Gov't doing little to combat torture, says human rights report

Sarah Carr
5 Min Read

CAIRO: The government is opposing efforts to amend the existing definition of torture in Egyptian legislation and is not doing enough to combat the crime, the Arab Institute for the Strengthening of Civil Society and Human Rights (AISCSHR) said in a statement issued Thursday.

The Egyptian NGO says that on Tuesday Jan. 27, Hussein Ibrahim, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc, presented a draft law which proposed the amendment of Article 126 of the Egyptian Penal Code.

“AISCSHR is disappointed by the defense of [the existing legislation] by those responsible for the application of the law, especially that of assistant minister of justice Hossany Badrawy. It is also disappointed at the defense of existing legislation by National Democratic Party (NDP) MPs such as former police officer Hazem Hamady – whose priority should be to defend the rights of the citizens he supposedly represents, the statement reads.

“This position is of course no different to the refusal by the NDP and its government of any real attempts at legislative reform aimed at respect for civil, political, economic and social rights and freedoms, it continues.

Under existing legislation, torture only occurs where the victim is suspected of having committed a crime and where the abuse is carried out in order to force him or her to confess to this crime.

In addition, torture may only be carried out by a “public servant.

It does not apply to situations where individuals being held in police custody are subjected to abuse for other reasons – which, as AISCSHR points out, places Egyptian legislation at odds with the definition of torture under international human rights law.

Egyptian law obliges the government to amend domestic legislation in order to bring it in line with the provisions of international treaties ratified by Egypt.

“The current provision excludes all crimes committed against individuals other than suspects (such as their family members or their friends for example) and carried out for other reasons including pressuring a suspect or extracting information from him, the statement reads.

Under the draft law all acts carried out by “a state representative who orders that a suspect or detainee be tortured or where he carries it out himself or it is performed at his instigation or acquiescence or where he remains silent about it constitute torture.

Egyptian and international rights groups as well as United Nations human rights treaty bodies state that there exists a systematic policy of torture in Egypt.

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) says in its country profile of Egypt, The records of NGOs working in the field of human rights in Egypt show that there have been thousands of torture cases in police stations, prisons and state security headquarters during the last decades.

However, the exact number of torture victims is difficult to determine, and it seems reasonable to expect many more actual victims than these numbers reveal.

Rights groups say that those who commit acts of torture are rarely held to account for the crime, and charge that legislative shortcomings such as those enshrined in Article 126 in part facilitate this impunity.

“The spread of crimes of torture…requires putting in place various mechanisms – whether implemented by the Ministry of Justice, the public prosecution office or the People s Assembly itself – in order to fight the crime and make impossible both the denial or belittling of such crimes and the placing of the blame on the media for sensationalizing them, AISCSHR says in its statement.

The NGO is calling for the formation of a fact-finding committee aimed at collecting information from relevant groups such as Interior Ministry officials, human rights groups and the public prosecution office about means of combating torture.

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Sarah Carr is a British-Egyptian journalist in Cairo. She blogs at
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