CAIRO: “We can do everything with you and no one will know. We bury people alive, a policeman reportedly told Abdel-Aziz Mujedin, blogger and business student arrested on Nov. 2, 2009.
Mujedin is only one out of several torture victims that are mentioned in the latest report of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).
Entitled “Counter-terrorism against the background of an endless state of emergency, it aims at “documenting the use of torture and the violation of fair and decent trial in Egypt’s anti-terrorism campaign, Stéphanie David, FIDH North Africa and Middle East Desk Director, said during a press conference on Wednesday.
According to David, the emergency law, in force since 1981, is the root of all evil, providing “a blanket authorization for detention and systematic torture.
“The use of torture remains a major element in the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, she said.
The FIDH, along with the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, urges the government to immediately put an end to this “culture of exceptionality, where torture is used in prisons on a daily basis and the concept of accountability stays unapplied.
The report mentions the case of Abu Omar El Masri, subjected to torture in El Maamura Prison, Alexandria, during his detention in 1988. “The officer who tortured him now holds an important position, continues the report.
By issuing recommendations and drawing attention to the problem, the FIDH is exercising “soft power on the Egyptian government, who agreed to meet the FIDH, which is “already an achievement according to David.
With regret she points out the lack of concrete international pressure, especially from the European Union that is now deepening its Neighborhood Policy with Egypt. “They should pressure Egypt to comply with their anti-torture guidelines, she said.
The most important recommendations issued by the report are the immediate repeal of the emergency law, the end of all forms of secret and incommunicado detention and the compliance of any counter terrorism law with the requirements of international human rights law.
“We don’t see them because they are in prison, said Aida Seif El Dawla, director of the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.
Hence it is the media’s crucial role in “revealing how torture is used on a daily basis, as Hafez Abu Saeda, president of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, underlined during the conference. Not an easy role to play, given the government’s pressure on the press.
He pointed to the recent trial of blogger Ahmed Mustafa, who was facing charges of defaming the military academy. “Journalists received the governmental order not to publish any information … We were afraid from the military, he added.
“There is hope, concludes Aida Seif El Dawla – but a possible amelioration of the situation is “up to those in charge of the country. If they don’t want to go the peaceful way, it [might] break out into a vendetta between the citizens and the police.
Seif El Dawla said she is not sure she could stay calm if her son was a victim of torture – “and there are thousands of mothers like me.
However, a rapid change is not in sight. This week, the press reported the torture of Taha Abdel Tawab, a physician in Fayoum, by a state security officer for having declared his support to ElBaradei’s presidential candidature.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) stated in their press release: “Fayoum prosecution stalled calling the officer in, giving him the chance to threaten the victim and leaving the impunity door open as usual.
Minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils Mufid Shehab announced recently the probable extension of the emergency status, which would have expired in May.