Amnesty urges Egypt to lift emergency laws, investigate abuse

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CAIRO: Amnesty International urged Egypt’s interim rulers on Wednesday to lift emergency laws that it said had let security officials ride roughshod over human rights for 30 years under former President Hosni Mubarak.

The human rights group said arbitrary arrest and torture had been the "hallmarks" of Mubarak’s rule, and called for a thorough investigation of abuse at the hands of security officials and an end to their impunity.

"It is crucial, as the Egyptian government and parliament have an historic opportunity to formulate new laws, that the grave deficiencies that have marked the use of emergency legislation in Egypt should not be perpetuated and entrenched under an ordinary and permanent statute," Amnesty said in a report.

Amnesty said it welcomed the scrapping of Egypt’s state security apparatus in March but action must be taken to prevent rights abuses in the future. Mubarak’s security service was replaced by a new "National Security Force" in March.

"Amnesty International is not aware of any steps taken to set up an oversight body which will be able to hold the security forces to account for abuses, including human rights violations," it said.

"However, what is clear is that the Emergency Law and the 30-year old state of emergency, which were used to detain people without charge or trial, continue to be in force."

Egypt’s ruling military council has said emergency laws will be scrapped before parliamentary elections in September.

In the 80-page report "Time for Justice: Egypt’s corrosive system of detention", Amnesty catalogued the brutal treatment of Egyptians behind bars — beatings, electric shocks and suspension by the wrists and ankles for long periods, sleep deprivation and death threats.

Prisoners are sometimes held without charge in squalid cells in the name of public security, even after a court has ordered their release, it said. Access to legal assistance and medical care are often denied.

Amnesty said Mubarak-era officials had brushed off its concerns about human rights abuses as unproven allegations or isolated instances that did not reflect patterns of abuse.

It said former interior minister Habib El-Adly, now facing trial on charges of graft and killing protesters, had not answered its requests for information about the number of administrative detainees.

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