Torture systematic in Egypt: rights groups

Egypt has become a police state where citizens receive no protection from torture, human rights groups said in a report published Dec. 3. “The basic feature of human rights in Egypt today is the prevalence of a policy of exception in which those responsible for violations usually escape punishment amid a climate of impunity intentionally created and fostered for several decades,” said the report by 16 Egyptian human rights groups.

“With this policy of impunity gradually becoming the norm, the prerogatives of the security apparatus have been expanded and Egypt has turned into a police state,” the report said.

The rights groups, including the Hesham Mubarak Law Center and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), lashed out at the state for its “systematic” use of torture. “Egyptians enjoy no protection against torture—a systematic, routine practice,” they said. “Crimes of torture continue to be an everyday practice in police stations [as well as] prisons and even on public roads.” The report found that “[i]n many documented cases, torture has resulted in death,” despite government claims that these are isolated cases.

The report said that torture is not limited to political activists but is applied to society’s most vulnerable. “Everyone who falls in the grasp of the police, particularly the poor, is in imminent danger of torture and bodily harm inflicted through various means, including beatings, kicks, floggings, burning with cigarettes, sexual harm… electroshocks to the feet, head, sexual organs and breasts, and hanging from iron bars or the door of the cell.”

Egypt has been operating under a state of emergency since the 1981 assassination of president Anwar Sadat, which has been renewed repeatedly since then despite protests from rights groups.

The state of emergency allows for the detention of anyone who falls under the broad category of constituting “a danger to public security.” The report found: “The security apparatus also commonly detains entire families as hostages to force wanted fugitives to turn themselves in.”

As a result, there are now around 12,000 to 14,000 detained persons, “some of whom have been under detention for 15 years without charge or trial, although many have received numerous release orders.”

The report, which also covers political and religious freedoms, has been handed to the UN Human Rights Council, EIPR director Hossam Bahgat said. (Middle East Online, Dec. 3)

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