Egypt using sexual attacks to crush opposition, says rights group

World Today

An Egyptian activist shouts anti-military Supreme Council slogans during a demonstration in front of Cairo’s high court, Egypt, March 16, 2012. (Amr Nabil/AP Photo)

Egyptian security forces have stepped up sexual attacks against detainees following the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi, using them as a “cynical political strategy” to crush opposition, a rights group charged Tuesday.

Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, was ousted in July 2013 by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after mass protests against his sole year in office.

Since his removal, a relentless government crackdown against all kinds of dissent — mostly on Morsi supporters — has left hundreds dead in street clashes and thousands jailed.

Many more have been sentenced to death following mass trials, described by the United Nations as “unprecedented in recent history”.
Morsi himself has been sentenced to death along with dozens of fellow defendants for their role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

On Tuesday, the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) released a report, based on testimonies of victims, activists and witnesses, charging that sexual violence against detainees has surged since the ouster of Morsi.

“The scale of sexual violence occurring during arrests and in detention, the similarities in the methods used and the general impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators point to a cynical political strategy aimed at stifling civil society and silencing all opposition,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

The report accused the Egyptian police, National Security Intelligence officers and the military of abusing detainees with “sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, rape with objects, electrocution of genitalia, sex-based defamation and blackmail”.

It said such violence is widely tolerated by the authorities, with perpetrators, be they state-employed or civilian, rarely having to answer for their crimes.

“While tolerating these crimes, Sisi’s regime has also hijacked the fight against sexual violence as a pretext to tighten state security,” the report said.

“The Egyptian government must immediately put an end to these crimes, committed by actors under their direct authority,” said Amina Bouayach, secretary general of FIDH.

Story by AFP