CAIRO — A military court has again postponed the case of Samira Ibrahim, who filed a lawsuit against an Egyptian army doctor for performing forced ‘virginity tests’ on female protesters, to March 11 — just over one year after the reported violations occurred.
Ahmed El-Mougy, 27, is accused of public indecency for conducting the tests on six women including Ibrahim arrested at a protest in Tahrir Square on March 9, 2011.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), one of the rights organizations filing the case with Ibrahim, said her counsel is struggling to change the charges from public indecency to sexual assault, but the military court remains reluctant.
"I face many difficulties in the case," Ibrahim said in a press conference marking the first anniversary of the founding of No to Military Trials for Civilians.
Ahmed Hossam, one of Ibrahim's lawyers, was quoted by Daily News Egypt as saying that the court "refused to hear Ibrahim’s lawyers' argument" and cited numerous procedural deviations during the session. He also said the court rejected requests for medical records, military prison bylaws and other key investigative materials.
"I do not trust the military judiciary and I believe that the court verdict will be in the soldier's favor," Ibrahim added. She won an earlier case in December in what was hailed as a rare legal triumph for the rights community in Egypt. A court ordered the military to stop conducting the 'virginity tests,' which the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) publicly denies authorizing.
Four witnesses testified on Sunday against El-Mougy including Rasha Abdel Rahman, another female protester who was subjected to the same test with Ibrahim.
"I decided to support Samira after one year of silence. I also decided to file another lawsuit against the military because I cannot stay silent more than that," Abdel Rahman said.
Abdel Rahman testified that they were forced to take off their clothing in front of the soldiers prior to the “virginity test,” an invasive, medically primitive practice in which women are forcefully penetrated in order to document hymeneal blood. The practice is commonly used throughout the Middle East and Africa. Amnesty International has condemned the procedure as a form of rape.
Abdel Rahman said she was silent and afraid to face society with her ordeal, but Ibrahim's courage helped her to come forward.
The other three witnesses include two rights activists and a journalist who said that they were told by three different members of the ruling military council on different occasions that virginity tests were a common procedure inside military prisons.
Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef confirmed in online testimony published by EIPR that she and other HRW members were told by General Mohamed El-Assar last June that virginity checks were conducted and that any woman or girl who goes to prison in Egypt had to undergo a similar test.
No to Military Trials campaign member Mona Seif said in the same recorded testimony that she met SCAF General Hassan El-Rowainy last June and was told that forced virginity tests were conducted as a routine procedure to avoid future allegations of rape by the female protesters.
Ibrahim filed a third suit relating to her case with the administrative Court based on her detention, as a civilian, in a military detention center, which is illegal under Egyptian law.
That case is ongoing.