Egypt: With trial of three Britons ongoing, new report exposes systematic torture

The 22-page report, 'Egypt: No protection - systematic torture continues', which coincides with a UN meeting on Egypt's torture record, exposes the systematic nature of torture in Egypt, revealing that political and non-political detainees are tortured; this has included whole families, men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights. People have been tortured to extract false confessions, to force complainants to drop their cases, or on the basis of the detainees' sexual orientation. There are also reports of torture of those forcibly returned to Egypt following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA.

The case of four Britons arrested in Cairo and reportedly tortured in April this year, is only one of several revealing the extent and severity of torture in Egypt. Amnesty International is calling for immediate measures to combat these abuses, including the abolition of incommunicado detention, inspection of torture sites like Cairo's State Security Intelligence (SSI) buildings, proper investigations into torture cases and protection of complainants and witnesses.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'The case of four Britons reportedly tortured in Cairo this year fits into a pattern of systematic torture of detainees in Egypt. People from all walks of life are constantly exposed to human rights abuse if taken into custody in Egypt.

Existing safeguards for detainees are insufficient, frequently breached and overridden by emergency law procedures. It is time for the Egyptian government to act decisively to end the scourge of torture in its detention centres.'

Amnesty International's report comes only a month after the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern at 'the persistence of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment at the hands of law-enforcement personnel' in Egypt. The report, coinciding with the UN Committee against Torture's new review of Egypt, includes the case of:

- An actress, Umm Hashim Abu al-'Izz, detained on 8 February 2002 after her taxi driver was stopped by police. Taken together with the driver and another passenger to the Agouza Police Station, Cairo, Umm Hashim Abu al-'Izz was kicked, punched and severely beaten across the face and other parts of her body with a belt when she protested at a police officer's insults. The police officer also put a gun to her side, threatening to kill her. He pulled the trigger but the gun was empty.

- A family, including two brothers - 'Amr Muhammad 'Adel, aged 17, and Walid Muhammad 'Adel - both tortured soon after being brought to Helwan Police Station in May 2001. Their uncle 'Atif Mahmud 'Agami, also detained, was reportedly subjected to various forms of torture, including being suspended from a window. His wife, Lamya Muhammad 'Abbas, and other female relatives, were also submitted to insults and beatings. 'Amr Muhammad 'Adel said: 'The police officers took us to a room which is called al-Tallaga (the fridge) where they torture people ... they beat my brother and me on the back with a whip.'

Amnesty International's report documents various methods of torture, including electric shocks, beatings, whipping and suspension by wrists or ankles in a contorted position from a horizontal bar. Torture victims' testimony refers to a variety of torture equipment being used, such as electric devices, whips and the falaka instrument used to tie the victim's feet prior to being beaten on the soles of the feet.

Despite overwhelming evidence that torture and ill-treatment are widespread and systematic, the Egyptian authorities have admitted to only 'occasional cases of human rights abuses.' Trials of alleged torturers are mainly restricted to cases where the victim has died, and only in criminal, not political cases. In the vast majority of cases, no-one has been brought to justice, as the authorities have failed to conduct thorough investigations. Similarly, although the number of reported cases of death in custody remains alarmingly high, only a few police officers have been imprisoned in connection with these deaths.

Amnesty International's report specifically calls on the Egyptian authorities to:

- set up prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all reports of torture and ensure that all perpetrators are brought to justice

- conduct frequent, independent and unrestricted inspections of all detention sites, including premises of the SSI, and to prosecute those responsible for unlawful detention of detainees

- ensure that no person making a torture complaint and no witness to torture is intimidated or harassed

- abolish incommunicado detention and improve safeguards for people held in detention

- compensate and rehabilitate victims of torture

- ensure that legislation and practice are both in full conformity with Egypt's international human rights obligations.

For further information on torture in Egypt, including the case of four British citizens, Maajid Nawaz, Ian Malcolm Nisbett, Reza Pankhurst and Hassan Rizfi, see:

'Egypt: Opening of trial of three Britons and 23 Egyptians raises unfair trial and torture concerns' , press release (18 October 2002)

Egypt: No access to prisons for Amnesty International delegates' press release (8 October 2002)

'Egypt: Torture allegations concerning four Britons must be investigated' press release (3 July 2002):

Related Amnesty International material:

'Egypt: Fifty-one convicted in unfair trials' press release (10 September 2002)

'Egypt: Continuing repression of non-violent political activities' press release (30 July 2002)

'Egypt: Torture remains rife as cries for justice go unheeded' report (28 February 2001)

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