Torture in Egypt

Torture in Egypt…criminals escaping punishment

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) on Wednesday 8th August 2007 issued its report Torture in Egypt…criminals escaping punishment issued as part of EOHR’s continued campaign to put an end to this horrific crime.

The report describes cases of torture and mistreatment inside police stations which occurred between 1993 and July 2007 and which were documented by EOHR’s fieldwork unit using victims’ testimonies, complaints presented by victims’ relatives, the records of public prosecution office investigations, forensic and other medical records which confirm that injuries are the result of torture. More than 567 cases of torture inside police stations are documented, including 167 deaths which EOHR strongly suspects were the result of torture and mistreatment. These cases are merely a limited sample amongst hundreds of other cases received by EOHR in which documentation was has to achieve whither by EOHR or by the victims. The cases are merely an indication of the extent to which torture has spread in police stations, and the extent of the inability of the law to stop its spread and bring to justice and prosecute its perpetrators.

The report is divided into the following sections:

1. The legislative and legal framework surrounding torture in Egypt
This section presents the most important international instruments criminalising torture in addition to provisions of the Egyptian constitution and the Penal Code which prohibit torture.

2. Cases of torture in 2007
This section presents the most significant torture cases which occurred in 2007. It describes 26 cases, including three fatalities. The majority of cases occurred in July, when EOHR documented ten cases of torture in police stations. The most significant case involved Yahya Abdallah Attoum who was burnt in Siwa police station. Nasr Ahmed Abdallah el-Saidi died as a result of torture after police officers from the Mansoura police station beat him on his hands and dragging him on the floor.

3. Conclusion and recommendations
In the conclusion of its report, EOHR reaffirms that the use of torture to extract confessions from those accused of, or suspected of having committed, crimes, or against their relatives where the suspect cannot be found is a widespread phenomenon in police stations, state security investigations headquarters and prisons. Crimes of torture also occur in Egyptian streets in broad daylight, at police checkpoints and in people’s homes – a flagrant violation of their dignity and the freedom they enjoy under the Egyptian constitution and international human rights instruments.

Further facilitating torture and making it even more dangerous is the continued state of emergency which Egypt has endured since 1981, and legislative shortcomings which do not deter the perpetrators of torture. In addition, victims of torture cannot seek recourse to justice in order to seek redress for the damage caused by the torture. Old laws, and the introduction of new, exceptional, legislation and enabling these laws to overwrite values of justice and equality has undermined the understanding of legitimacy. This is in addition to the fact that certain policemen commit serious violations of citizens’ rights and yet the existing legal system does not help to put an end to the occurrence of these violations but rather adds legitimacy to them, and criminals escape justice.

As part of its duty to protect human rights, the government must therefore demonstrate a willingness to prosecute criminals.

Since its first report on torture issued in 1990 EOHR has presented a number of recommendations to the authorities, in order that the measures and procedures necessary to combat the spread of torture in Egypt are taken. EOHR renews its calls to the government to implement the following recommendations put forward previously:

1. The Interior Minister is not shall not veil incidents of torture in police stations, police departments and prisons, and fails to take measures which will ensure that police officers who commit these crimes are brought to justice.

2. The Egyptian government must ratify articles 21 and 22 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of Punishment (CAT). The protocols allow the presentation of complaints from States parties and individuals concerning the failure of the Egyptian government to uphold the CAT’s provisions. 3. Article 126 of the Penal Code must be amended in order that it complies with article 1 of the CAT, ratified by Egypt in 1986.

4. The proposal previously submitted by EOHR for the amendment of certain articles concerning torture in articles 126, 129 and 280 of the Penal Code and articles 63 and 232 of the Criminal Procedures Code must be examined.

5. A law stipulating that the police investigations system is to be implemented must be issued, provided that the Ministry of Justice abides by it during police investigations and all matters concerning the course of justice and the implementation of court verdicts.

6. Legislation establishing the right of the civil attorney to bring cases directly before the Criminal Court in cases concerning attacks on the privacy of civilians must be issued. This includes crimes described under article 126 of the Penal Code, which punishes anyone who tortures a suspect in order to obtain a confession, and articles 280 and 282 which makes it an offence to arrest someone without lawful reason.

7. Law no. 121 (1956) which amended article 63 of the Criminal Procedures Law must be annulled. This law restricts the right to bring public claims against public servants and those under their authority including police officers in the public prosecution office. The previous system, which allowed plaintiffs to bring a direct case, must be reinstated.

8. The first optional protocol of the CAT, which allows the Committee Against Torture to receive complaints from individuals and examine them, must be ratified.

9. The second optional protocol to the CAT must be ratified. Issued in 2002, States parties to it allow international, independent experts to organise periodic visits to places of detention in these States, and establishing a national frame to organise visits to places of detention in cooperation with national experts.

10. The Criminal Procedures Code must provide for the right of suspects to have access to a lawyer during his interrogation in the police station.

11. An immediate investigation must be launched by the public prosecution office into complaints of assaults suffered by detainees in prisons and places of detention submitted by groups, individuals and human rights organisations. The results of these investigations must be made public.

12. The public prosecution office must conduct periodic investigations of police stations and departments in order to establish detainees’ legal circumstances, seize instruments used for torture and bring to justice those who use them. EOHR urges the public prosecution office to release the detainees being held in Montaza police station.

13. An administrative inquiry must be held alongside the public prosecution office investigations into police officers who infringe the law in their dealings with civilians in police stations, and bring disciplinary proceedings against them.

14. A permanent and independent investigatory mechanism must be put in place comprising judges, lawyers and doctors who will examine all allegations of torture in police stations and police departments and send those responsible for trial. The mechanism must possess the authority necessary to enter all places of detention and collect the information and evidence it requires. It must also be able to talk to all individuals it wishes to consult. Its role should be restricted to secondary matters, but rather extend to encompass the political, social and psychological aspects of the phenomenon of violence inside police stations and put forward the solutions necessary to put an end to it. S

15. Fixed and defined rules, standards and directives must be put in place governing the conduct of police officers, particularly in investigation departments. These standards must be independent of the extent to which police officers successfully identify the perpetrators of crimes they are investigating. This is because the link between successful identification of perpetrators and the fate of the police officer’s career sometimes pushes them towards violating suspects’ rights.

16. Cultural seminars and intensive training sessions must be put together for police officers and, in particular, those working in criminal investigation. These seminars and sessions should deal with ways of dealing with detainees inside police stations in a manner which respects their dignity and the fundamental freedoms described in the Constitution, domestic legislation and the provisions of the international human rights instruments ratified by the Egyptian government. This must be accompanied by the teaching of human rights as part of the study programme in the Police Academy and institutions and schools which provide vocational training for police officers, especially police corporals institutions.

17. The authorities must cooperate with human rights groups in the investigation of complaints presented to the attorney general and interior minister. These complaints must be supplemented with the results of investigations and representatives allowed to inspect conditions in prisons and places of detention and visit police stations.


- Egypt Democracy Watch


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