Egypt: Sweeping measures against torture needed

The three-year prison sentences handed down against two police officers by an Egyptian court today must be used by the authorities to open the way towards punishing all acts of torture and other ill-treatment, Amnesty International said today. “The sentencing of the two police officers is a welcome and positive step, but if it is to be truly significant it must herald more concerted action by the Egyptian authorities to ensure that all torture allegations are thoroughly investigated and that those responsible for torturing and ill-treating detainees are held to account,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.”The Egyptian authorities must make it clear by their actions, not merely words, that torture will not be tolerated.” The organization was speaking in reaction to the sentences that an Egyptian court imposed against two police officers convicted of torturing Emad al-Kabir in 2006. The two officers, from Bulaq Dakrur Police Station in Giza Governorate, were tried for the unlawful detention, torture and rape of Emad al-Kabir, and for obtaining and distributing materials harmful to public moral and decency. The latter charge arose because they reportedly filmed their rape of Emad al-Kabir using a mobile phone camera and circulated the film in order to further degrade and humiliate him. Torture in Egypt remains widespread and systematic and recently torture allegations have been supported by graphic evidence, such as videos of torture and other ill-treatment, that have been posted on the Internet. Amnesty International has repeatedly voiced its concerns over the widespread and systematic use of torture and other ill-treatment by Egyptian security officials, particularly the State Security Investigations (SSI) services, who have wide powers under the state of emergency that the government has maintained almost continuously for the past 40 years. “Despite evidence that torture is pervasive in Egypt, the Egyptian authorities continue to admit to only occasional and isolated individual cases of human rights abuses, and to emphasize that disciplinary measures are taken against those guilty of such abuses,” said Malcolm Smart. “Trials of alleged torturers before criminal courts are mainly restricted to cases where the victim died, and only in criminal, not political, cases. In most cases, security forces have been allowed to act with virtual impunity.” Amnesty International is calling on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are investigated promptly, thoroughly and impartially,and that those accused of perpetrating or of ordering or authorizing such abuses are brought to justice.