Egyptian police, security forces and military officials have arbitrarily arrested, tortured and taken away hundreds of children, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The New York-based rights group released a report, contending that Egypt has detained and abused children as young as 12 on account of a crackdown on dissent against the country’s military government, since 2013.
The 43-page report states that the crackdown and use of torture against all detainees, especially minors, has weakened the rule of law in Egypt “to the point of extinction”, as prosecutors and judges aggravated abuses through due process violations and unfair trials.
Egypt has not reacted to the new indictments, but the country’s State Information Service (SIS) has in the past dismissed similar claims as a “smear campaign”.
The report, titled ‘No One Cared He Was A Child: Egyptian Security Forces’ Abuse of Children in Detention, documents abuses against 20 children who were aged between 12 and 17 when they were arrested.
Fifteen of the 20 children said they were tortured in pretrial detention, usually during interrogation and while being detained.
Seven children said security officers tortured them with electricity, including with stun guns.
The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) set out the conditions under which a child, defined as a person under the age of 18, can be detained for crimes they have been convicted of, but mandates that children be held separately from adults and imprisonment is a measure of last resort.
In Egypt, prison officials do not separate children from adults in places of detention, according to HRW.
Amnesty International released a report in 2018 stating children were tortured and involuntarily disappeared by the Egyptian state.
A 2017 report by the UN Committee against Torture revealed that torture was practised systematically in Egypt, including in police stations, prisons and state security facilities and it was perpetrated by police, military officers and prison guards.
However, shortly after the release of Amnesty’s 2018 report, the SIS responded saying that Egypt had complied with the CRC and Amnesty’s report was not based on well-informed sources.
The SIS urged Amnesty “as a large and prominent organisation to be more accurate while relaying allegations of human rights violations in Egypt”.
SIS further asserted that Egyptian authorities offered “the necessary guarantees of justice” to two children whose cases were mentioned in detail in Amnesty’s report. SIS called on Amnesty not to “take part in the systematic smear campaign that aims to damage the image of the Egyptian state”.
HRW has urged Egypt enforces provisions of its 1996 Child Law and its 2008 amendments that establish special protections for children, such as alternatives to detention and penalties for officers who detained children alongside adults.
The rights group called on Egypt to fully cooperate with United Nations and African Union experts on torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances, and to invite them to conduct country visits.