New Report Details Torture by Police in Egypt

By: Adam King
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Africa 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Photo Courtesy of CNN.

CAIRO, Egypt – A new report by Human Rights Watch released  September 6, 2017 claims to shed light on a culture of torture by Egyptian police and national security forces. The report is based on interviews from multiple detainees who were interned by Egyptian police and security forces between 2014 and 2016. According to the report:

“Of the 20 cases documented by Human Rights Watch, 13 detainees were tortured in National Security offices, five in police stations, and two in both places. Six men were tortured at the National Security Agency headquarters inside the Interior Ministry near Cairo’s Lazoghly Square, a place where detainees have alleged torture for decades. In five cases, security officers used torture to force suspects to read prewritten confessions on video, which the Interior Ministry then sometimes published on social media channels.”

The report claims that detainees were subjected to harsh torture tactics such as electric shock, awkward hanging positions and threats of physical violence.  The torture could last hours on some occasions with numerous techniques being utilized interchangeably. One detainee even claims to have been raped on multiple occasions by police officers with foreign objects.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi obtained the presidency of Egypt in 2013 following a military coup of then President Mohammed Morsi. President el-Sisi continues to face accusations of rampant torture at the hands of police and security forces since taking the presidency. The report also claims that some of the deplorable techniques that characterize the reign of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have be reinstituted and even expanded in some instances.

Human Rights Watch is not the only organization to focus on allegations of torture in Egypt at the hands of police and security forces. The United Nations reached similar conclusions in its own report in May of 2017, “Torture appears to occur particularly frequently following arbitrary arrests and is often carried out to obtain a confession or to punish and threaten political dissenters.” 

The UN also opined that attempts at detainees to make their cases known and to seek redress against the harms have not been met with adequate procedural recourse:

“[P]rosecutors, judges and prison officials also facilitate torture by failing to curb practices of torture, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment or to act on complaints…In the view of the Committee, all the above lead to the inescapable conclusion that torture is a systematic practice in Egypt.”

Egyptian officials rebuke the claims of Human Rights Watch and, according to Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid, are indicative of “a new episode in a series of deliberate defamation by such organization, whose politicized agenda and biases are well known and reflect the interests of the entities and countries sponsoring it.”

The Egyptian Government has since blocked the Human Rights Watch website as of September 7, 2017, bringing the grand total of blogs and news websites blocked to 424.  

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – Egypt blocks Human Rights Watch website – 8 September 2017

CNN – Report: Egypt police security forces ‘routinely torture political detainees – 7 September 2017

Human Rights Watch – “We Do Unreasonable Things Here” Torture and National Security al-Sisi’s Egypt – 5 September 2017

United Nations – Summary from Committee Against Torture – 12 May 2017 

The New York Times – Army Ousts Egypt’s President; Morsi Is Taken Into Military Custody – 3 July 2013 

Hundreds of Activists Have Disappeared and Tortured in Egypt Since 2015

By Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt — A new report from Amnesty International has documented hundreds of people disappearing since early 2015. The enforced disappearances are being carried out by the Egypt’s National Security Agency (NSA) and torturing some of those that are taken.

Egyptian Security Forces Have Detained Hundreds of Activists for Months (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Amnesty International has documented over 630 instances of people disappearing since early 2015 by NSA. This amounts to three to four people everyday being taken by Egyptian security forces. The main targets of the disappearances are political activists, protesters, students, and other opponents to the regime. Those targeted include both Islamists that support the ousted political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and secular activists. People as young as 14 have been victims to these enforced disappearances. Amnesty International says enforced disappearances are a “key instrument of state policy.”

Amnesty International’s report describes that some people, including children, are taken from their home in the night and sometimes blindfolded and handcuffed as they are transported to detention facilities. They are detained for months without access to a lawyer or their family with no formal charges brought against them and they do not stand trial.

The report also lists numerous instances of torture to those that were captured. Some of the examples of torture have ranged from long instances of interrogation to use of electric shocks to force confessions.

One example of torture was the enforced disappearance of Aser Mohamed, a 14 year old. Aser was arrested and held for 34 days in NSA offices in Cairo. While there, Aser suffered electric shocks and beatings to force a confession. Aser was later brought before a prosecutor that warned him more electric shocks would occur if he retracted his confession. When he returned to his family, he had wounds from electric shocks on his lips, head, arms, chest, and genitalia. Aser is currently awaiting his trial before an Egyptian court.

The disappearances and torture may have also extended to foreign activists. An Italian PHD candidate at Cambridge University, Giulio Regeni, was found dead on the outskirts of Cairo with visible signs of torture. The Egyptian government denied any responsibility for his death, but Amnesty International says his case matches the other documented instances.

Enforced disappearances are illegal under Egyptian law. Authorities are required to refer arrested persons to the Public Prosecution within 24 hours of detention. Enforced disappearances are not a new tactic in Egypt but are on the rise recently according to Mohamed Lotfy, Executive Director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom. Most of those that forcibly disappear are later charged with terrorism related charges.

The Egyptian government has denied the information that was released in the report and accused Amnesty International of being a “non-neutral organisation motivated by political stances aimed at tarnishing the image of Egypt.” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid told CNN that torture is illegal in Egypt and all suspected cases are prosecuted. Zeid also said that a committee was being formed to investigate the allegations in the report. The United States State Department issued a statement calling the report “deeply troubling.”

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International — Egypt: Hundreds disappeared and tortured amid wave of brutal repression — 13 July 2016

BBC — Hundreds forcibly disappeared in Egypt crackdown, says Amnesty — 13 July 2016

CNN — Amnesty: Hundreds ‘disappeared’ by Egyptian forces — 13 July 2016

NPR — Amnesty International Report Documents Activist Disappearances In Egypt — 13 July 2016

Iraqi Shoe Thrower Freed, Claims He Was Tortured

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Iraqi television reporter who famously threw his shoes at President George W. Bush in December 2008 was released from prison on September 15. Muntazer Al-Zaidi was released after serving nine months of a three-year sentence. Al-Zaidi’s sentence was ultimately reduced to one year on appeal and he was released three months early as a result of good behavior. Al-Zaidi is now claiming that he was tortured during his time in a Baghdad prison by Iraqi authorities.

While addressing the media after his release, Al-Zaidi asserted that the torture began once he was arrested for throwing his shoes at now former President Bush. The Iraq television journalist alleged that during his time in prison he was subjected to beatings and whippings. Al-Zaidi claims that electric cables and iron bars were used to torture him. He claims that he was also subjected to electric shock torture outside a building in the Green Zone, the area used by United States forces in Baghdad. Additionally, Al-Zaidi, covered in an Iraqi national flag and surrounded by reporters, claimed that he was subject to water boarding by Iraqi authorities. Al-Zaidi now claims that he fears that his life is in danger and that U.S. intelligence forces could possibly pursue him.

The incident late last year came during a joint press conference with President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Zaidi feigned asking President Bush a question and proceeded to hurl his shoes at him. President Bush was able to duck both shoes before journalists took Al-Zaidi down. Before throwing his shoes, Al-Zaidi yelled at the President, blaming him for the number of Iraqi casualties that followed the United States-led invasion in 2003. He told the President that the shoes were a “farewell kiss.”

Al-Zaidi’s release from jail has lead to joy in some parts of the Arab world. It is expected that great opportunities await Al-Zaidi, who previously worked as a little known reporter in Baghdad. There are rumors that Al-Zaidi will receive much more lucrative offers from bigger Arab stations. Additionally, there is talk of proposals of marriage from Arab women and gifts from businessmen throughout the Middle East. Al-Zaidi has also been promised citizenship and one hundred thousand dollars by a well-known critic of President Bush, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Iraq Shoe-thrower Freed From Jail – 15 September 2009

Guardian – Iraqi Shoe-thrower Claims he Suffered Torture in Jail – 15 September 2009

Al Jazeera – Shoe-thrower Flown Out of Iraq – 16 September 2009

Chicago Tribune – Iraqi Shoe Thrower Freed: As He Is Released, Muntadhar al-Zeidi Says He Was Tortured in Jail – 16 September 2009

San Francisco Chronicle – Shoe Thrower Leaves Prison, Alleges Torture– 16 September 2009