'Unprecedented spike' in Egypt forced disappearances, says Amnesty
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Egypt's police have been implicated in an "unprecedented spike" in enforced disappearances since early 2015 aimed at quashing dissent, Amnesty International said in a report Wednesday.
"Enforced disappearance has become a key instrument of state policy in Egypt. Anyone who dares to speak out is at risk," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director.
Children were among those being kept at undisclosed locations for up to several months at a time "to intimidate opponents and wipe out peaceful dissent," the report said.
The report documents 17 cases, including five children, who had disappeared for periods of "between several days to seven months," according to the statement.
One of them, Mazen Mohamed Abdallah, who was 14 in September, had been subjected to "horrendous abuse" including "being repeatedly raped with a wooden stick in order to extract a false 'confession'," Amnesty said.
Another child of the same age when arrested in January, Aser Mohamed, "was beaten, given electric shocks all over his body and suspended from his limbs in order to extract a false 'confession'," said the rights watchdog.
Egyptian authorities have denied they practice torture, but say there have been isolated incidents of abuse and those responsible have been prosecuted.
The National Council for Human Rights, the country's official rights watchdog, said on July 3 it had raised 266 cases of enforced disappearances with the interior ministry between April 2015 and end of March.
Many of them have since been accounted for.
Amnesty's report "exposes... the collusion between national security forces and judicial authorities," said Luther.
He accused them of being "prepared to lie to cover their tracks" or failing to investigate torture allegations, "making them complicit in serious human rights violations".
An average of three to four people disappeared each day, Amnesty said, citing Egyptian non-governmental organisations.
It said they were usually detained at their homes by heavily armed forces, adding investigations were rarely opened when family members complain.
Even then, authorities closed the investigations once they acknowledged the people were in the custody of the National Security Agency, the secret police apparatus.
Prosecutors "cruelly betrayed their duty under Egyptian law to protect people from enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest, torture and other ill-treatment," said Luther.
Counter-terrorism was "being used as an excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture people who challenge the authorities," he was quoted as saying in the report.
An affiliate of the Islamic State group has waged an insurgency in Egypt's northern Sinai region since Morsi's overthrow that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.