Bloggers and Rights Activists Against Torture Meeting

More than 20 bloggers and rights lawyers met today at the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid (AHRLA) to coordinate their anti-Mubarak’s police torture campaign.

The four hour meeting was divided into two sessions. During the first two hours, participants listened to tips and legal advise from veteran leftist rights lawyers like Ahmad Seif, director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and Tarek Khater of AHRLA, about the press law, loopholes the government uses in prosecuting dissidents, how police officers hide the torture marks, how to legally and journalistically document a torture case.

The talk and the disccusion that followed were open to the media.

Following the break, the participants started a second closed session to discuss past experiences, strategy and tactics in the coming period, emergency plans to face off the expected crackdowns..

The following were some of the suggestions that were brought up in the meeting.

1- A list of rights lawyers and journalists will be drafted and circulated among the bloggers. In case of suffering/witnessing any abuse, those names on the list should be contacted to report the abuse.

2-A workshop will be scheduled soon, where bloggers can learn more about cyber-security, how to protect their anonymous identities (if they are blogging under pseudonyms), and how to protect their private information from the government hackers.

3-A webpage will be set up, written by rights lawyers and edited by bloggers, with the legal infromation one must know if s/he was in a police station or undergoing interrogation, written in a simplified way, easy to be circulated among fellow citizens.

4-More volunteers are need to help contribute/edit the Torture in Egypt blog. More ideas are needed on how to develop this blog into a proper clearing house for information on police abuses.

5-More artwork is needed in the campaign. Whether it’s those video clips bloggers like Ahmad Sherif has been producing, or banners. Bloggers who have the technical and art backgrounds should transfer their experience to others. A workshop on photoshop and other art computer programs is to be scheduled.

6-A “Torture in Egypt Wikipedia” was suggested, including names, photos, and cases of Egyptian police officers involved in torture.

7-Rights activists were encouraged to not only take the torture victims’ testimonies on paper, but also to get video-testimonies, like the one AHRLA produced on Mohamed Badr Eddin Gomaa’s case in Alexandria.

8-A campaign for the right of a detainee to a phone call when taken to custody, was also suggested by a rights lawyer, who asked the bloggers to help out with a banner that links to the campaign’s (still under construction) website.

9-More publicity is needed for the blogosphere among the citizens. Bloggers and rights activists are encouraging any suggestions and ideas, especially with the exponential annual increase in the country’s cybercommunity.

10-Offline campaigns are just as important. The strength of the Egyptian blogosphere comes from the active involvement of its members in street politics. Whatever literature produced online, the participants encouraged, should also be published into easy-to-read and illustrated booklets that could be distributed among fellow citizens (in demonstrations or through our friends, contacts, and networks).

11-Participants also suggested an active involvement in the coming 5th Cairo Conference’s anti-torture forum.

12-For those involved in the anti-torture campaign, two days must be marked for more intensive action: Egyptian Police Torture Day 25 January and the International Day against Torture 26 June.

13-Evaluation is much needed to know the strengths and weaknesses of our previous campaigns, with the Hadayeq el-Qobba State Security torturer as a case study.

14-An email group will be set up that will include those who attended the meeting today, and those bloggers who would like to help, but couldn’t make it today.

15- The participant bloggers were all encouraged to report on the meeting on their blogs after they go home, and mobilize a bigger number for the next meeting scheduled Saturday 5pm, also at the AHRLA office in 2 Ma’arouf Street’s intersection with Talaat Harb St, Fourth Floor.

Leftist blogger Alaa Seif speaking at the meeting (Pic by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

On a more personal note, it was a great honor for me to meet every single particpant tonight. The small audience was a microcosm of a growing rich pluralistic blogosphere. There were religious and secularists, veiled and unveiled, Copts and Muslims, leftists, liberal, Islamists and independents–all keen on ridding Egypt of its police torture epidemic.

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