The General Prosecution and Ministry of the Interior need to seriously investigate allegations of torture and fairly compensate those affected by police brutality, said the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) on Sunday.
The rights group documented the ways in which the security apparatus had carried out torture over the past three months in a report titled “the crime of torture and continued impunity after the 30 June Revolution,” in which EOHR published separate recommendations to the General Prosecution, Interior Ministry, the interim government, and the Chairman of the Forensic Medical Authority.
The first section of EOHR’s report, which focused on legal issues that led to impunity in cases of torture, said that a review of the laws in place showed that “the penal code and criminal procedure did not include controls to protect citizens from [torture] at all.”
EOHR pointed to Article 126 of the penal code, which dictates that any public official or employee who conducts torture against a detainee facing a charge is eligible to receive a sentence of hard labour or imprisonment of three to ten years, and if the detainee dies, the perpetrator can face a murder charge.
However, EOHR added that this article is in conflict with the International Convention Against Torture, signed by the Egyptian government in 1986, because Article 126 does not include protection for detainees not facing charges, and the torture of a detainee not facing an official charge is handled as “use of cruelty,” which is a misdemeanour. Someone found guilty of “use of cruelty” can face no more than a one year prison sentence or a fine of EGP 200, according to Article 129 of the penal code.
The organisation said that this contradiction, along with others, violated international standards signed by Egypt and that such conventions needed to be integrated into Egyptian legislation in a consistent matter. However, EOHR also said that there was a “widening gap” between national legislation and international covenants on human rights “in spite of Egypt’s ratification of these conventions.”
The report pointed to police procedures and violations of those procedures, which gave the security apparatus “broad powers” as ways in which torture was being enabled in Egypt, and that the misuse of those powers had led to “attacks on the rights of individuals.”
EOHR called on the Public Prosecution to carry out speedy and impartial investigations in response to complaints filed by those claiming to have fallen victim to torture at the hands of police forces. It also called on the prosecution to exercise its right to conduct unannounced visits to all places of detention and speak to detainees privately. The prosecution also needed to conduct medical examinations of alleged torture victims and allow human rights organisations access to detainees and those in solitary confinement.
The rights group also called on Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim to conduct training sessions for its officers in an effort to put an end to practices of torture, along with “increasing awareness” among its officers of the implementation of human rights as applied to detainees. It also called on the ministry to ensure “all detainees stand before a judicial authority within 24 hours of being arrested according to the law” and guaranteeing the right of immediate family members to contact detainees.”
The report called on the interim government to take legislative action to protect citizens from “the assault on public rights and freedoms protected by Egyptian and international law” and to adequately compensate torture victims. It also called on the government to adjust the penal code to provide consistency with international norms and to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which allows for international experts to conduct regular visits to places of detention and make recommendations.
EOHR recommended to the Forensic Medical Authority to carry out speedy examinations of those claiming they had been tortured and write “neutral reports that do not allow for impunity.”