three weeks ago to join a neighborhood watch group with two friends and did not return. The next time their relatives saw the three men they were emerging Wednesday night from a maximum security prison, 400 miles from home, run by Egypt’s military. Some family members said they bore signs of torture, though others denied it.

While many here have cheered the military for taking over after last week’s ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and for pledging to oversee a transition to democracy, human rights groups say that in the past three weeks the military has also played a documented role in dozens of disappearances and at least 12 cases of torture — trademark practices of the Mubarak government’s notorious security police that most here hoped would end with his exit.

Some, like Mr. Aboul Hassan and his two friends, were not released until several days after the revolution removed Mr. Mubarak.

Now human rights groups say the military’s continuing role in such abuses raises new questions about its ability to midwife Egyptian democracy.

“The military is detaining people incommunicado, which is illegal, and so it is effectively disappearing people,” said Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch, which has documented four cases that it describes as involving torture. Amnesty International has documented three such cases, and the Front for the Defense of Egyptian Protesters has documented five.

Human Rights Watch has also documented one case in which the military transferred a prisoner to the country’s feared State Security forces, where it says he was tortured.

Ms. Morayef said the cases of detention and torture did not appear to be “systematic,” but added, “It is enough to set off alarm bells and call for an investigation into abuses by the military police.”

Most victims were arrested by the military, she says, though two were detained by neighborhood watch groups and then handed over to soldiers. The interrogations accompanying abuse all revolved around victims’ suspected participation in the anti-government protests that toppled the Mubarak government.

Complete article via New York Times


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