CAIRO: Fifty-six incidents of torture have occurred in Egypt in the past eight months, according to a new report.
The cases described in “When will torture in Egypt stop? – issued on March 11, 2009 by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) – occurred between July 2008 and February 2009.
Thirteen of the 56 cases concerned involved a fatality which EOHR suspects was the result of torture carried out by police officers. These cases include that of Ali Nasreddin Mahfouz, who died in a police station in the Delta city of Mahalla in June 2008.
Police officers told his mother – who eight hours earlier had seen him being held in a toilet in the police station with visible marks of physical abuse on his body – that Mahfouz had hung himself.
EOHR says that torture is not only systematic and widespread, but that some incidents of abuse occur without any clear objective.
“The scope of torture has in fact widened, to comprise family members of the detained individual, [who are targeted] in an attempt to force them to provide information about the suspect or turn himself in. In fact, the report describes some incidents of torture which occurred without any clear motive, the report reads.
One such case is that of Mitry Girgis Mitry, who was stopped at a checkpoint in Qaliubiya and taken to a police station where he alleges he was physically assaulted by six police officers and suspended from a steel pipe and electrocuted.
He was subsequently held for four days on charges of theft and possession of illegal narcotics, and has raised a case against the police officers he accuses of torturing him.
The report also details 25 cases of police harassment, such as that of Imam Ibrahim, who alleges that as a result of his refusal to work as a police informant for the Quweisna police station, Menufiya, police officers have fabricated criminal charges against him.
EOHR attributes the spread of torture in Egypt to legislative shortcomings.
In addition to making heavier the penalty for torture, it recommends that the existing definition of torture in domestic law be amended to bring it in line with the definition laid down in the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Egyptian law currently limits the scope of torture to acts carried out with the aim of extracting a confession.
In addition, the NGO says that the “unlimited power enjoyed by the police has made it easy for officers to commit violations. This is illustrated in the report by the case of Ibrahim Salah Eddin Hassan who was arrested on Feb.16, 2008 in Imbaba, Cairo.
Despite the public prosecution office ordering his release on bail the same night, he has not been released and alleges that three police officers physically abused and tortured him by hanging him up by his legs and beating him on the soles of his feet.
Since it was created in 1993, EOHR has monitored a total of 460 torture cases. There were 167 reported incidents of fatalities caused by torture between 1993 and 2009.