Rights group says torture is state policy in Egypt

Rights group says torture is state policy in Egypt

An Egyptian human rights group accused the government on Monday of officially sanctioning the use of torture, and said that state violence was escalating in the most populous Arab country.

“Torture in Egypt is a state policy, a systematic and organized policy,” the Nadim Centre anti-torture group said in a statement marking the release of a report on torture in Egypt covering a four-year span between 2003 and 2006

The statement said that period saw “an escalation of state violence and restrictions upon the rights to freedom of expression, gathering, demonstration and organisation, as well as an increase in the brutality and practice of torture”.

An interior ministry spokesman declined immediate comment, but Egypt has previously said it does not condone torture and that it only occurs in isolated instances. It says it prosecutes perpetrators whenever there is evidence of wrongdoing.

The ministry has said allegations of systematic torture were exaggerated to tarnish the image of the police.

Nadim said it believed torture was a sanctioned government policy because of identical methods of abuse it said were used in various prisons and police stations, including electric shocks and suspension by the hands and wrists.

Nadim also said the authorities typically buried people who died from injuries inflicted while in custody under heavy police guard, suggesting a deliberate policy of covering up torture.

Ahmed Seif el-Islam from the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, addressing a news conference to launch the Nadim report, said the equipment sometimes used by police against prisoners was not widely available and needed to be budgeted for.

The Nadim report includes a list compiled from newspapers and rights groups of 51 people the group says died in police custody during the period and a second list of more than 200 police officers the group says were implicated in torture.

“We call for their prosecution, that they be held accountable for their actions and be brought to justice,” the group said in a statement, referring to those officers.

The report also said that Egyptian law only recognised mistreatment as torture if it is carried out on criminal suspects to extract a confession.

“But torture that is perpetrated to punish or as a favour to a third party or which is perpetrated for no reason save to spread fear and impose police control is no more than ill treatment, and is treated as a misdemeanor, and the penalty for it does not exceed three years of imprisonment,” the report said.

The U.S. State Department in an annual report published in March cited Egypt as one of several countries where observance of human rights had deteriorated in 2006 and said violations there included “severe” cases of torture.