Another Unhappy Anniversary for Mahmoud Hussein

Two years ago today, Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed Hussein put on a t-shirt that read a “nation without torture” and went to a peaceful protest. The government’s response to these simple acts changed his life and have become a glaring example of the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt.

On January 25, 2014, Mahmoud was stopped by police at a checkpoint in El-Marg, Cairo while wearing a January 25 Revolution scarf and his t-shirt. When he asked why he was being detained, Mahmoud was beaten by plainclothes officers and dragged to the police station. At the station, he was subjected to hours of beatings, received electric shocks to the back, hands, and testicles, and was tortured to falsely confess to possessing Molotov cocktails and hand grenades, belonging to a “terrorist” group, protesting without authorization, and receiving money to protest.

For two years, Mahmoud has sat in the limbo of pretrial detention in Egypt without charge or being referred to trial. While already excessive under international human rights law, as of today Mahmoud’s continued detention also violates Egyptian law as article 143 of the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code sets forth a maximum of two years in pretrial detention for cases of first review that carry death or life imprisonment sentences.

Egyptian authorities abuse this provision to punish individuals critical of government and other prisoners of conscience in violation of international human rights law. When a detainee reaches two years in pretrial detention prior to sentencing, and the case is not an appeal or retrial, domestic law mandates that detainee’s release. In practice, the broad discretion granted to judges by vague language within the Criminal Procedure Code has been repeatedly exploited, and there are at least 700 detainees who remain in pretrial detention in excess of this two year maximum. Today, Mahmoud joins their ranks.

Like Mahmoud, each of these men and women are subjected to torture, detention without charge, and unacceptable conditions. Also, like Mahmoud they have family who live in a prison of their own, not knowing if they will ever see their loved ones again. That is why Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is representing Mahmoud before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and is committed to securing his freedom and bringing real change to Egypt’s criminal justice system to stop these abuses from taking place.

This time next year we want to mark not only the anniversary of Egypt’s revolution but the end of this draconian practice.