afrol News, 10 March - A new report documents the "systematic use" of torture and other human rights violations in Egypt's counter-terrorism efforts. Those suspected of terrorism, which has a wide definition, can expect torture, illegal detention and unfair trials, the report released today found.
Egyptian and international human rights groups stand behind the report, entitled "Counter-terrorism against the background of an endless state of emergency". It is based on a fact-finding mission conducted in May 2009 and includes several interviews with torture victims.
The mission concluded that "the current legal regime and practices still involve arbitrary arrests, systematic use of torture against people suspected of terrorism and other detainees, detention in unofficial facilities, particularly State Security Intelligence offices, violations of fair trial guarantees, admission of confessions obtained under duress, and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association."
Furthermore, many former "terrorism suspects" had testified to the effect of being arrested and held incommunicado in State Security Intelligence secret and underground interrogation centres, the report notes.
Torture was shown to be "systematically practiced by the security forces in Egypt, in particular by State Security Intelligence (SSI)." SSI forces continue to enjoy special privileges and exclusive powers.
"The use of torture has been a major element in the Egyptian government's counter-terrorism strategy for over two decades, as witnessed by the various interlocutors met by the mission," the report concluded.
The Egyptian El Nadim Centre for Rehabilitation for Victims of violence and torture, interviewed in the report, said government was trying to downplay the systematic use of torture in the country. "While the government does not deny the occurrence of torture cases and occasionally permits the trial of some of its officers, it disagrees with civil society organisations on the scope and extent of the practice of that crime, and denies the fact that it is amounting to a systematic state policy, to the extent that Egypt can be described as a police state."
The report also criticises the fact that Egypt has been ruled under emergency laws since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat. "The emergency law is used to justify many crimes and acts of violence by the government which gravely contradict the constitution and violate human rights," report says, also leaning on similar observations by the UN.
The report was compiled by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its local member and partner organisations, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and the Nadim Centre. It was presented today in connection with the UN Human Rights Council's review of the rights situation in Egypt.
Based on its findings, FIDH urged Egyptian authorities "to repeal the Emergency Law and make sure that the new anti-terrorism law in preparation meets the requirements of international human rights law, and in particular takes into account the requirements relating to the definition of the crime of terrorism and the necessary respect for fair trial guarantees and the absolute prohibition of torture."
Egyptian authorities were further asked to "end all forms of secret or incommunicado detention and to enforced disappearances. Furthermore, all people arbitrarily detained should be freed or immediately charged with a cognisable offense."
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