AOHR: Human rights situation in Egypt worsens

AOHR: Human rights situation in Egypt worsens

 A report issued by the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) revealed that cases of torture in Egypt has reached an “unbearable” point and has become a “method practiced” at the highest level. The rights organization said that torture includes all segments of Egyptian society including that of women, children, youth and the elderly “without regard to any social status.”

The London-based AOHR said that the organization has submitted its report to the Human Rights Council and international bodies concerned over torture in Egypt and has sent along with the complete report, a list of victims names and the names of their torturers.

The organization said it hopes that these organizations would “fulfill its duties and obligations towards thousands of detainees who are languishing in prisons that do not meet the minimum international standards.”

The organization says torture in Egypt has become a “policy and a systematic behavior, which is widely approved of by the state, meaning that the highest authorities either approves or encourages this” behavior by its security personnel.

The report, released last Thursday, confirmed that torture is used widely in police stations and places of illegal detention. This comes as Egyptian rights groups have long reported on the poor conditions and torture that they have repeatedly said were “ongoing” and “rampant.”

“We believe torture exists on every level of Egyptian security forces and they use it as a tool to intimidate and get confessions, even against the innocent,” said Fardous Ali of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) who has long documented police behavior in Egypt.

The AOHR report noted that it monitored the disappearances of 73 people in what it called “forcible coercive disappearance” in the period between 1992 and 2009. The organization was only able to discern the fate of 17 of those individuals. The remaining 56 person’s locations remain a mystery.

According to the report, during the past nine years, there have been approximately 285 documented cases of torture and this has resulted in 118 deaths, a majority of those occurring in 2007. The report said there have been 15 deaths as a result of police torture during the first four months of this year.

The report, reinforced by a table and a number of testimonies by persons subjected to torture, added that the total number of political arrests in Egypt last year alone reached 7555, including 912 cases in Sharqiyah governorate and 731 in Giza. In Cairo, the number of political detainees reached 682.

The report monitored 76 different means security forces used torture. It said that the Egyptian authorities used these methods of torture in the interrogation of detainees, including “strangulation by water, breaking the ribs and brutal beatings, including taking off clothes, sleep deprivation, obliging [prisoners] to stand on their feet for long hours and using electric shock” as well as other techniques.

The organization said that despite the successive appeals to the Egyptian government to close illegal detention centers, to intensify control over its security services and to abolish the Emergency Laws in order to create justice effectively to “eradicate the phenomenon of torture” the organization have not received a response.

The report noted that “the Egyptian Security Authorities have presented a new victim to us on the 13th of October, 2009, the death of the brother of Hamas’ spokesman, Mr. Youssef Abu Zuhri, 48, a father of six children who died in Burj Al Arab prison in Alexandria, due to the severe torture he had been through.”

The AOHR, at the conclusion of the report, called on the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, to form a committee to investigate the situation “of Egyptians and non-Egyptians in Egyptian prisons” and asked him “to press for the formation of a committee of investigation into the death of [Palestinian] Yousef Abu Zuhri.”

It has also called on the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Countries, Ekmal Eddin Oglu, to “inform member states of the organization to what is happening in Egypt” and also appealed to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “to refer the situation in Egypt to the Human Rights Council to take exceptional measures.”

The Egyptian government has denied torture being a top-down phenomenon and has continually claimed that perpetrators are punished for their actions, an argument that human rights groups in Egypt have repeatedly said does not happen.

**reporting by Mohamed Abdel Salam