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‘It seems that you want to go back to the electric shocks again’, the prosecutor told Aser the moment he denied the charge of ‘membership in a terrorist group’.
In Egypt, it is a crime to belong to the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Aser’s charge however went beyond mere membership. It also included actively participating in an apparent attack on a hotel in Cairo involving the use of force, possession of firearms and assaulting police officers.
Aser’s ordeal⇩1For reasons of data protection and confidentiality, Aser’s real name is not released., however, began three years earlier when armed police and members of Ketaʿ El Amn El Watani (قطاع الأمن الوطني —the National Security Agency) raided his family home in Cairo in January 2016. Despite failing to produce an arrest or search warrant, the officers insisted that they will only take 14-year old Aser for a brief period of questioning. All his family could do was to look on helplessly as the their child was led away.
Since 2001, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has increased significantly, driven largely by violent extremist groups such the Islamic State (ISIS), Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al-Shabab, and the Communist Party of India – Maoist. According to the Global Terrorism Database, terrorist attacks reached a peak of 17,000 in 2014, with countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria hit the hardest. In recent years, attacks have also taken place in European cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, and Berlin.⇩2Cf. Global Terrorism Database (accessed 23 May 2019). See also, Gary LaFree, ‘Will Terrorism Continue to Decline in 2019?’, The Conversation, 27 February 2019 (accessed 23 May 2019).
The officers ended up holding Aser incommunicado for 34 days. A family member recalls how they frantically tried to locate him at several police stations. ‘They all denied that Aser was in their custody.’ Little did the family know that while they were searching, Aser was suspended in a room by his limbs and tortured with electric shocks. In the end, he gave in and confessed to participating in the attack. Despite this confession though, Aser was later deliberately warned by the prosecutor that if he tried to retract the confession, he would be sent back to the NSA for further torture. By August 2019, Aser had been detained without trial for more than three years.
If ever prosecuted and convicted, Aser could face 15 years imprisonment.
Human rights law applies to all children, regardless of the type or seriousness of the offence. These standards recognise that children ‘differ from adults in their physical and psychological development, and their emotional and educational needs. Such differences constitute the basis for the lesser culpability of children in conflict with the law.’ ⇩3CRC-Committee, General Comment No. 24 (201x): Children’s Rights in Juvenile Justice, CRC/C/GC/24. These principles hold true regardless of the offence and hold true for children charged with or convicted of violent extremist offences as much as they do to children charged with or convicted of minor theft.
Children (anyone under 18 years of age) who are recruited and used by non-State armed groups designated as terrorist or armed groups termed violent extremist may be considered victims of trafficking.
For more information see Chapter 14 of “Children deprived of liberty on national security grounds”. For wider coverage of the topic, see the full article on the seven million children deprived of liberty.
References [ + ]
|1.||⇧||For reasons of data protection and confidentiality, Aser’s real name is not released.|
|2.||⇧||Cf. Global Terrorism Database (accessed 23 May 2019). See also, Gary LaFree, ‘Will Terrorism Continue to Decline in 2019?’, The Conversation, 27 February 2019 (accessed 23 May 2019).|
|3.||⇧||CRC-Committee, General Comment No. 24 (201x): Children’s Rights in Juvenile Justice, CRC/C/GC/24.|