New anti-torture movement holds first public meeting

Alexandra Sandels
5 Min Read

CAIRO: Newly formed anti-torture group “Egyptians Against Torture held its first public meeting at the Press Syndicate Sunday night, calling for heightened public activism against systematic torture allegedly practiced by Egyptian authorities.

During the past year, numerous chilling videos and mobile phone footage showing victims being tortured, beaten, and sexually assaulted in Egyptian police stations have leaked out on blogs, creating fury among activists and rights groups in Egypt and around the world.

The founders and members of the new anti-torture initiative are a diverse group ranging from opposition bloggers, liberals, and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Led by Ahmed Seif, lawyer and director of the Hesham Mubarak Center, Sunday’s meeting, which attracted a significant number of participants, sought to address the future agenda of the group.

George Ishak, one of the founders of opposition group Kefaya, called for increased pressure on the Egyptian government from international rights groups to put a stop to its alleged torture practices.

One of the attendants from the Revolutionary Socialists suggested the establishment of a 24-hour torture hotline where victims can immediately report incidence of abuse from any governorate.

Participants also called for the creation of a ‘monthly blacklist;’ a document listing the names of torture victims and their perpetrators during that month.

“The persons who should take the blame and stand trial for torture practices are the heads of national authorities, such as police chiefs. Not only the officers who carry out the practice physically, an anonymous participant filled in.

A slightly tumultuous meeting, participants were eager to voice their concern about the supposed rise of torture and ill-treatment in Egypt as well as the group’s future activities.

“Torture happens everywhere in Egypt: in the streets, in the private homes of Egyptians, and in police stations. It’s a common phenomenon, said one participant from the audience.

Aida Seif El-Dawla of the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence stressed the importance for the new movement to maintain “good organization and close relationships with victims of torture, doctors, and lawyers.

“Weekly meetings for members to meet and help victims of torture can be organized, El-Dawla continued.

Moreover, it was decided in Sunday’s discussion to establish member teams who are to “expose the truth about Egypt’s torture practices through research, advocacy, and close contact with the media and international organizations.

Specific team activities will be discussed at the next group meeting.

Egypt has received strong criticism from international rights groups in the past for alleged practices of torture.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has referred to Egypt’s torture practices as “a widespread and persistent phenomenon routinely carried out by security forces and the police.

In April this year, Amnesty International released a new report on Egypt in which the organization accused the government of systematic torture of prisoners.

The accusations were rejected by the Egyptian authorities who argued the report was “inaccurate and unfair.

In response, the Foreign Ministry stated that Egypt has made “real and continuous achievements in the field of human rights, referring to the establishment of the National Council of Human Rights, a government-appointed agency.

Hafez Abu Seada, secretary-general of national rights group Egyptian Organization for Human Rights stressed in a previous interview with Daily News Egypt that “torture and ill humane treatment are one of the most pressing human rights violations in the country.

“Last year, seven people died from torture carried out in Egyptian police stations and we documented at least 30 cases of torture and ill-treatment, Abu Seada continued.

Egypt is party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture).

Egyptians Against Torture will hold its next meeting on the second Thursday of Ramadan.

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