Monday, March 14, 2011

Human Rights Watch's report about clearing protesters from Tahrir Square

Here is a press release from Human Rights Watch about what happened four nights ago, Wednesday, March 9, 2011, when the protesters and all their tents were attacked and then cleared out of Tahrir Square.  When I went to the Square the next day headed to my class at the downtown AUC campus, I saw no sign of the protesters and no more tents in Tahrir Square.

Subject: Egypt: End Torture, Military Trials of Civilians

For Immediate Release

Egypt: End Torture, Military Trials of Civilians
Demonstrators and Journalists Arrested, Abused as Army Clears Tahrir Square

(Cairo, March 11, 2011) – Egypt’s Supreme Military Council should take
urgent steps to end torture, investigate all cases of abuse against
peaceful demonstrators, and stop prosecuting civilians before military
tribunals, Human Rights Watch said today.

On the evening of March 9, 2011, Egyptian soldiers and men in civilian
clothing destroyed a tent camp belonging to demonstrators in Tahrir
Square’s central garden, where people have camped off and on since
January 28. Six witnesses told Human Rights Watch that between 4 p.m.
and 6 p.m., soldiers in the square looked on as gangs in street
clothes seized and beat demonstrators. The witnesses said that the
attackers also forcibly took demonstrators to the grounds of the
Egyptian Museum, where soldiers, military police, and men in civilian
clothes detained and physically abused them.

“The Supreme Military Council has been ignoring credible reports of
arbitrary arrest and torture,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and
North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “There can be no break
from the abuses of the past while security forces – including military
personnel – abuse people with impunity.”

Four people detained by the army on March 9 told Human Rights Watch
that their captors handcuffed them and beat them with electric cables,
sticks, and metal pipes. Two of the four said they had been repeatedly
shocked with electric stun devices.

The army removed 190 of those detained in Tahrir on March 9 to
military prisons, with plans to interrogate them over the next few
days, said Ragia Omrane, a lawyer with the Hisham Mubarak Law Center
who has been following military prosecutions of protesters.

Beatings in Tahrir Square
Six witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch, as well as local
media accounts, said that hundreds of men in civilian clothes armed
with metal pipes, wooden sticks, and paving stones entered Tahrir
square between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. and began attacking protesters there.
The attacks continued for over an hour before the army entered the
square. At that point, army officers and the attackers began arresting
demonstrators and detaining them inside the Egyptian Museum, on the
north side of Tahrir Square.

“When we saw the army, we became calm because we thought they were
coming to protect us,” said Aida Saif al-Dawla, from of the Nadim
Center for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, who was in the square
during the attacks. “Instead, they started destroying the tents while
the thugs were beating us and chasing us away.”

Galal A., another protest participant, told Human Rights Watch:
“Soldiers were just arresting people, taking down the tents, [but] the
thugs kept beating us with metal pipes. They stole everything that was
with us, our personal belongings. About ten minutes [after the army
arrived], they [army soldiers and men] had chased everyone from

One lawyer who had been walking along nearby Kasr al-Aini Street
around the time of the events told Human Rights Watch that he saw an
army officer holding a whip. When the lawyer, who asked not to be
named, asked the officer what the whip was for, he replied, “This is
just so that we can deal with things.”

Seif al-Dawla said that as the men in street clothes were shoving her
and her friends out of the square, they saw soldiers pulling down a
medical tent with two wounded people inside.

“We asked them not to destroy it until the wounded people could be
removed,” she said. “They started insulting us, [saying] things like,
‘Get out of here, you dogs.’ Then an army officer told the men in
plain clothes, ‘Take them to the museum.’”

Another demonstrator who asked not to be named told Human Rights
Watch, “I saw girls dragged on the ground by the baltagiyya [thugs].
The military were there and did nothing.”

“In Tahrir Square on March 9 we saw the military use plainclothes
thugs the same way the previous government did to do its dirty work,”
Stork said. “For those who thought this kind of abuse was a thing of
the past, it’s a huge disappointment.”

Beatings, Torture at the Egyptian Museum
Human Rights Watch interviewed four people who said that soldiers
detained them inside the Egyptian Museum and severely tortured them

“They took us to the museum. From the moment we entered the gate, we
were beaten up using everything – wooden sticks, rods, electric
cables, and pipes; they hit us everywhere, they slapped our faces
repeatedly,” said Ahmad M., a 24-year-old demonstrator who asked that
his real name not be used. “Inside the museum, I saw various people
detained there – street sellers, foreigners, and political activists.
I saw the memory cards of cameras get broken. People were forced to
stand against the walls while military policemen beat them with wooden

Sharif Azer, an officer of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights,
told Human Rights Watch that soldiers also detained him inside the
museum grounds.

“I told an officer that I am from a human rights organization,” Azer
said. “He answered, ‘We know nothing about human rights… We have been
here for 40 days and this has to stop. We have the upper hand now and
we know how to protect the people.’”

Rasha Azab, a 28-year-old journalist for Al-Fajr Weekly, told Human
Rights Watch she was handcuffed to an outside wall in a museum

They were kicking me in my stomach and hitting me with wooden sticks
and slapping my face. They called me dirty names. At one point, one of
them came and tied my hands even more tightly. I stood there for four
hours. I saw dozens of men being dragged on the floor, being whipped.
All of them were the people who had stayed in the square. I heard
people screaming from inside the museum, and [the soldiers] said, “You
should thank God you are not inside.”

Another demonstrator who asked not to be identified told Human Rights
Watch, “[The soldiers] forced us to lie on our stomach [inside a
room]. They started whipping us, giving us electric shocks, kicking
us. They would beat and electrocute us in four main places: the head,
the back, the bottom, and the legs.” The protester said the beatings
lasted from about 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“These brutal methods of abuse were the hallmarks of President
Mubarak’s rule, and protesters sat in the square for 40 days so that
they would end,” said Stork. “The military that now runs Egypt has yet
to investigate or prosecute any of these allegations of torture by the

Military Detention and Prosecution of Protesters
Ragia Omrane of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center told Human Rights Watch
that 173 men and 17 women who were arrested on March 9 were being held
in military prisons. Omrane said that Col. Mohammad al-Shenawy, the
head military prosecutor, told her and another lawyer, Mohammad Aissa,
that he had not received orders on when their interrogations would
begin, and provided no further information.

On March 7 Human Rights Watch interviewed two protesters who had been
interrogated in a military prosecutions compound but had been denied
access to their lawyers, despite their requests and lawyers’ repeated
efforts to see them.

On March 1 lawyers from the Front for the Defense of Egyptian
Protesters had submitted a legal complaint to the Office of the Public
Prosecutor about earlier attacks. The Public Prosecutor transferred
the complaint to the military prosecutor. Article 7 of the Military
Justice Law states that any crimes committed by the military or
against the military must be tried before the military justice system.

Adel Ramadan, a lawyer for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal
Rights, told Human Rights Watch that prison sentences issued by
military tribunals thus far have ranged from 6 months to 15 years, and
that military trials are particularly problematic because defendants
cannot appeal their sentences. Ramadan said that he was present during
the military court trial of a 15-year-old boy and that the
court-appointed lawyer did not raise the issue of the boy’s age or
question whether the court had legal authority to try him.

Human Rights Watch interviewed the sister of a 17-year-old boy who
said that the army had arrested her brother while he was selling fruit
in the street. She told Human Rights Watch that a military court tried
him for theft and convicted him, sentencing him to seven years in
prison. She went to visit him at the Cairo Appeals Prison, where
guards told her that her brother was there but that the prison had a
ban on visits.

“Throwing civilians into a military prison, cutting them off from
contact with their families and lawyers, interrogating them, and
sentencing them without the possibility of appeal, makes a mockery of
justice,” Stork said. “There is no justification for the continued use
of military courts. The Supreme Military Council should immediately
order the transfer of all trials of civilians to civilian courts.”

To read “Work on Him Until He Confesses,” the January 2011 Human
Rights Watch report on torture in Egypt, please visit:

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Egypt, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Cairo, Heba Morayef (English, Arabic, French): +20-1238-10-319; or
In Cairo, Priyanka Motaparthy (English, Arabic): +20-1524-21-8089; or
In Washington, DC, Joe Stork (English): +1-202-612-4327; or
+1-202-299-4925 (mobile); or
In New York, Sarah Leah Whitson (English): +1-212-216-1230; or
+1-718-362-0172 (mobile); or
In London, Tom Porteous (English): +44-79-8398-4982 (mobile); or
In Berlin, Wenzel Michalski (English, German): +49-151-419-24256
(mobile); or
In Paris, Jean-Marie Fardeau (French, English, Portuguese) :
+33-1-43-59-55-35; or +33-6-45-85-24-87 (mobile); or

Here are a few videos I took shortly after the tents had been cleared out of Tahrir Square.  Many of my videos ended abruptly as I was stopped from filming.
Here's the link to this video:

Here's a link to this video:

Here's a link to this video:

Here's the link to this video:

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