International News

Amnesty International, 2001 Annual Report on Egypt

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 at 05:53 PM CT

Covering events from January - December 2000


Arab Republic of Egypt
Head of state: Muhammad Hosni Mubarak
Head of government: 'Atif Muhammad 'Ubayd Capital: Cairo
Population: 68.4 million
Official language: Arabic
Death penalty: retentionist
2000 treaty ratifications/signatures: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Thirty prisoners of conscience were sentenced to between six months' and five years' imprisonment; 20 remained held at the end of the year. Eight prisoners of conscience sentenced in 1999 remained in detention at the end of 2000. While hundreds of suspected supporters of banned Islamist groups were released, thousands of others, including possible prisoners of conscience, remained held without charge or trial. Others served sentences imposed after grossly unfair trials before military courts. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees continued to be widespread; the majority of cases occurred in police stations. Prison conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment were reported. At least 79 people were sentenced to death and at least 22 people were executed.


Hundreds of supporters of the opposition were detained during the months leading up to parliamentary elections which were held between mid- October and mid-November. The vast majority of the detainees were alleged members of the banned Muslim Brothers organization. A ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court in July led to legislation being amended to require judicial supervision of the election process inside the polling stations.

During the elections excessive use of force by the security forces resulted in civilians being killed and injured during demonstrations protesting at restricted access to polling stations. An AI delegate was beaten and kicked in front of a polling station in the Shubra al-Khaima district of Cairo. He was assaulted by several men who were acting under the orders of or in collusion with the security forces. Several journalists covering the elections were ill-treated in similar circumstances. Candidates of the ruling National Democratic Party gained an overwhelming majority of seats in parliament. In May the state of emergency, declared in 1981, was extended for a further three-year period.

In January sectarian violence in al-Kushh, a village in Upper Egypt, left 20 Coptic Christians and one Muslim dead. The trial of 96 men charged in connection with the killings began in June and was continuing at the end of the year. All detained defendants were released without bail in December.


Hundreds of possible prisoners of conscience - including members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and political activists - were held for weeks in so-called preventive detention; the majority of them were released without being formally charged.

Civil institutions such as political parties, NGOs, professional associations and trade unions, and the news media, continued to face legal restrictions and government control. In June the Supreme Constitutional Court found that the NGO law of 1999 was unconstitutional on procedural grounds. In July, the authorities informed the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) that its registration as an NGO had been postponed for ''security reasons''.

The Political Party Committee, a governmental body, decided in May to freeze the activities of the Islamist Hizb al-'Amal (Labour Party) and to suspend the publication of its newspaper al-Sha'ab (The People). In September the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the ban on the newspaper had to be lifted. However, publication of al-Sha'ab had not resumed by the end of the year.


Human rights defenders continued to be targeted.

  • In February the Public Prosecution Office announced that the case against Hafez Abu Sa'ada, General Secretary of the EOHR, would be referred to trial before the Emergency Supreme State Security Court. However, Hafez Abu Sa'ada subsequently received oral assurances that his case would not be pursued. Investigations against Hafez Abu Sa'ada began in November 1998 following an EOHR report on human rights violations in the predominantly Coptic Christian village of al-Kushh and led to his detention for several days.
  • In June human rights defender Dr Sa'ad Eddin Ibrahim, Director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and lecturer at the American University in Cairo, was arrested at his home in Cairo. Several of the Ibn Khaldun Center's staff, including the finance director Nadia 'Abd al-Nur, and people affiliated with the institution were also arrested and detained without being formally charged until their release in August. In November the trial of 28 people charged with offences including disseminating false information abroad, unauthorized funding, forgery and bribery opened before the Supreme State Security Court. The charges related to the conduct of projects promoting participation in elections.


Prisoners of conscience, including political activists, journalists and members of religious groups, were sentenced to up to five years' imprisonment, in some cases following unfair trials that did not allow for appeals.

  • In November the Supreme Military Court sentenced 15 alleged Muslim Brothers to between three and five years' imprisonment; five others were acquitted. The 20 doctors, lawyers and other professionals, most of whom held leading positions in professional bodies, had been detained since October 1999. The Supreme Military Court had been due to deliver its verdict in July, but this was postponed until November in an obvious attempt to prevent the defendants from participating in the parliamentary elections.
  • In April an appeal court upheld the sentences of two years' imprisonment of Magdi Hussein and Salah Badawi, in a criminal libel case brought against journalists of al-Sha'ab by a government minister. Both were released in an amnesty in December.
  • In July the Sohag Criminal Court sentenced Sourial Gayed Ishaq, a 37-year-old Coptic Christian, to three years' imprisonment for publicly insulting Islam.
  • In September, the Emergency State Security Court for Misdemeanours sentenced Manal Wahid Mana', the alleged leader of a religious group, and 12 of her followers to prison terms of between six months and five years. Accusations against the group included attributing divine status to a late Sufi religious leader.


Hundreds of political detainees were released and hardly any new cases of administrative detention under emergency legislation were reported. However, thousands of suspected members or supporters of banned Islamist groups arrested in previous years, including possible prisoners of conscience, remained administratively detained without charge or trial. Some had been held for more than a decade. Others were acquitted by military or (Emergency) Supreme State Security Courts, but remained in detention.

  • Mahmoud Mubarak Ahmad, a doctor, had been arrested in January 1995 by officers of the State Security Intelligence (SSI) and accused of membership of an illegal Islamist organization. A court had ordered his release, but instead of being released he was issued with a new detention order and remained in prison. In 1999 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention judged his administrative detention to be arbitrary and in conflict with Egypt's international obligations.


In September the Ministry of the Interior announced that flogging as a punishment in prisons would be outlawed. Thousands of detainees continued to be held in prisons where conditions amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Several prisoners reportedly died as a result of diseases for which they received little or no treatment.

Scores of Islamist activists in administrative detention were reportedly held in overcrowded conditions with inadequate sanitation and health care and poor quality food. As a result illnesses including tuberculosis and skin diseases were common. Several prisoners reportedly died as a result of diseases which received little or no treatment.

Hundreds of political detainees continued to be denied the right to visits by lawyers and family members. A ban on any visits imposed for more than five years remained in force in three prisons holding political detainees.


Torture in police stations continued to be widespread. The decrease in arrests of alleged members of armed Islamist groups was reflected in a significant reduction in reports of systematic torture of political suspects. The most common torture methods reported were electric shocks, beatings, suspension by the wrists or ankles and various forms of psychological torture, including death threats and threats of rape or sexual abuse of the detainee or a female relative.

  • In March Salha Sayid Qasim was detained at Giza Police Headquarters in connection with a criminal investigation. She reported that in detention she was blindfolded, beaten, whipped, suspended by her arms and subjected to electric shocks.


Several people died in custody in circumstances suggesting that torture or ill-treatment may have caused or contributed to their deaths.

  • In February the Public Prosecution Office announced the referral of five police officers to a criminal court in connection with the killing of Ahmad Muhammad 'Issa in Wadi Natroun Prison in February. Torture was reported to have caused or contributed to his death. The outcome of the trial was not known at the end of the year.


Victims of torture and their relatives who made complaints continued to report harassment.

  • Relatives of Ahmed Mohammad Mahmud Tamam, a 19-year-old student who died in police custody in July 1999 in circumstances suggesting that torture had caused or contributed to his death, alleged that during 2000 they had been threatened in an attempt to force them to withdraw their complaint.


Despite the fact that hundreds of victims of torture had filed complaints with the authorities over the past decade, no prompt and impartial investigations which met international standards had been carried out by the end of 2000.

  • By the end of the year the Alexandria prosecution office had not yet decided how to proceed in the case of Muhammad Badr al-Din Gom'a Isma'il, who had been tortured and forced to make a false confession in 1996 and 1997.


Excessive use of force by the security forces resulted in civilians being injured and killed in the context of demonstrations. Mass demonstrations in Cairo, consisting mostly of students, took place in May in protest at the publication of a novel and in October in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Several people, including young people, were killed in demonstrations protesting at the security forces restricting access to several polling stations during the parliamentary elections.

  • On 14 November, three people were killed in clashes between demonstrators and the security forces in al-'Amara village in Qalyubiya province.


There were reports of the forcible return of Egyptian nationals suspected of being affiliated to armed Islamist groups.

  • In May, Ayman Kamal al-Din was reportedly forcibly returned from Lebanon to Egypt where he was feared to be at risk of human rights violations.


The death penalty continued to be used extensively. At least seven women and 72 men were sentenced to death by criminal courts during 2000, the majority of them on charges of murder. At least six women and 16 men were executed, including two men who had been sentenced following unfair trials in absentia.


In October, two members of an armed Islamist group were killed when members of the security forces raided a flat in Aswan. The circumstances surrounding the deaths suggested that the two men may have been extrajudicially executed. No further incidents of clashes between security forces and armed Islamist groups were reported. The leadership of the main armed Islamist group, al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, Islamic Group, maintained that it had halted its armed operations. Islamist groups failed to publicly revoke death threats issued in previous years against civilians whom they considered political and ideological enemies, including the writer Naguib Mahfuz and university professor Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid.

AI country report and visits

Egypt: Muzzling civil society (AI Index: MDE 12/021/2000)

In March and November AI delegates visited Egypt and met victims of human rights violations, representatives of human rights organizations and other members of civil society. They also met government officials and raised concerns about the lack of proper investigations of and preventive measures against human rights violations. AI delegates observed trials before the Supreme Military Court and the Supreme State Security Court.

Download this country report as a pdf file

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