Derechos Human RightsReport

Damnhur el-Wahsh - a village appeals for help and security

Land Center for Human Rights

The violent events that occurred after the implementation of tenancy law in 1997 at El-Zaney village are still in memory. At that time, the police arrested 35 farmers and referred them to the State Security Prosecution accused of charges that would have ended their life in prisons. But for fairness of the court it has ruled all them innocent after they have been humiliated and tortured at hands of the police.

Again the same scenario has repeated last April at one of the villages of the Delta province of Ghrabia. This village called Damnhur el-Wahsh.

Witnesses said that some of the farmers there were badly humiliated at hands of security personnel. Their crops were uprooted; their animals' stands set in fire; their dwellings attacked savagely and several of them were detained for no obvious charges.

The background of the farmers' ordeal in this village goes back to early 1960s. At the time, the government offered some plots of land to some of the farmers who took part in Yemen War in 1960s.

The government has found rules of law 129 for 1961 are applicable to these brave men who actually were small holder farmers it therefore hired them plots of one to two acres. And then rental contracts were signed between entitled farmers and ministry of endowment with effect from this date. Some of the farmers of Dahmhur el-Wahsh we tell their ordeal were among those benefit from this offer at the time.

Even though when the tenancy law 96 for 1992 was being implemented, lands of these farmers were exempted from its article 33. That meant at the time the continuity of their rental relations. The primer in attempt to abate tension erupted between tenants and landlords at the time issued a decree to this effect. Since then Damnhur el-Wahsh's farmers remain peacefully cultivating their land.

However, in April this year Damnhur el-Wahsh's farmers informed that someone has obtained a court verdict enabling him of seizing the land they rented from the government.

Here issues start to be complicated since Damnhur el-Wahsh's farmers were not a party to the case between the government and the land claimant.

The misery was not in the court verdict but in the way the police tried to enforce this verdict . It was so strange and savage scenario. The police soldiers approached the village the village carried in seven lorries. They were accompanying with five pickup cars, ambulance, number of tractors and bulldozers.

The soldiers first besieged the village inlets and their superior ordered a state of curfew in the village. It was really also a dramatic scene. The officer- in-charge that called Mohamoud Eid shut a bullet in the air to terrorize the natives and then ordered his soldiers to attack fields of the farmers using tractors and bulldozers. The fields were cultivated with mature wheat, which made farmer's appeal to officer Eid not to destroy it but to no avail.

Regrettably, the soldiers continued their atrocities against farmers though their action was entirely illegal. Law in such case necessitates that executing of a court verdict should be fairly carried out and until the extending rental relation between parties concerned has ended. That of course goes in accordance with the Prime Minister's decree that issued in this concern. In addition, the law has conditioned that value of the crops intended to be removed has to be estimated and paid for owners if a verdict to be carried out in such cases.

Affected farmers said that many violent acts committed against them in this day at hands of the police. That was to force them evacuate the land and hand it over to its new owners.

Marwa Halmi Shabl, 18, says, " when I saw the fire catching in my father's animal stand, I run to save the animals in it. " But, when the officer Mohamoud caught me, he harshly beaten me then ordered his men to throw me in nearby water canal. " Whenever, I try to move out of water they bush me again and again. " I have many injures to my back and even my right arm was broken. I preferred not to go to the hospital fearing that they might caught me there." Marwa concluded.

Affirming the happening of tortuous acts, Namia El-Sayed Fatouh, 20, says" I was setting beside my father's animal stand when I surprisingly noted that a fire almost devastate it.

" I tried to save the animals laying in it. With a stake I started to beat the animals to chase them away from the fire. But I was unfortunate, officer Mohamoud observed me doing so and badly beaten me.

" Not only that but he orde red his men to tie me to one of their cars and continue to abuse, beat and humiliate me.

"The worse was when they escorted me to the police station. There two policemen in plain clothes also beate me and I remained there until the midnight. I waslater released after the investigation officer in-charge of the station sympathized with my conditions," she said .

It seems this officer was so kind with Namia. He offered her one pound when he noted here has no money to make her way back home.

But Namia's mother got angry because of torturing her daughter at the police station. The mother called Fatama Tawfiq tried to make a report with the district police station in second day. But , they did not allow her to do that and Instead the office in-charge – who called Melahy Haifz – abused and detained her for three days without food. Later they referred her to the prosecutor who ordered her release without a bail . But it seems that Hafz was not satisfied with the prosecutor decision. He took her again back to the police station where he orders her not to return to the land or to make any complaints against them.

In another development, the Investigation Department of Zeftia district police reportedly summoned Mrs. Karma El-Sufi , 55. The Department was investigating a complaint made by the same land claimants accused Karma of preventing them to have access to their land.

The woman refused several times to attain this investigation and the result was arresting one of her relatives. Later her family decided to carry her to the police station since she could not walk. There it appeared for the investigation officer that Karma was actually paralysis and for that she was not able to attain the investigation.

But the most surprising was that when the investigation officer in charge asked his joiner to bring the file of the report made against her; they found nothing to give to him. immediately the officer ordered that Karma to be taken back to her home.

Another farmer called, Fatuh Afasia , 75, tells his ordeal says" I was offered this land in rent after my return from the Yemen war. It was two acres and I had signed a rental contract on it with Agrarian Reform Authority since July 22,1967. "

In 1972, Afasia added, the land ownership reallocated and Ministry of Endowment was official end in charge of its affairs. My contract was also amended accordingly. However, after the implementation of law 96 for 1992, we surprised by the heirs of Ahemd Abdulghafar claim that this land belonging to them and ask us to evacuate for them.

They alleged that they had a registered contract that issued by the Alexandria–based National Court in 1920 that prove this fact. However, the contract they had found to be related to another plot of land located in Delta's district Kafr el-Zait . Not only that but the name of Damnhur el-Wahsh village was not mentioned at all in any of the particles of this contract.

The contract was actually related to an endowment land that registered under number 17797/1982 and accredited with a court ruling issued in 1920.

Afasia went on to say that on April 25, Zefita police investigation personnel arrested him. They accused me of seizing others' land without an official deeds and detained me for 10 days after which I was referred to the prosecutor who in turn ordered my detention for another six days."

Moreover, In May 11,2000, Zefita district police investigation men ambushed my hoses at midnight. It was said that An officer called Mohamoud Eid was the one led the force staged this ambush, Afasia adds

He continues to say, "They destroyed many of my household's articles including the windows and doors. They have also searched my wife and daughters bedroom without given any respect for the house sacredness.

"They later arrested me and taken to the area's police station, where heirs of Ahmed Abdulghafar were awaiting there. The officer Eid intentionally tried to humiliate me in front of them so he was always abusing and beating me.

"The officer then accused me of illegal seizure farming land of other people and resisting of the authorities in duty. A report was made to this end and registered under number 125/2/ and dated May 11,2000.

" Finally I referred to the prosecutor who ordered my release on May 16,2000 without bail."

All that happened though the land in subject is registered in name of Abdulghafar with the area's cooperative society.

In addition, Abdulkader , 60, says " from four months ago a police report was made against me and I was arrested for one month. They accused me of looting a clover crop . "But for my surprise the clover they accused me of its stealing I was the one cultivated it." By the way Abuo-Elala is a family holder of six was renting an area of two acres.

Abuo-Elala elaborate says" the police then arrested me for the second time on April 24 . This time they accused me of resisting the authority in duty, and seizing others people property without official deeds. They detained me for four days bending further investigation.

" Later the prosecution ordered my release in cash bail of LE 200. But Zefita police refused to free me and I spent another seven days at their station cell during this time they made a personal criminal record for me.

This was not the end for my ordeal , they arrested me again on May 11,2000 and made a report against me that carried number 5588 for 2000. they accused me again of resisting the authority but when i referred to the prosecutor he released me without bail, Abuo-Elala adds .

Like every time when the prosecutor releases me, the people in Zefatia investigation department get no happy for such decision, Abuo Elala said. I was again arrested and detained for five days during which I exposed for many violations.

Another villager called Hilmy Shalabi, 60, tells his ordeal says" I was accused of resisting the authority in duty and I was arrested. They referred me to the prosecutor who ordered my release in cash bail of LE 100. But the police investigation department freed me after almost five days."

Shalabi is a father for 15 child whom all students at various stages of education. He shown that during his time in detention, the investigation department men attacked his house many times.

About these attacks he says "They have beaten my wife and children. One of the daughters called Marowa her arm was broken and she sustained many injures to her body.". He adds that he was not able to treat his girl at a hospital because he has no money and out of the fear that the police might arrest him again.

Based on aforementioned facts, Land Center, therefore, filed a petition with the Public Prosecutor asking him to take necessary action against officers who tortured the farmers violated their rights. A complaint on the same subject was also presented to Minister of the Interior.

Moreover, LCHR appeals to H.E Minister of Interior, and all law enforcement institution to respect the supremacy of law when dealing with citizens. We also call on Ministers of Agriculture and Endowments to fund an immediate solution for disputes on farmlands. That for the sake of protecting the livelihood of thousands of families and for sound fulfillment of Human rights obligations stipulates in constitution and international conventions.

Date of issue: June 19,2000

Human Rights in Egypt

This document is published online by Derechos Human Rights