CAIRO. Ahmed Mammoud Tammam, 18, had a fight with a neighbor over a girl. The neighbor complained to a friend who worked in the nearby Omranniya police station. Later that day, eight policemen broke into Tammam s house and arrested him.
Tammam died in police custody two days later. The resulting autopsy report, which noted multiple bruises as well as electric burn marks on his scrotum, concluded that Tammam had died after his body was exposed to a bare source of electric current.
The recent case of Mohammed El Sharqawy, a pro-democracy activist tortured after his arrest at a recent demonstration, has drawn considerable attention to the use of torture against activists. But according to Magda Adli, director of the Nadim Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, “most torture victims in Egypt aren’t activists, but normal citizens.
Torture, experts note, is not reserved for those with opinions different from the ruling regime, but for those accused of petty crimes as well, such as theft. According to Adli, police often arrest dozens of people in a single sweep, and then torture them all until someone confesses, whether or not they are actually guilty.
Besides its usefulness in obtaining confessions, Adli also said the police use torture as a form of personal revenge by members of the regime or police force. She cited one case in which a man was allegedly tortured for quitting his job as a private cook for the Minster of Health without giving adequate notice.
While Adli believes torture is frequently used in police stations throughout the country, she cited the many factors that make compilation of statistics difficult. Human Rights groups devoted to the issue of torture are not permitted to promote themselves in Egypt, Adli explained, so many Egyptians do not know of their existence. Those who do, meanwhile, are often afraid that reporting incidents of torture will lead to future arrests.
The Nadim Center documented 31 cases of death resulting from torture between June 2004 and May 2005. Basma Abd Al-Aziz, a doctor at Nadim, noted that the center receives an average of three new alleged torture victims a month. She went to point out that, of these, only about three in ten espouse specific political views.
The Ministry of Interior did not respond to requests for comment. However, a 2005 report issued by the governmental National Council for Human Rights conceded that arresting everyone present at a given crime scene, then torturing them for information, constituted an “abnormal investigative practice.
The non-governmental Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) reported 292 torture cases between January 1993 and April 2004, 120 of which resulted in the death of detainees. The EOHR reported 17 additional deaths between May 2004 and July 2005.
Despite many well-documented cases of abuse of prisoners in state custody, one high-level interior ministry official told Human Rights Watch in February 2005 that the government had not launched a single criminal investigation into torture allegations in the past 19 years. IRIN