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Egypt: Doctor Acquitted in Virginity Test Case

(Mar. 13, 2012) On March 11, 2012, an Egyptian court acquitted Dr. Ahmed Adel, who had been accused of forcing a woman to undergo a virginity test. The charges in the case were public obscenity and disobeying military orders; an initial, additional charge of rape had been dropped. The accuser was a female protester who alleged the test was performed against her will while she was in detention. The court, a military tribunal, ruled that the test did not occur, despite other evidence. (Egypt Court Clears Army Doctor in”Virginity Tests” Case, IC PUBLICATIONS (last visited Mar. 12, 2012); Military Court Acquits Doctor in Virginity Test Case, FRANCE24 (Mar. 11, 2012).)

The case was closely watched by members of the youth movement in the country, who have seen the virginity tests as an indication that the military leaders, in charge since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, were ruling in a repressive manner reminiscent of Mubarak's reign. Some have suggested that the military authorities are laying the groundwork for avoiding prosecution for any crimes committed during their rule. (Military Court Acquits Doctor in Virginity Test Case, id.)

In 2011, a civilian court ruled in favor of the doctor's accuser, Samira Ibrahim, in a hearing on her complaint of having been forced to undergo the virginity test. She was one of seven women who stated they had been so tested while under detention by the military. The court in that case ordered that the military stop carrying out the tests. (Id.)

While Ibrahim called the outcome of the trial a joke and said that is was “a disaster” holding the trial in a military court, Adel's lawyer, Huwayda Mostafa Salem, noted that “[t]he case was not strong in the first place. It was brought about due to media pressure.” (Egypt Court Clears Army Doctor in “Virginity Tests” Case, supra.)

There was in fact an international outcry at both the tests and the outcome of the trial. Amnesty International has said of the virginity tests that they are “nothing less than torture.” (Egypt: A Year After “Virginity Tests,” Women Victims of Army Violence Still Seek Justice, Amnesty International website (Mar. 9, 2012).) Heba Morayef, a researcher specializing in North Africa for Human Rights Watch, said, “the ruling shows how politicised the military justice system is, and the lack of independence there.” (Egypt Court Clears Army Doctor in “Virginity Tests” Case, supra.)

Egyptian Major General Adel al-Mursi, the head of the military prosecution in the case, spoke in defense of Adel's acquittal, stating that the judge had ruled “according to his conscience and in view of the case's documents.” (Military Court Acquits Doctor in Virginity Test Case, supra.)