Tony Greenstein | 11 December 2015 | Post Views:

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Joint press statement

On Human Rights Day: 

 Torture – not
an isolated incident

On Human Rights Day, the undersigned
organizations condemn increasing 
violations by the Ministry of Interior in a
manner that indicates they have been given free reign to abuse citizens using
extralegal practices such as torture, enforced disappearance, and other
arbitrary measures and systematic infringements of citizens’ fundamental rights
and liberties, which have recently led to several deaths in places of
Some of the undersigned organizations have
documented recent cases of torture in police stations, including the Matariya
station, the Luxor station, and the Shubra al-Kheima 2 station, some of which
ended with the death of the detainee  in a one-month period in
October and November 2015
. In the month of November alone, the Nadim Center
for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture recorded 49 cases of
torture, including 9 cases of death in custody. Other organizations have
similarly documented cases of death in detention facilities and received
complaints of detainees subjected to beating, degrading treatment, or torture
in the same time period. The Nadim Center also recorded two additional deaths
among 54 cases of torture in the month of September and 4 death in custody
cases out of 57 torture cases in August. 
The undersigned organizations fear that the
actual number of torture cases that occur far exceeds those documented or
reported in the media because victims or their families often chose not to make
their case public for fear of reprisal by police officers or because they have
lost all trust in the justice system. 
The organizations therefore call for an urgent,
independent inquiry into the alarming and growing use of torture against male
and female detainees in prisons and police stations. In most of these cases,
the perpetrators have not been held to account, while the Interior Ministry has repeatedly denied allegations of
torture, often calling such cases “isolated incidents.”
In many of the cases documented by the
undersigned organisations, police abuse follows a pattern: often, a person or
group of people is arrested pursuant to a report of theft or on suspicion of a
minor crime. In most cases, these arrests are conducted in an arbitrary manner
that at times involves verbal or physical abuse, after which the suspect is
taken to the police station, where he is beaten during questioning. The process
may end with the suspect exiting the interrogation room as a corpse or bearing
the traces of beating or sexual assault and humiliation, as documented in the
following cases, offered as examples, not an exhaustive list: 
•        A death in custody case on October 22 in the
Matariya police station: the victim, Adel Abd al-Sami, a 22-year-old carpenter,
was detained at the station on October 4 on suspicion of stealing a mobile
phone. His family said they saw traces of blood on his clothing when, just
after his arrest, the police brought him to his home to search it. He was then
taken to Matariya police station and detained there the entire time. His family
visited him over the following period and said they could see that he had been
beaten and tortured and his health deteriorated markedly. Adel’s mother said
that in one visit, he was unable to speak due to beatings. On October 24, his
family learned that he was taken to the hospital. When they arrived, they were
told that he had reached the hospital dead on arrival. He bore traces of burns
on his hands and injuries to the head and various parts of his body.
•        A death in custody on November 25 in Luxor: a
police force stopped Talaat Shabib in the Hawamdiya area of Luxor near a coffee
shop to examine his personal identification, during which time an officer
verbally assaulted the suspect, cursing and insulting him. When Talaat objected
to the insult—saying, “No insults, sir, you’re my son’s age”—a physical
altercation ensured and he was taken to the police station. There he was beaten
for two hours, after which he died. The prosecution’s investigation in the
case, which sparked broad controversy and demonstrations in Luxor, found that
police investigators at the station attempted to conceal the fact that Talaat
died during interrogation by having him placed in the holding room as a
detainee until an ambulance arrived. However, the person in charge of the
holding area refused to admit him, saying he was already dead at the time. The
preliminary medical report also confirmed 
that the victim reached the hospital
already deceased. 
 Another incident of torture in the Matariya
police station targeted Mohammed Abduh Muawwad, a suspect in case no.
18932/2015/Matariya misdemeanor. One of his relatives said that he was beaten
after his feet were bound and kicked in the stomach and chest at the police
station, causing bleeding in his mouth and nose. Mohammed’s family filed a
complaint about the incident and the prosecution is currently investigating,
but the victim has not yet been brought before the medical examiner. His
brother has also received anonymous phone threats warning him of dire
consequences if he does not withdraw the complaint. 
In a related context, the undersigned
organizations also condemn the continued practice of enforced disappearances.
Many of us have received complaints and reports of citizens disappearing after
their arrest by police, including for example the case of Hani Saad Mohammed
Abd al-Sattar, who was arrested by police from the Nasr City 1 police station,
along with his boss Hisham Mohammed Ahmed, and others, and taken to an
undisclosed location. They have been disappeared since August 10. 
The undersigned organizations emphasize the
danger these practices pose to the life of these citizens, particularly
considering the numerous stories of the torture of disappeared persons who
later appear in detention facilities bearing signs of physical torture and
We further stress that Egyptian prisons are
subject to no genuine oversight and do not permit independent organizations or
lawyers to visit them. Nor are they subject to periodic inspection by an
independent judicial body, although this right is enshrined in law and the
constitution (under Article 55 of the 2014 constitution, Articles 85 and 86 of
the prisons law, and Article 27 of the judiciary law, which states that
prosecutors and the heads and deputy heads of first-instance and appellate
courts have the right to inspect prisons located in their jurisdictions).
Moreover, under general directives to prosecution offices, a routine inspection
of prisons should occur at least once a month, with reports filed on observed
infractions. Nevertheless, there have been no announcement of the investigation
of any Prisons Authority officials in connection with repeated reports of
abuses in prisons.
At the same time, the state continues to harass
and prosecute independent lawyers and judges who advocate the reform of anti-torture
legislation. Judges Assem Abd al-Gabbar and Hisham Raouf and attorney Negad
al-Borai are currently under investigation after they submitted a draft law to
combat torture as part of an experts workshop organized by the United Group,
which al-Borai heads, on March 11, 2015. From October 2013 to August 2014 the
United Group filed 163 reports of 465 allegations of torture in detention
facilities, none of which were addressed by the Public Prosecution in a timely
manner. As a result, the United Group submitted several complaints to the
Judicial Inspection Directorate to ensure timely investigations. Nevertheless,
the sole diligent, timely investigation conducted in this period was into the
two judges who helped draft the proposed anti-torture law and al-Borai himself.
This suggests that timely investigations only take place when directed at those
seeking to improve the Egyptian legislative environment, while torturers remain
safe from punishment. Apparently the state, first and foremost the judicial establishment,
sees no crime in law-enforcement officials torturing, but instead in filing
reports of torture or offering legal remedies to end the crime of torture,
which under the constitution is not subject to any statute of
On Human Rights Day, we reiterate our commitment
to justice and affirm
the universal obligation to respect it, which is
particularly incumbent on state agencies. In this respect the undersigned
organizations recommend the following:
Regarding torture in places of detention:
•        Amend the current legislative framework (Article
126 of the Egyptian Penal Code), which limits the definition of torture to an
act committed against a suspect with the purpose of forcing him to confess to a
charge. This definition ignores other forms of torture included in the UN
Convention Against Torture, such as intimidating citizens or taking
hostages—who are typically women and children from the suspect’s family—or
punishing persons who challenge absolute police authority or demand to see
judicial orders or official arrest or search warrants.
•        Amend Egyptian law to allow victims of torture
to directly sue the 
perpetrators of torture. Currently Egyptian law prohibits
this, leaving it to the discretion of the Public Prosecution, which has ignored
formal complaints filed by victims to open investigations into their torture.
Even in the rare instances that prosecutors have referred officers to trial on
torture charges, the Interior Ministry has not suspended the officers from
active duty or transferred them pending investigation and trial. On the
contrary, the police officers have been allowed to harass their victims, who in
some cases were again arrested and subjected to further torture in an attempt to
compel them to withdraw their complaints.
•        Adopt a law that fully criminalizes torture and
imposes stiffer penalties on offenders,in accordance with the Egyptian
constitution and Egypt’s international obligations. Although Article 52 of the
2014 constitution states that “torture of all types is a crime not subject to a
statute of limitations,” security forces continue to torture prisoners and
detainees in ways that recall the practices of the Mubarak regime. 
     Immediately investigate allegations of torture
and refer offenders to trial; diligently investigate complaints filed with the
Public Prosecution against public servants; and refer victims to the medical
examiner to document injuries, in a manner consistent with the principles of 
and accountability.
•        Form an independent commission to investigate
all cases of death and serious injury at the hands of police personnel. The
commission should be composed of independent members who are not affiliated
with the judicial, executive, or legislative arms of the state. The commission
should investigate the legality of the use of force and firearms and be given
full investigative powers. It should cooperate with the Public Prosecution if
its finds that a criminal investigation is warranted in any incident.
 Issue a witness protection law as part of the
legal framework to combat 
     Establish a judicial police force subordinate to
the Public Prosecution, independent of the Interior Ministry.
 The prosecution should carry out its obligation
to conduct periodic, 
surprise inspections of detention facilities, in
accordance with the constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure. This
entails giving prosecutors the right to visit general and district prisons and
police detention facilities, examine records, and accept complaints from
detainees. Such unannounced inspections should take place at least once every
month as set forth in Article 1744 in the Book of General Directives 
Prosecution Offices on Criminal Matters.
•  Form an independent commission dedicated to
conducting periodic, 
unannounced inspections of detention facilities around the
country. The commission should consist of independent members unaffiliated with
the judicial or executive authorities with expertise in law, medicine,
psychiatry, and other fields. The commission should possess the authority to
receive complaints from detainees, review records, and directly offer
recommendations to officials in detention facilities and the House of
       Equip detention facilities with surveillance
cameras and allow them to be regularly reviewed by the district summary court
in each jurisdiction.
Regarding enforced disappearance
•        Establish a clear definition of enforced
disappearance in Egyptian law as 
well as clear mechanisms to ensure redress for
victims of this crime. 
•        Enforce the law to require the Interior Ministry
to immediately investigate any report of a citizen’s disappearance, setting a
deadline by which time it must notify the family of the disappeared of the
findings of the investigation; establish mechanisms and rules that enable the
families of victims to obtain information about the fate of their disappeared
family members. 
•        Sign the UN Convention for the Protection of All
Persons from Enforced Disappearance and initiate any necessary constitutional
and legal amendments in domestic legislation to make it compliant with the
convention. An Interior Ministry leader asserted that Egypt has in fact already
signed the convention, but this is false. 
•        Form an independent commission, while defining
its authorities and prerogatives, to include members of the Public Prosecution,
the National Committee on Human Rights, rights associations, and
representatives of families of the disappeared. The commission should receive
reports of cases of enforced disappearance to review them in a timely manner
and disclose its findings to the public by a set deadline; if any public
official is found to be involved, he shall be immediately subject to
•        Expand the prerogatives and authorities of the
National Council on 
Human Rights to allow it to monitor state agencies’
implementation of international human rights conventions and treaties and their
respect for human rights principles. The members of the council should be
authorized to conduct inspections of prisons, police stations, and detention
facilities to assess their compliance with the law and their respect for human
Signatory organizations
Arab Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Freedom of Thought and
Alhaqanya Center for Law and Legal profession
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
Egyptian Commission for rights and freedoms
The Egyptian Association for Community
Participation Enhancement
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social
Hesham Mobarak Law Center
Masryoon Against Religious Discrimination
Nazra for Feminist Studies
National group for human rights and law
United-Group, Attorneys at Law, Legal
Researchers and Human Rights Advocates
El-Nadeem Centre for the
rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture
Mary Seif
Initiative for Personal Rights
T/F: +(202) 279-60197 / 279-60158
A: 14 Fouad Serageddin Street
(formerly al Saray al Korbra), 
Garden City,Cairo-Egypt

Videos from Egypt prisons paint bleak picture

testimonies of prisoners currently held in Egyptian jails are painting a picture
of arbitrary arrest, torture, forced confessions and cramped prison cells.
videos – recorded on mobile phones, smuggled out of prison and obtained by
journalists – were the first to show current detainees giving an account of
prison conditions from within their cells.
“They tortured
me in ways I can’t describe. They started making me memorise confessions, they
told me, ‘You’re going to stand before someone and you have to say what we tell
you word for word,'”
said one young man who claimed to be a university
Jazeera is withholding the names of the men who appear in the videos for their
own safety.
were questioning me about things I have no idea about, and about people I don’t
know… They said they would bring my mother here and rape her in front of me.
Because of all the torture and the threats they made, I told them I will say
whatever you want,”
said the prisoner.
said he was beaten whenever he refrained from answering.
in prisons ‘impossible’
by Al Jazeera, both the ministries of interior and information refused to
Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim has denied claims of torture. Interviewed
in a talk show on a privately owned channel on 20 February
Ibrahim said, “It’s impossible that any form of torture is taking place in
Egyptian prisons”.
also affirmed that no one is arrested arbitrarily in Egypt; they were either
participants in “non-peaceful protests or possessed weapons”.
one of the leaked accounts, a prisoner describes how he was arrested last
saw a man dressed in civilian clothing. I asked him, ‘What’s going on? He asked
me to which organisation I belonged. I told him I don’t belong to anyone,”
he said in this video.
then pulled out a baton and beat me. He forced me on my knees, and as I turned
my face the other way I saw one student fall to the ground as he get shot in
the face with birdshot. His friend who was walking with him had his face
covered in blood too, but the police still beat him,”
the prisoner added.
Jazeera was unable to verify the authenticity of the accounts, but they
corroborate testimonies of former prisoners who spoke to Al Jazeera about their
arrests and dire conditions in Egypt’s incarceration centres.
to Wiki Thawra, an initiative by the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic
Rights to document events in Egypt since the revolution of 25 January 2011,
more than 21,317 people were detained or faced arrest by Egyptian security
forces between July and December 2013.
anti-coup protesters, mostly supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and
his Muslim Brotherhood, continued to stage daily protests in the capital and
elsewhere, the government vowed to get tough with what it saw as threats to
national security.
Muslim Brotherhood was designated a terrorist group on 25 December, and more
people were brought to prison. This, along with an anti-protest law that drove
liberal opposition members to the streets, has been the pretext for many
political prisoners to land in Egypt’s more than two-dozen confinement camps,
as well as police stations.
decree issued by interim President Adly Mansour last September said that any
suspect charged with crimes carrying the death sentence or life imprisonment
can be locked in pre-trial detention indefinitely. This decision,
seen by human right groups as punitive detention, has also contributed to the
inflation in the number of political prisoners.
to Wiki Thawra, 4,809 were arrested during the one-year tenure of Morsi. No
records were available for any previous years.
another video, a young prisoner describes how he was convicted.
to the State Security headquarters, he said that he and 16 other prisoners were
asked to confess to “which organisation we belong”.
extending their detention for 15 days, “they took us to prison, and there
we stood trial. It was a kangaroo court, there was no evidence presented, no
witnesses, not even prosecution witnesses were present.
judge handed us a verdict of two-and-a-half years. I appealed the verdict, but
three months have passed now and I’m being punished for nothing
he said.
prisoners testifying on camera described how cramped their cells are.
cell I am in is tiny, despite the large number of inmates that are jailed here.
We sleep with our feet over each other,”
said an older captive.
prisoners report that they are being held in the same cells as criminals.
“We were put into a holding cell with around 70 or 80 other inmates. It
was filled with smoke, we couldn’t breathe any clean air,” said one
were inhaling cigarette smoke and hashish and marijuana smoke – drugs that I
had never inhaled or even seen before in my life.”
was a very strange experience because I got to know every single type of drug
there is in Egypt,”
he said.
type of drug that is dealt in Egypt exists inside police cells and under the
nose of the Interior Ministry.”
See also:
Human rights group says Egyptian authorities tortured
and sexually abused 52 youths who “peacefully” demonstrated.

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Tony Greenstein

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