Sunday, March 25, 2012

Military court clears army doctor in 'virginity tests' case

Agence France-Presse
Egypt court clears army doctor in 'virginity tests' case

Mar 11, 2012

Jailan Zayan

CAIRO (AFP) — An Egyptian military court on Sunday acquitted an army doctor accused of conducting forced "virginity tests" on female protesters last year, triggering the fury of international human rights groups.

Ahmed Adel was cleared of conducting the test on Samira Ibrahim, who brought the case against him, after the judge found the witness statements to be "contradictory", the official MENA news agency said.

The ruling comes "from what has been proven in documents and based on my conscience," the judge said according to MENA, adding that he had "not been subjected to any pressures."

Adel was accused of "public indecency" and "disobeying military orders", after the initial charge of rape had been dropped.

"It's a joke, a theatre," an outraged Samira Ibrahim told AFP after the ruling.

"The fact that the case was in a military court is a disaster," she said.

But Huwayda Mostafa Salem, the lawyer for the defendant, told reporters outside the court: "The case was not strong in the first place. It was brought about due to media pressure."

The case had sparked a national outcry and getting it into court was considered a victory for the female protesters who were subjected to the tests and had raised hopes of further trials of those accused of abuse.

International rights watchdogs slammed the verdict as a "travesty" of justice and urged Egypt's military rulers to ensure women never again face "virginity tests."

"The ruling shows how politicised the military justice system is, and the lack of independence there," said Heba Morayef, researcher at Human Rights Watch's (HRW) North Africa division.

"The implications are far reaching and the hope that there will be any accountability for the military will be receding," Morayef told AFP.

Amnesty International said the acquittal "fails women victims of 'virginity tests'" and shows that military courts are "incapable of dealing" with human rights abuse cases.

"Once again, the Egyptian military have failed women, particularly those like Samira Ibrahim, who have shown tremendous courage in challenging the military establishment in Egypt," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.

"This decision is not only a travesty of justice but further proof that cases of human rights abuses by the military should be dealt with in civilian courts," she added.

Amnesty urged Egypt's military rulers to ban "virginity tests" and ensure that women forced to endure them "have access to justice and reparations."

The case arose from two complaints filed by Ibrahim, who in December won a case against the military which saw the court order the army to stop forced virginity tests on female detainees.

Last year, on March 9, army officers violently cleared Cairo's Tahrir Square -- the epicentre of protests that had toppled president Hosni Mubarak -- and held at least 18 women in detention.

Women said they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to "virginity tests" and threatened with prostitution charges.

An army general defended the practice at the time saying: "We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place."

Sunday's ruling could also have implications for other cases filed by women against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power when Mubarak was ousted, for violence against them.

In December, a video of military police dragging a woman along the ground with troops surrounding her and kicking her on the chest, as well as another video showing military personnel beating a female protester, sparked further outrage.

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