As June 26 marked the annual International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, it was timely to look at the human rights situation is Egypt, which is deteriorating on a daily basis.
International and local human rights reports and condemnations have been largely unsuccessful in stopping, or even reducing, the institutionalised violations including torture. International, Arab and Egyptian human rights organisations have played an important role in monitoring, recording and exposing these violations. Unfortunately, the unbridled nature of incidents which randomly take place time and again hinders the monitoring exercise from generating a record that would reflect the number and nature of all violations being committed. As a result, the regime continues to institutionalise the policy of torture which has claimed hundreds of lives to date and has turned into nothing more than a conventional procedure that no longer raises eyebrows.
Freedoms and rights in Egypt took a drastic turn after the events of June 30 three years ago, whereby 493 detainees were killed inside various prisons and detention centres across the country. As thousands of trials and detentions took place, numerous death sentences and life-imprisonment verdicts were handed out to civilians by military and civilian courts alike. Minors and children were convicted in a way that Egypt had never witnessed before. Detention has become institutionalised and widely pervasive in Egypt.
An overwhelming majority of detainees are subjected to torture and other types of ill-treatment. This is a result of the complete absence of deterrents or mechanisms which would hold perpetrators accountable for such crimes. Torture has spread far and wide transforming itself into a reality which tens of thousands of young men experience on a daily basis in Egyptian prisons. Courts have issued hundreds of death sentences and verdicts of imprisonment for long durations in grossly unfair mass trials.
Moreover, the current leadership, led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has not ruled out the presence of whom he refers to as ‘innocent young men’ in prisons as a result of the prevailing conditions in Egypt – according to his own admission. This comes at a time when unofficial estimates indicate that the number of detainees in Egyptian prisons has crossed 65,000. Tens of thousands of lives are now lost behind bars, openly subject to death by torture that may descend upon them at any point of time.
The fate of thousands of detainees and enforcedly disappeared persons hangs between the security status of the country on the one hand and violations that occur under the awareness of a state that has legitimised killing, burning, lynching and torture of all kinds on the other. The state aims to commit these atrocities and humiliate people in order to establish a secure regime and install the foundations of a political entity that uses acts of terror as a means to repress its citizens. As such, all systematic violations and blatant violence committed against citizens are justified and allowed in its viewpoint. Using the pretext of war against terror and lack of security, the state has unfurled a legal cover upon all recurring violations that are committed against citizens.
Violations being committed routinely against criminal detainees, and especially those with a political background, inside Egyptian prisons have been rising steadily. Human Rights Monitor has recorded the subjection of detainees to ill-treatment including incessant beating and torture in order to extract forced confessions or even to merely satisfy the whims of individual officers who wish to seek personal revenge from victims daring to oppose the authorities. This is in addition to cases of death where detainees suffering from heart diseases, cancer and other major illnesses have died due to medical negligence and the unwillingness of prison administrations to provide them with appropriate treatment. Health services within prisons are constantly deteriorating. Similarly, police violence directed towards detainees is on the rise. Perpetrators of such acts are not subject to legal accountability. Suffering of detainees within the prisons has taken up various forms, one of which is a concept called ‘Torture gatherings’. Other forms include extraction of confessions under duress, imprisoning political prisoners together with criminals, solitary confinement and prohibiting visitation and entry of food and medicine from outside. The prison administration arbitrarily bans the entry of food items, clothes and medicines for long durations of time. Whoever protests gets their visitations cancelled and is punished with beatings and solitary confinement for several days, and sometimes even weeks.
Authorities willfully cover up crimes and cases of systematic torture which take place inside police stations, State Security headquarters and secret prisons. They have instructions to carry out the harshest forms of inhumane systematic torture to break the will and hope of detainees. The Ministry of Interior actively pursues covering up of murder crimes of inmates which take place during torture sessions by pressurising the victims’ family or through the coroners who mostly state the reason of death as being either by suicide or extremely low blood circulation. Most detainees who are subjected to torture do not know the location of their detention. They are also unaware of the authority which arrests them. They are blindfolded while being tortured. Similarly, it is difficult to identify the culprits due to accusations being levelled immediately after their arrest.
State Security headquarters witness tens of cases of enforced disappearance with durations ranging from several months to several years in some cases. The victim of such disappearances is subject to various forms of physical and mental torture in order to extract forced confessions upon trumped-up charges. There are several detention centers which are distanced from any legal or human-rights monitoring. Egyptian police carry out acts of systematic torture against political detainees. Furthermore, Egyptian law bestows upon police officers the right to torture an accused inside the prison because investigating such officers would be impossible except in the event of the concerned officer admitting to his actions of his own accord. Even if he is convicted, he repeats such acts after completing his sentence since the law does not permit suspension or expulsion of such officers, even for crimes like murder. Authorities executed six persons in the Arab Sharkas case who were subjected to enforced disappearance and extreme torture. They were then sentenced to death and the sentence was executed. They were killed in an extrajudicial manner and those who hid them, tortured them, tried them and executed them were fully spared of any punishment.
Instead of addressing the existing instability and eradicating human rights violations, Egyptian authorities resolved in February 2016 to start building a new federal prison in al-Beheira Governorate on an area of ten acres (approximately 40,000 metres). A few months later they resolved in building two other prisons: Central prison in the Directorate of Security in Qaliubiya (May 2016); and Obour Markazi in the industrial area of Obour City (June 2016). With these prisons, 11 new resolutions have been passed to build prisons since July 2013. Authorities resolved to build the ‘Jamsah Penitentiary’ in August 2013. In March 2014 and April 2014 orders were issued to build the al-Minya Penitentiary and the al-Salihiya Penitentiary, al-Sharqia respectively. December 2014 saw the building of Giza Federal Prison and the Asyut Prison building was completed in December 2015. The Nohda Prison in Cairo was constructed in May 2015. Subsequently, the 15th May prison was erected in South Cairo area in June 2015.
Prisons in Egypt are classified into penitentiaries, general prisons, federal prisons and special prisons in accordance with Article 396 of the 1956 Prisons Law. All of these prisons are built following a democratic resolution. Egypt, which is divided into 7 areas, consists of 42 prisons, 382 detention centres within police stations, secret prisons in Federal Security barracks and those of Security Groups under the command of the Ministry of Interior and in military headquarters which are under the command of the Ministry of Defence. Additionally, there are 9 penal institutions for the detention of minors. Lastly, there are illegal detention centres that are used to torture those who have been subjected to enforced disappearance and extract forced confessions from them.
Article 126 of the Egyptian Penal Code stipulates that
“Any public official/civil servant or public employee who orders torturing a suspect or does the torturing personally, in order to force him/her to confess, shall be punished with hard labour, or imprisonment for a period of three to ten years. If the tortured victim dies, the penalty as prescribed for deliberate murder shall be inflicted.”
The Convention Against Torture, which Egypt has ratified, obligates all state parties to take effective legislative, administrative, legal or any other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory that falls under their jurisdiction. It further states that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, or any order from a superior officer or public authority may be invoked as a justification of torture. Unfortunately, none of this has taken place in Egypt to date.
Systematic torture which is considered by all countries as a ‘Crime Against Humanity’ warrants deterrent punishment for its perpetrators, executers and those who ordered for such torture to be committed according to the Roman Statute of the International Criminal Court. It has been proven beyond doubt that systematic torture exists within Egyptian prisons but concerned authorities, be they local or international, have not held any perpetrator accountable for such incidents amidst resounding international silence.
Torture has become a systematic method and a policy pursued by Egyptian authorities. It is carried out by security forces like the military and police who belong to all strata of the social spectrum and religious leanings. Forms of torture to which detainees are subjected by state security elements are as follows according to narrations provided by ex-victims and human rights activists:
Methods of torture employed by officers are extremely inhumane. Hands are purposely broken and the detainee is left to fend for himself without treatment. Torture techniques have been reported as being similar to what is carried out by the Syrian regime against its prisoners like burning cigarette butts on the detainees’ bodies and flogging them. There is a strong presence of psychological humiliation in the torture methods where a detainee is forced to act like animals such as a dog or worms. He is forcefully ordered to yelp and walk like a dog to save himself from the daily torture session.
Letters leaked from State Security prisons in Egypt mention the quantum of torture carried out by Egyptian authorities against political detainees in their prisons. A letter written by a detainee imprisoned in the dungeons of the Fayoum State Security was leaked and published by all media outlets. It details 12 torture tactics to which detainees are subjected in the State Security Prisons, especially in a room known as the ‘Chamber of Hell’ because it witnesses the most horrible forms of torture.
The letter was titled ‘Letter from Hell’ and its author outlined 12 tactics of torture through the use of which detainees are humiliated by State Security forces. They are as follows:
The strategy of torture implemented in Egyptian prisons indicate a systematic approach that conforms to certain principles and tactics which are meant to extract confessions under duress from political prisoners thereby serving vested interests of the security authorities. This, or to psychologically cripple the detainee. The most violent of these violations is sexual abuse that is carried out on detainees to extract forced confessions or names of their political colleagues. This contributes to their psychological breakdown and makes it easier to obtain forced confessions. Human rights organisations have presented a harrowing testimony of a student in the Faculty of Science, al-Azhar University, who was fully raped and photographed during his detention. Officers threatened to release footage of his rape if he dared to raise complaints.
A 22-year-old second year student in the faculty of science at al-Azhar university was subjected to torture and rape in the Second Police Station in Nasr City after he was arrested along with one of his colleagues in a police ambush at the city’s al-Jabal al-Ahmar area, located in the Sixth district of Nasr City. He was arrested late last February because a slogan for “Rabaa al-Adawiya” was found on his mobile phone.
The victim was reportedly tortured with knives, electrocution and was beaten fiercely on his genital area. He was then taken to a second-floor room where he was raped by security forces because he denied accusations that he was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. He was also forced to name military coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “a great hero” and chant a song titled: “Tislam al-Ayadi” (a song made after the Rabaa massacre in August 2013), after he was raped. Many who have been subject to rape have refused to comment on it and most of them still languish in prisons where they are unable to claim their rights or file a case in the hope of receiving justice.
Interviews with victims and lawyers have exposed the involvement of police, national security personnel and the military in a new form of physical torture: sexual violence. This includes fully raping the victim and assaulting them through verbal and physical sexual abuse. It also includes inserting tools inside the body and administering electric shocks on the genital areas. Sexual defamation and sexual extortion is also common. The report exposes how the perpetrators of such crimes are rarely held accountable since the victims fear prosecution if complaints are raised. Sexual abuse is directed at political prisoners and all such acts smear the image of the current regime which permits the killing and abuse of citizens which is an affront to their dignity and humanity. All of this is occurring amidst a shameful silence of the international community. It is not only women who are subject to sexual violence. Men are also victims of this inhumane crime. The rate of sexual violence observed during arrests and in detention centres indicates towards a political strategy which aims to stifle the Egyptian civil society and completely suppress the opposition. Sexual abuse is not limited to adults. Even minor political prisoners have been subjected to this crime.
This 15-year old first year college student is considered to be one of the most prominent cases of torture and sexual violation committed against minors in Egypt. He was seized by heavily armed security forces from his family’s Cairo home on September 30, 2015. After questioning the teenager at home and searching his mobile phone and the whole house, two national security officers blindfolded Mazen and told his mother they would take him away to ask two questions and then return him home. They did not show a prosecutor’s arrest or search warrant to the family and took him to the Nasr City police station.
After the arrest, violations continued against Mazen. Firstly, he was subjected to enforced disappearance for ten days. During this period, authorities at the police station denied having any information regarding his whereabouts. During his disappearance, he was subjected to various forms of inhumane torture which included being thrashed with sticks and having electric shocks administered. He was raped and his dignity violated through repeated insertions of a wooden stick in his anus. His genital areas were subjected to electric shocks. All of this occurred in the First and Second Police Stations in the Nasr City district with the objective of extracting confessions to the charges directed at him. He was accused of demonstrating, belonging to a banned group, inciting riots and encouraging acts of violence.
The ever increasing number of sexual abuse cases involving political prisoners in Egypt is considered to be a systemic practice which is carried out to humiliate the victims and force them to confess to crimes they are innocent of. An activist stated that the cases which come forth are far lesser than ones which occur in reality. Most of the victims – especially women – choose not to press charges against the perpetrators fearing defamation. And since there is an absence of justice in the present time, human rights organisations can do nothing except record these cases to reduce them and prepare for the prosecution of the perpetrators at a future time.
The Convention Against Torture defines torture as:
“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of, or with the consent, or acquiescence, of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.”
Testimonies of detainees assert that they were subjected to various violations which are considered to be a form of ‘slow death’ that is perpetrated through torture and denying the provision of food, medicines and medical care. The state does not see any problem in declaring the presence of some innocent persons inside prisons as a result of the conditions Egypt is currently passing through. The lives of tens of thousands of detainees remain uncertain behind bars. This is also considered to be a form of slow death – albeit in an extrajudicial manner. 492 persons have died as a result of torture according to the surveys conducted by human rights organisations. The most prominent of such cases which took place within detention centres are as follows:
He was a 28-year old Italian who lived in Dokki, Giza with two Egyptian men, one of them a lawyer; and a Spanish woman. He studied at the American University of Cairo and was a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, UK. His research was focused on the labour unions in Egypt in the post-25th January Revolution era. He spoke four languages and had received several scholarships.
Regeni was able to forge several friendships in Cairo. He was kidnapped on January 25, 2016, while on his way to meet a friend downtown. His friends were unable to contact him despite searching for him for a long time. They filed a report of his disappearance. In the morning of Thursday February 3, 2016, several citizens stumbled upon his body dumped on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road in 6th October City opposite Hazem Hassan Institute on the Cairo road. He was dead and naked, thrown in a side-street. The citizens immediately contacted the police which in turn contacted his friends. He was recognised by his Egyptian lawyer friend.
The autopsy report revealed signs of torture throughout the body which was marred by abrasions on the bottom as a result of a coarse object being rubbed on the body of the victim. This was in addition to bruises on the face and chest as a result of blood-clots below the skin. Investigations showed that after close observation of the body, cuts and bruises were found to be present in the nose and the left ear. No personal belongings or identification papers were found at the site which would have assisted in ascertaining his identity.
Subsequent Italian reports established that Regeni was arrested by Security forces of the Interior Ministry while he was at a downtown café on January 25 where officers became suspicious due to his faltering accent. He was sent for investigation during which he was exposed to various forms of torture until he died and his body was thrown. The Egyptian police were heavily involved in his murder and torture. Egyptian security authorities have violated rights which have been provided for in the various international agreements and conventions. Their repressive policies have crossed the line of international diplomacy which involves protecting the rights of expatriates residing in foreign lands.
In the aftermath of the Regeni crisis, an Egyptian citizen holding German citizenship, Safwat Karam Nasim, who resides in the Ameriyah Sector of Alexandria, North Egypt was subjected to torturous acts at the hands of security elements. This occurred a few days after the murder of the Italian researcher Regeni in Cairo. Amer Ramadan, Safwat’s lawyer, filed a complaint with the Public Defender of West Alexandria numbered 98 of 2016 mentioning therein that the Head of Investigations, First Ameriyah Police Station, Khalid al-Saqa detained Nasim for six days without any reason despite the Prosecution issuing a decision to let him free. This caused his health condition to deteriorate.
The notification indicated that Nasim was ill and suffered from a 100% deficit ratio according to his identification papers which were obtained from Germany. The lawyer complained that the Head of Investigations did not provide Nasim with any medical assistance when the latter requested special medicines for his chronic diseases which he needed daily, according to doctors’ prescriptions. This resulted in him almost dying. When Nasim proceeded to file a report of the incident, it was recorded but the papers were sent again upon appeal to the Prosecutor who had recorded them previously after he asked for the investigation of the defendant in this case.
This is in contradiction of the confidential memo which was issued by Major General Mahmoud Yousry, assistant to the Minister of Interior for Security, and sent to all security directorates, public offices and police offices in the Ministry. This shows how cases involving foreigners’ arrests are handled. The memo contained instructions of the Minister of Interior to notify the Minister’s Office and the National Security Department personally whenever a foreign national is arrested by any authority which functions under the command of the ministry.
Maged was 35 years old when he was killed. He used to work in an oil pipeline company in Suez. He was killed as a result of medical negligence on June 12, 2016. He was not provided medical care even after his health deteriorated. He had been transferred earlier to Tora Prison’s infirmary due to his health condition. He was suffering from several tumours and had underwent a colectomy. Despite this, the Wadi Natrun Prison Administration remained consistently adamant in preventing him from being treated.
Police forces detained him while he was present at the oil pipeline company in Suez on December 11, 2013, without an arrest warrant or a permit from the prosecutor’s office. The Public Prosecution referred him to the military court for trial and he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. He was sentenced again in a military trial (number 201 on February 15, 2016) and was transferred from Ataqah Prison in Suez after his sentencing to building number 430 in the Wadi Natrun Prison Complex.
Mamduh, 45, teacher and resident of Abu al-Matamir area of al-Beheira governorateand, died as a result of medical negligence approximately two years after his detention on April 27, 2016.
The al-Beheira prosecution accused him of ‘burning the Housh Essa center’ in case number 257 of 2014 and he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. He appealed the verdict but it has not been assigned a number as yet. Mamduh was arrested by the police while he was on his private agricultural land on May 27, 2015. The victim’s family said he was suffering from hepatic failure, hepatitis C and abdominal ascites which necessitated the intake of plasma on a weekly basis. His health condition deteriorated rapidly inside prison and turned very critical. This was coupled with the obstinacy of prison officials who prevented personal belongings such as sheets, clothes, food items and medicines from entering his cell. All of this led to his death primarily due to medical negligence. This negatively affected his family socially, psychologically and economically since he was the only breadwinner in his household.
It has been reported that Mamduh Shaldam died two days after the death of Hassan Ali Hassan al-Jamal, 60, who was a resident of Mansoura. Mamduh died approximately 100 days after his detention at Mansoura General Prison. He was arrested on June 7, 2014 and passed away on April 25, 2016. He was in need of necessary medical care as his health condition had been deteriorating since his arrest. According to his family’s testimony, he was subjected to medical negligence and the police administration did not allow the entry of medicine in his cell since the beginning of his detention. He was subjected to verbal abuse and physical assault by wooden sticks despite being diabetic, having a heart condition and high blood pressure, and suffering from kidney stones.
The victim’s family said that he was the sole breadwinner of the family which consists of his wife and seven children, adding that his detention negatively affected them socially, economically and psychologically. They said that the Mansoura prison administration displayed obstinacy in allowing personal effects and medicines to enter his cell. The wife said that she had signed several papers to collect his body but did not know the contents of these papers and which among them she had signed.
The epidemic of deaths inside prisons, be they of prisoners or accused persons, is not new. Due to a lack of accountability, repeated deaths have taken place inside police stations. There is no investigation of police officers who are responsible for deaths of jailed persons and most families of victims are afraid to file cases fearing a backlash from the police which may result in the killing of more family members.
Egypt has been witnessing an unprecedented level of police violence without any protection to the life of the citizen. Egyptian authorities have been taking no steps to solve this issue and those responsible are not even questioned about the tens of killings which occur inside Egyptian prisons due to torture or medical negligence. Thousands of violations recently committed in Egyptian prisons have been recorded. The Prison Authority is abusing detainees across the country through physical abuse and routinely burning inmates’ clothes and sheets after confiscating such items from them. It does not allow them to come out for exercise and neither does it allow food items and books to enter the cells. All this is done to stop detainees from participating in cultural, religious and educational activities which accentuate the growth of a human personality. Instead, visitors are harassed and basic rules for the treatment of prisoners are violated. Doing so has come at a cost of Egyptian lives – either due to medical negligence or due to torture until death. Cases of torture through medical negligence include:
Mohamed is a 56-year old who works as an agent of Abdel Moneim Riyad Primary School and lives in Suez. He was arrested from his workplace at the school without an arrest warrant or a legal permit. This occurred on November 11, 2013.
Suez Prosecution had accused him of ‘demonstrating, belonging to a banned group and killing a minor while marching during a protest’. As for renewals and legal trial, his custody was renewed every 15 days until the legal limit for duration was well passed, and he spent approximately three years in the detention centre.
Mohamed was transferred from Wadi Natrun prison to the Tora Penitentiary’s infirmary on May 17, 2016 after his health condition deteriorated rapidly. He suffers from liver complications and requires surgery but the prison doctor informed him that such facilities were not available at the infirmary. Additionally, officials were reluctant to let his personal effects, sheets, food items and medicines enter his cell. His family was forbidden from visitation despite them raising numerous complaints before the Public Prosecutor and other relevant authorities, only to receive no response. Lately, the family said that his health was in the worst stages possible and he was suffering from repeated unconsciousness inside the detention centre.
Muath is a 20-year old student of Arabic Language in the History and Culture Section of Al-Azhar University, Zagazig Campus, who lives in Derib Najm, al-Sharqia. He was detained by police officers without an arrest warrant or a legal permit from his home on January 27, 2016.
Muath’s family said that he was arrested arbitrarily and the prosecution pressed trumped-up charges which included ‘demonstrating and belonging to an illegal group’. He was detained at the Derib Najm police headquarters where he is currently held. His detention is renewed every fifteen days and his family denies the accusations levelled against him.
The student’s family said that the condition of detention and the medical negligence inside the police station is affecting him on a daily basis shortening his life-span. He suffers from a psychological condition and severe depression which leads to him becoming unconscious. He suffers from cramps after regaining consciousness and he is pacified through the use of narcotic substances. He family is not able to visit him since he remains unconscious. Additionally, officers are adamant to not allow the entry of personal effects, sheets, clothes, food items and medicines inside his cell. Numerous complaints filed before the Public Prosecutor and Public Defender has yielded no benefit. Similarly, a request filed before the Prison Administration Department to transfer him to an infirmary has seen no response.
Mahmoud is a 55-year old teacher who lives in Kafr el-Duwar, al-Beheira. He was detained from his home by uniformed security forces who did not possess an arrest warrant or any legal document which would permit arrest, on April 22, 2016.
Mahmoud is detained at the Federal Security Headquarters in Kafr el-Duwar. The Prosecution accused him of ‘demonstrating and belonging to a banned group’ in case number 8719/13 registered under serial number 1237. He was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment and the verdict was ratified by the court. His family said that he suffers from deficiencies in the coronary artery and he had undergone a heart surgery and a salivary glands surgery right before his detention. His family, which consists of his wife and three children, said that they were greatly affected by his arrest. His detention has had several negative impacts on the family from a social, economic and psychological perspective, most importantly because he was their sole breadwinner. It has been reported that his son, Osama, has been imprisoned for two years and his health condition is also in a very poor state.
Ahmed is a 29-year old accountant who lives in Abu al-Matameer, al-Beheira. He was arrested by police without an arrest warrant from the University Hospital in Alexandria while he was being treated for injuries sustained in a car accident that occurred on May 6, 2015.
The Abu al-Matameer prosecution charged him with demonstrating and belonging to a banned group in case number 64 of 2015/criminal – South Damanhur. His custody was renewed for 45 days. His family raised numerous complaints and sent notifications to concerned persons including the Public Prosecutor without eliciting any response from authorities.
Ahmed suffers from multiple amputations: his right leg, right thumb and index fingers. He has sustained second degree burns on his face, his right thigh, his left thigh and leg (20%) and his personal doctor had advised a constant follow-up of his health condition. After the doctors of the hospital were pressurised, a decision was made to discharge him on June 1, 2016 and transfer him to the Security Forces Barracks in Damanhur. His family was not allowed to meet him for two weeks. Later on, he was rendered unconscious and was not able to recognise his wife when he regained consciousness. He is suffering from memory loss due to his subjection to torture and extreme physical abuse by police personnel during interrogation. He does not remember what happened to him.
The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states the following regarding the rights of detainees to medical services:
(1) At every institution there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry. The medical services should be organised in close relationship to the general health administration of the community or nation. They shall include a psychiatric service for the diagnosis and, in proper cases, the treatment of states of mental abnormality.
(2) Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialised institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.
Torture in police stations and detention centres has become a routine process especially for political dissidents belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups. It is carried out with the objective of extracting forced confessions from accused persons or forcing them to confess to crimes they have not committed. The Human Rights Department in the Egyptian Interior Ministry rejects any increase in the number of torture killings in police stations. It describes the accusations directed against the police as mere words. The Interior Ministry habitually rejects any accusations made by international and local human rights organisations of committing such violations. It asserts its adherence to international standards of treating detainees of all ages in the various prisons under its jurisdiction. The interrogation period inside the chambers of the National Security Agency is the toughest and harshest of all where slow death, consistent humiliation and torture sessions thrive on a regular basis. As soon as a detainee enters the prison grounds, a session is organised for his welcome dubbed the ‘Gift’. Tens of soldiers stand in two rows facing each other and the detainee is rolled between one row to another. All the while, soldiers beat him with whips or sticks made of plastic or wood. After that, the detainee is stripped naked and his clothes are burned before his eyes. He is then provided with prison clothes.
Following are a few cases of enforced disappearance which were allegedly carried out by security authorities and security forces:
Mohamed is a 29-year old computer engineer who lives in Sector 27, Eighth District, Nasr City. He was abducted by military personnel during the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in on August 14, 2013.
His abduction took place after he had talked to his family where he confirmed that he was present at the sit-in and since then, his family does not know of his whereabouts. His disappearance has continued for the past three years. Despite his family raising numerous complaints and requests to concerned authorities, they have not received any response and Mohamed’s disappearance continues.
Ayman Ayub is a 51-year old agricultural engineer. He lives in al-Areesh in North Sinai. He was abducted by military personnel from his home on May 2, 2015. His abduction was in violation of Article 9, Clause 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which stipulates:
“Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.”
The victim’s family were eyewitnesses of the incident, reporting that military personnel stormed the house after raiding it and arrested Ayman without an arrest warrant or legal permit. The family filed numerous complaints and requests before concerned authorities, but did not receive any response whatsoever. Ayman was the family’s sole breadwinner. The family consists of the victim’s wife and four children. Over a year has passed and there has been no information on the location of Ayman’s detention.
Tareq is a 31-year old independent entrepreneur who lives in Northern al-Areesh, Sinai. He was abducted and subsequently subjected to enforced disappearance by Egyptian security forces from the ‘Rumana’ ambush point on October 7, 2015.
Tareq was arrested while he was passing through the Rumanah police station area. He sought help from his friend and informed him of what had happened but when his friend and family went to search for him, they did not find him. He had disappeared completely. His family said that they had been negatively affected as a result of his abduction, from social, economic and psychological aspects, since he was the sole breadwinner of his family which consists of his wife and a small child. Later, his family came to know that he was detained in the Azouly Military Prison.
Article 2 of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance states that:
No State shall practice, permit or tolerate enforced disappearances.
States shall act at the national and regional levels and in cooperation with the United Nations to contribute by all means to the prevention and eradication of enforced disappearance.
Egyptian women have not been spared from imprisonment, torture, murder, enforced disappearance and subjection to all forms of human rights violations. Women are also victims of sexual violations which have reached unprecedented levels, particularly of rape by Egyptian security forces. No investigations take place when complaints of torture and rape are filed before Prosecution, courts of law and the United Nations.
The Egyptian women’s suffering, in an already deteriorating human rights situation, has gone from bad to worse. Two-hundred women, including minors, have become victims of extrajudicial killings at the hands of security forces. During the last three years, Egyptian authorities have arrested more than 2,500 women arbitrarily while they were participating in demonstrations; 49 of them are in remand. Human Rights Monitor has recorded five cases of rape inside prisons while other human rights organisations have put the number at 50.
Several human rights organisations have statistically recorded the various violations committed against women, some of which are listed below:
Sexual harassment: 1147 cases of sexual harassment have been recorded since June 30, 2013. Offences occurred during women’s participation in political demonstrations and during their arrest and detention.
Forced pregnancy tests: 317 cases of forced pregnancy tests on girls and women detained in Egyptian prisons since June 30, 2013. Offences took place while the women were being transported to prisons or detention centres. The most prominent is the case of Sana Saif al-Islam, a 21-year old woman who was detained while protesting the Demonstration Law in the Federal Palace grounds.
Rape: 50 cases of rape have been recorded out of which 20 were carried out by security forces against women and girls since June 30, 2013; 12 out of those were committed in Abadiyah Prison.
Murder: 200 protesting women have been killed by Egyptian security forces since June 30, 2013.
Detention: 49 cases where the victims still remain in the prisons of Egyptian authorities; 9 other girls’ locations are unknown.
Among the most prominent forms of violations to which detained women are subjected, after torture which leads to paralysis, is incessant physical torture, lynching and harassment by security forces. They are forced to wear prison clothing which is light and translucent and are subjected to physical searches which are humiliating and considered a form of harassment. Young women are kept in criminals’ cells which causes them to be in a constant state of fear.
Police forces of the Hadaiq al-Qubbah police station detained Amani Hassan Abdo Saleh, a 33-year old mother of two on August 16, 2013, after the dispersal of demonstrations taking place at Ramsis Square in Cairo.
Amani was subjected to several abuses at the hands of the police which included incessant beatings that took place after the police searched the car she was traveling in with her brother after the protests were dispersed. They were returning home when they were stopped. Police found a photograph of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, inside their vehicle. Amani was kicked on her feet and stomach and was punched on the head, face and back. Her shoulders were bludgeoned rendering her unconscious.
Amani was blindfolded while being interrogated. She told her family that her interrogator threatened her with rape, slapped her and beat her on various parts of her body. She indicated that she was tortured by cigarette burns on her hand and she was then forced to sign a report which declared that she was guilty of possession of automatic machine guns and live ammunition in her handbag. She said she wasn’t holding any bag at that point of time.
Amani was fully paralysed during her detention as a result of torture according to the medical report. Her condition was aggravated due to the lack of medical care. Her body is also marred with bed-sores due to her inability to move or turn.
Amani said that when she used to cry out due to pain, prison guards would threaten her by saying “we will take you out as a dead body”. Amani’s torture was not investigated and her torturers have not been prosecuted to date.
Salwa Abdel Moneim Hasaneen Nasser, 56, was subjected to extreme torture inside the Masr al-Gedeeda police station after she was detained on January 8, 2014. Salwa, along with two younger women, were taken to Nasr City First Police Station, then to Almazah in Masr al-Gedeeda and lastly to Qanater Prison.
Salwa was tortured during her interrogation sessions. She was already suffering from pain in her legs. When she complained to the officer who was torturing her, he asked “Which leg hurts more?” When she answered, “The right one”, he began to focus his beatings on the right leg itself.
Salwa contracted poisoning in Qanater Prison due to an outbreak of snakes in the prisons. She also contracted extreme fever and fatigue after which she was transferred to hospital.
A 33-year old doctor named Basma Rifat Abdel Moneim Rabi, known to her friends as Basma Rabi, who works as a medical professional was subjected to enforced disappearance with her brother Mohamed when they went to raise a complaint regarding the abduction of her husband, Yasir, that was carried out by security forces of the Public Prosecutor. Yasir was abducted from the compound of his newly rented home in Maadi.
Basma remained in enforced disappearance in an unknown location for several days after filing a complaint regarding her brother’s disappearance, until a statement was issued that contained names of those who were involved in the previous Public Prosecutor, Hisham Barakat’s assassination. Basma’s name was on that list. She was accused of receiving foreign funds and organising illegal activities. She was charged with several trumped-up accusations according to what was reported by concerned authorities that include ‘joining a terrorist organisation, engaging in specific working committees, implementing its decisions and executing acts of terrorism in the republic’s governorates, attempting to target a security convoy and some public utilities in Abu Kabir Centre in al-Sharqia with a car bomb and planting bombs in the garage of the Azbakia Police Station.’
Minors in Egypt are subject to systematic abuse which is not limited to arbitrary detentions, imprisonment in unequipped locations and torture inside detention centres. Children are also subject to sexual abuse, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings through the firing of live-ammunition during dispersal of protests. Children are also referred to military courts and have been convicted in some cases.
This is despite Article 3 of the Egyptian Child Law stipulating that:
a) The right of the child to life, survival, and development in a supportive family environment, to enjoy various preventive measures, and to be protected from all forms of violence, or injury, or physical, mental or sexual abuse, or negligence, or negligent treatment, or any other forms of maltreatment or exploitation.
c) The right of the child who is able to form his own opinions, to access information which empowers him to form and express such opinions, and to be heard in all matters related to him, including judicial and administrative procedures, in accordance with the procedures specified by the Law.
Since June 30, 2013, the number of detained minors has risen to more than 4,000; around 400 are in remand to date; 950 have been subjected to harsh treatment and physical and mental torture during their detention; 78 cases of sexual violence have been recorded. Tens of others have been killed extrajudicially. Accusations against children range from ‘possession of a ruler with a Rabaa logo’ to ‘manufacturing explosives and arms and attempting to overthrow the regime’.
Cases of rape have occurred in care homes under the authority of the Public Prosecution in Kum al-Dukkah, al-Marj and other locations. This is in addition to physical torture.
Following are some of the most prominent cases of child arrests:
Essam is a 15-year old first year secondary student who lives in al-Suyuf, Alexandria. He was arrested by police while returning from his educational centre at 9 pm on April 25, 2016.
Essam was charged by the Muntaza First Prosecution of demonstrating and belonging to a banned group in case number 7626 of 2016. His family say that he suffers from pectoral issues and chest irregularities. On April 30, 2016, his health deteriorated due to allergy and he entered a complete coma because the warden refused to transfer him to a hospital. The warden told his father that he refused for him to be transferred because there were no security forces to guard him in the hospital. The family said his arrest has had a negative impact on Essam and has affected his future education.
Suhaib is a 17-year old third year secondary student. He was arrested without warrant from his home on February 11, 2014. His age, which was 15-years at the time of arrest, was disregarded during his detention.
The security forces did not find it enough to have arrested him and so they physically assaulted him in front of his family. They destroyed the contents of his home before taking him to Mansoura First Police Station. They continued to torture him there through the ‘Gift’ session in order to extract confessions from him on several accusations which include: ‘belonging to a banned group, making bands to beat police officers, abusing university professors, burning a police vehicle, possession of firearms (individual cartridges) without permit and possession of tools like Molotov cocktails to attack people’; all of this to breach security and public order.
These were the very same charges which the Mansoura Prosecution interrogated him about. The case was famously known as the ‘Terrorist Cell Case’ in which 41 students were prosecuted. They included collegiate and secondary students. The prosecution renews Suhaib’s custody every 45 days. To date, three judges have excused themselves from hearing the case and the prosecution has continued to ignore his health condition. He suffers from a dislocated knee-cap. He underwent an operation on October 1, 2014 in the Mansoura University Hospital. One week after the operation, he was transferred back to prison without any medical care which led to his health condition deteriorating. Currently, he suffers from arthritis, erosion of cartilage in his left foot and rheumatism.
Saad Mohamed Saad Abdel Fattah, 17, second year secondary student was arrested by military personnel in Khankah while he was administering first aid to his brother Ahmed Mohamed Saad Abdel Fattah, 16, a second year secondary student. Thugs had attacked Ahmed and stabbed him with a knife in his head. The incident occurred on January 25, 2015, near Salah al-Din hospital in Khankah.
Security forces arrested both children without an arrest warrant and initially detained them in the Khankah police station before they were transferred to the Security Forces Barracks in Qalyubiyah where they were kept for a week. Authorities then transferred them to al-Marj Reformatory where they are currently detained. Khankah Prosecution interrogated them and charged them for ‘possession of Molotov cocktails, demonstrating without permit, belonging to a banned group and attempting to overthrow the regime’ in case number 235 of 2015. They were sentenced to two years imprisonment out of which they have completed 4 months. Their sentence was ratified despite the defence lodging a request to appeal within the prescribed time limit. Their appeal has not been heard as of yet.
During their detention, both brothers were subjected to numerous violations. A source from within the family confirmed that they had been beaten with batons and had electric shocks administered besides being threatened with murder. One officer ordered Saad to prostrate before him. When Saad refused, the officer tortured him by putting his head inside a commode and kept his head still for three hours. Disregarding the fact that Saad suffers from heart disease, fragile bones and a anxiety, the guard ordered criminals and intelligence officers to attack him. Ahmed is also suffering from injuries sustained when thugs attacked him before his arrest.
Additionally, the Reformatory’s administration has refused to present them before a doctor or provide them with obligatory medical care to date. With this, Egyptian authorities continue to violate the Global Convention of the Rights of the Child which specifically states in Principle 4:
“The right to special protection for the child’s physical, mental and social development…The right to adequate nutrition, housing and medical services.”
Ibrahim is a 34-year old paramedic who lives in al-Sadd al-Aali, East Aswan. He was arrested from al-Sadaqah al-Gedeidah by security forces of the Interior Ministry without an arrest warrant on June 12, 2015.
Ibrahim was subjected to extreme torture and incessant beating during his arrest. He was assaulted physically and beaten with wooden sticks. He was stripped completely and was threatened with attacks on his wife. This occurred on the property where he resides on the ground floor. Security forces snatched his young daughter from his wife’s hands to terrorise him and his wife. He was later detained in the Military Shalalat Prison after State Security Prosecution accused him of blowing up a chemical centre. He was booked in case number 1343 of 2015 and his remand is renewed every 15 days.
As well as the torture he sustained during his arrest, Ibrahim was subjected to various kinds of torture following his interrogation. He was taken to a detention centre where he also experienced various forms of humiliation. Ibrahim had electric shocks administered and was beaten with wooden batons. He was suspended from the ceiling and suffered from several bouts of seizures. His jaws were also fractured during his torture. Ibrahim’s family raised several complaints and requests to relevant authorities which continued to ignore the plight of the family while the victim remained absent from his home.
Mahmoud is 19-year old secondary student who lives in Kafr el-Duwar, al-Beheira Governorate. He was arrested by National Security Forces in collaboration with the police without an arrest warrant from his home on February 11, 2014. This is a clear violation of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states:
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”
The Kafr el-Duwar prosecution had accused Mahmoud of demonstrating and belonging to a banned group in case number 670 of 2014. He was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment on February 12, 2015. The student’s family said that they had raised several complaints to the Public Prosecutor informing them of their child’s arbitrary arrest but did not receive any response. They said his arrest has affected them psychologically and that prison officials display obstinacy in allowing personal objects to enter his cell, and have denied him to undertake his examinations.
The student’s family further said that he launched an open hunger strike protesting his detention which was arbitrary and based on trumped-up charges. This was after he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment. He was subjected to physical assaults with batons and electric shocks during the initial period of his detention. He suffers from respiratory distress yet he was placed in solitary confinement, which is when he launched his hunger strike. He ended his strike after he was transferred back to regular prison.
A 22-year old student at the Dar al-Uloom college who resides in 6th October City, Giza, Ahmed was arrested without warrant from the pyramids area on May 3, 2015. Ahmed was interrogated by State Security which accused him in a political case that was dubbed ‘Al-Shater’s Son’s Cell Case’. He was also accused of demonstrating and belonging to a group which was found illegally. It has been reported that he was subjected to torture in the State Security building several times. His family filed numerous complaints to the Public Prosecutor and relevant authorities but they did not pay heed to the family’s plight. The latest case of torture Ahmed was subjected to occurred during a visit on the first day of Ramadan inside Tora Prison.
The family said that the incident sparked as a result of extreme arrogance with which authorities approached him during inspection of his personal items. After the inspection, he was made to stand at a distance from other youth. Two intelligence officers named Sabry and Yousuf joined him there and launched a physical assault until he lost consciousness. He almost lost his left eye. This occurred under the supervision of the prison’s warden who is also the head of intelligence. When the family tried to file a report of the incident, they were threatened that a fake report would be prepared where he would be convicted of attempting to escape. The family added that he is a thyroid patient. Additionally, prison officers display obstinacy in allowing personal items, sheets, clothes, food items and medicine from entering his cell.
Masad is a 56-year old owner of a medical equipment company. He was arrested from his home in Nasr City, Cairo, without an arrest warrant or a legal permit from the Prosecutor’s office. He was subjected to enforced disappearance for one month and was detained in the National Security Agency’s building, Lazoughly, where he was subjected to torture and electric shocks. He was suspended from the ceiling and beaten with wooden sticks. This torture was aimed to extract confessions from him regarding accusations which he was not informed of. The charges were of leading a terrorist group with the objective of breaking public peace and attempting to overthrow the current regime.
State Security had interrogated him at the Fifth District and had ordered for him to be taken into custody pending case number 514/Higher State Security of 2015 in the super-maximum security Scorpion (Aqrab) Prison. He was not allowed visitation for two months. Masad was subjected to physical abuse on December 6, 2015, despite him being a diabetic and having a continuous requirement for drugs, as well as daily treatment for physical stability since he underwent a thyroidectomy prior to his arrest. Due to the inhumane torture he was subjected to, Masad suffered a broken pelvis.
This report has recorded the most prominent cases of torture that have taken place in Egyptian prisons since June 30,2013. These cases prove beyond doubt that there is a presence of systematic torture inside prisons and detention centres which amounts to being classified as a crime against humanity according to the Roman Statute, which in turn warrants the prosecution of responsible authorities before the International Criminal Court.
Human Rights Monitor demands, on the basis of Article 5 and 7 of the Roman Statute of the International Criminal Court, to open an investigation on torture in prisons and prosecute responsible authorities and penalise them in order to preserve humanitarian peace. It calls upon the international community to organise and send fact-finding missions to Egypt urgently so that they are able to: witness the actual human rights situation in the country; monitor prisons, police stations and all detention centres; and investigate the murders of more than 493 detainees inside prisons that have occurred as a result of systematic torture, and send the perpetrators of these crimes to trial.
Egyptian authorities have violated several articles of the Egyptian constitution in addition to violating international laws which require them to protect detainees and maintain their safety and security. Article 55 of the constitution states:
“All those who are apprehended, detained or have their freedom restricted shall be treated in a way that preserves their dignity. They may not be tortured, terrorised, or coerced. They may not be physically or mentally harmed, or arrested and confined in designated locations that are appropriate according to humanitarian and health standards. The state shall provide such facilities and any violation of the above is a crime and the perpetrator shall be punished under the law without the statute of limitations being applicable.”
Similarly, Article 42 states:
“Any person arrested, detained or his freedom restricted shall be treated in a manner compatible with the preservation of his dignity. No physical or moral harm is to be inflicted upon him. He may not be detained or imprisoned except in places defined by laws on the organisation of the prisons system. If a confession is proved to have been made by a person under any of the aforementioned forms of duress or coercion, it shall be considered invalid and futile.”
The Convention Against Torture, which criminalises all forms of torture, was ratified by Egypt in 1986 but it is currently being violated. Similarly, Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates that:
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Extracting confessions under duress is also not permitted nor can such confessions be used as evidence during interrogations. Regardless, Egyptian authorities have been using it as a means to convict innocent victims.
Human Rights Monitors warns that people of all social and religious denominations are experiencing a sense of enmity against the regime. This is in turn leading to the widening of the gap between the litigation establishment and the people which may lead to some taking the law into their own hands. Such developments have the potential to threaten public order in the society. This comes at a time when the judiciary has failed the nation and the killing, torturing, raping and dismembering the bodies of citizens has become customary in Egypt.
Human Rights Monitor asserts that the Egyptian Security Authorities’ disregard for Egyptian lives and its killing of citizens through various means and methods based on unrealistic and illegal reasons while they are in formal custody indicates a lack of respect for the human value of Egyptian citizens. Similarly, the rising level of torture in all centres of detention aggravates the crisis of citizen-torture which has become institutionalised, and has been increasing at an alarming rate to the extent that Egyptian authorities have themselves become the first violators of citizens’ rights, instead of being the protectors of rights and lives. This is a clear violation of Article 52 of the Egyptian constitution which criminalises all forms of torture, and this crime is not bound by the statute of limitations. Egyptian authorities have further violated articles 1 to 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which stipulate that the right to life is a sacred right and it cannot be violated for any reason. It states:
“Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
Human Rights Monitor asserts that retrials should be conducted in cases where sentences have been issued against dissidents and that it is the obligation of the international community, which bears legal and moral responsibility, to pressurise Egyptian authorities to address these violations, and put an end to all politicised sentences, in addition to immediately release all political detainees and prisoners of conscience. Egyptian authorities must adhere to the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners and other international covenants and laws pertaining to the treatment of prisoners in addition to the Covenant Against Torture. Egyptian authorities should bear full responsibility for the protection of the lives of detainees inside all formal and informal detention centres across the country.
Translated and adapted from Human Rights Monitor