CAIRO: El Nadim Center for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence launched its third report on torture in Egypt amid sharp exchanges between members of the center and a journalist from the weekly Al-Osbou.
The 261-page report, “Torture in Egypt: A State Policy details cases of torture and state-organized violence documented by El Nadim from 2003 to 2006. It is divided into sections describing the experiences of victims of what it refers to as the “systematic and organized policy of torture and state-organized violence implemented in police stations, state security headquarters and the street.
Other sections present the testimonies of the victims of the 2004 security raids conducted in Al-Arish following the Taba bombings. At the time 3,000 people were detained – including women and children who were arrested to force their male relatives to come forward. The report also documents the experiences of farmers in the village of Sarando, subject to a two-week police campaign to evict them from their land.
The end of the report includes a table with the names of 272 policemen accused of torture by victims. It details where and when the torture occurred, the victim’s identity and which organization documented the incident.
Lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (which handles the legal aspect of torture cases) said during the press conference, “We will distribute this list widely to public prosecution offices and provide evidence which can be used in the prosecution of torturers – if there is a willingness to do this.
El Nadim Psychiatrist Aida Seif El Dawla, however, says that the Interior Minister has not yet acted on the list. “We sent it to the Interior Ministry two months ago but have had no response – and didn’t expect one – because the ministry doesn’t consider itself accountable to anyone.
Seif El Islam attributed the problem of bringing cases against those accused of torture in part to the narrow definition of the crime in Egyptian legislation.
“The government refuses to amend the definition of torture to bring it in line with the definition provided by the United Nations Convention Against Torture [which Egypt has signed]. This means that under Egyptian legislation a case cannot be brought against police station chiefs who, while they know that torture is committed by other officers at the station, are not directly involved in it, he said.
El Nadim also used the forum to respond to an article published in Al-Osbou concerning the draft law criminalizing domestic violence which El Nadim began working on in 2005.
The article, “A Draft Law on Marital Relations! , published on the Nov. 24, 2007 focused on one aspect of the draft law, its provisions on marital rape.
The Center claimed that the journalist who wrote the article, Omayma Ibrahim, sought to sensationalize the issue at the expense of objectivity by ignoring other provisions of the draft law which deal with all forms of violence in the home, including violence committed against female domestic help.
Members of El Nadim point out that the article includes a quote by psychiatrist Suzan Fayad – despite the fact that Ibrahim has never met or spoken to any of El Nadim’s staff.
Furthermore, in the Dec. 8 edition of Al-Osbou, Ibrahim claims that she was unable to reach either Fayad or Magda Adly (a psychiatrist and manager of El Nadim’s violence against women program) because “they were relaxing at a retreat in Ain Sokhna when, in fact, they were running a widely-publicized workshop on the documentation of torture.
Ibrahim was present during the press conference and attempted to respond to the allegations against her.
When Seif El Dawla demanded that she apologize for the false information she wrote in her article, another journalist protested that his freedom of expression was “under attack. Sharp exchanges followed between members of El Nadim and some journalists which Seif El Dawla quelled by explaining, “we are not against freedom of expression but rather against inaccuracies. All we ask for is transparency, fairness and respect.
As evidence of their “support for freedom of expression and their refusal of the policy of imprisoning journalists, Adly said that they would not be bringing criminal charges against Ibrahim for defamation but would pursue a civil claim for compensation.
El Nadim’s press release states that there was an escalation of state violence between 2003 and 2006. The Center attributes this to the increased political mobilization in the form of strikes and protests which occurred during this period.
Commenting on the increase in the incidents of torture documented by El Nadim, Seif El Dawla told Daily News Egypt that “in the past month, there has been a torture case every two days. It’s crazy. I personally do not understand how things got out of hand, how the authorities allow this to happen. My only explanation is that this is a systematic policy of violence.