Mahmoud and Abdel-Rahman v Egypt

Case name: Mahmoud and Abdel-Rahman v Egypt
Forum: African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
Our role: Co-representative
Keywords: WOMEN; PRIVATE LIFE; DIGNITY; ACCOUNTABILITY & IMPUNITY; REMEDIES

Latest Case Update

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and INTERIGHTS have initiated a case against Egypt following its failure to address violations by army personnel against female detainees, in what has come to be known as the 'virginity tests' incident. The case, brought to the African Commission, alleges violations of the African Charter, to which Egypt is a signatory. The Commission, which sits twice a year, is expected to consider the NGOs’ request to hear the case during its upcoming session in October in Côte d’Ivoire.

Facts of the case

In March 2011, Samira Ibrahim and Rasha Abdel-Rahman suffered abuses by military personnel while they were being detained at a military prison. Together with 15 other female detainees, Ibrahim and Abdel-Rahman were subjected to a forced genital examination to determine their virginity. Members of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) had countered that 'virginity tests' were aimed at protecting soldiers from allegations of rape.

In March 2012, a military court found the doctor accused of performing the forced genital examinations innocent of all charges. In the wake of this decision, Samira and Rasha, in addition to Jihane Mahmoud, one of the seventeen female detainees who were subjected to forced genital examinations, and one of the individuals expected to be a main witness in the case before the Commission, decided to bring the case before regional human rights mechanisms. EIPR Legal Adviser, Bahaa Ezzelarab, said: “Military courts lack the necessary independence to provide effective redress in cases like this. As a result, military personnel continue to be unaccountable for violations against civilians.” In their letter to the Commission, EIPR and INTERIGHTS have asked it to advocate that Egypt prosecutes all perpetrators involved in this incident in civilian courts. The NGOs will ask the Commission to recommend reforms to Egypt’s Code of Military Justice, so that incidents where the military are alleged to have abused civilians will be heard in a civilian court.

Should the Commission agree to examine the case, the NGOs will submit further testimony and arguments. On behalf of the women, the NGOs will seek recognition that the forced genital examinations took place, and an undertaking that such examinations will not be repeated, as well as improved procedures in military prisons to ensure that those detained do not suffer violations of privacy and bodily integrity.

Useful links

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

Media

INTERIGHTS press release, 17 September 2012

Relevant Documents

Complaint to African Commission, 11 September 2012

Contacts

Bahaa Ezzelarab, Legal Adviser, North African Litigation Initiative (NALI), EIPR: +(202) 279 333 71/72/73 or bahaa@eipr.org
Sibongile Ndashe, Lawyer, INTERIGHTS: 00 44 7843 0484 or sndashe@interights.org