The 40-page report, entitled "Security Forces Abuse of Anti-War Demonstrators," which was published on Friday, also urged President Muhammad Husni Mubarak's government to launch an independent investigation into the alleged rights violations.

It said the government had allowed the "excessive use of force in dispersing demonstrators and bystanders on 21 March in violation of the right to freedom of assembly; arbitrary arrest and detention, including of children; beating and mistreatment of persons in detention, in some cases amounting to torture."

The New York-based organisation also criticised Egypt for
failing to "provide medical care to seriously injured detainees." 
Relating a 21 March anti-war demonstration, two days after the US-led coalition had launched its offensive against Iraq, the report said "uniformed riot police and plainclothes men armed with pipes and clubs assaulted persons (marchers and bystanders)... beating and injuring many." 

About 800 demonstrators, including at last six children, were nabbed by security officers and often detained in unsuitable places, the report said, adding that although most had been released, some still face possible prosecution. 

It said some individuals had been arrested later that month and in April for their "known or alleged affiliations with organisations critical of government policies rather than on evidence supporting the criminal charges eventually brought against them."
 
The arrests that occurred in the days following the protests
were "without judicial warrants, in violation of Egyptian law," the report added.

Government response

Demonstrations are prohibited
in Egypt  under emergency laws

Human Rights Watch said it resquested meetings with to Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and General Prosecutor Mahir Abd al-Wahid, among other top ranking officials, but never received an answer.

State Information Service head Nabil Usman brushed off the organization's reports of torture as hearsay... mere claims made to further the interests of anti-government political factions." 

And Egypt's ambassor to the United States, Nabil Fahmy, told the group that allegations of "deliberate torture" were not "credible," the report said.

The report urged the Egyptian government "to conduct a prompt, impartial inquiry into serious allegations" of rights violations by its security forces during the protests.

But it quoted Fahmy as saying in April that "in the prevailing
political climate there would be no independent inquiry into the behavior of the security forces."