Convictions Are Positive Step, but Widespread Abuse Requires Systemic Reforms
A Cairo court’s November 5 conviction of two police officers for beating and raping a bus driver is a welcome step toward addressing the frequent abuse of detainees in Egyptian custody, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the Egyptian government to follow up the verdict by taking steps to eradicate torture in all its detention facilities.
The Giza Criminal Court sentenced police captain Islam Nabih and non-commissioned officer Reda Fathi to three years in prison – the most lenient possible sentences for the alleged crimes – on charges that they illegally detained, beat, and raped `Imad al-Kabir while he was in police custody.
“The conviction of two police officers for committing torture is a major achievement,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “But given the widespread problem of torture in Egypt, more systematic steps are needed.”
Al-Kabir told Human Rights Watch that Nabih and Fathi detained him on January 18, 2006, after he intervened in an altercation between them and his cousin. He said that the officers took him to Bulaq al-Dakrur police station, where they beat him, tied him by his wrists and ankles, and raped him with a stick. One officer made a video of the torture with his mobile phone. The video shows al-Kabir screaming and begging for mercy while being raped. The verdict marks the conclusion of a 10-month trial, which Human Rights Watch attended. Nabih and Fathi are in custody, but may appeal the verdict.
Human Rights Watch urged President Hosni Mubarak to call publicly upon the prosecutor-general’s office to investigate all complaints of torture and abuse of detainees with the same vigor and honesty as the prosecutors did in the `Imad al-Kabir case.
Human Rights Watch further called on the Egyptian government to amend laws that currently permit prolonged, incommunicado detention, and to respond positively to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s repeated requests for an invitation to visit Egypt.
On September 4, a Cairo court acquitted State Security Investigations (SSI) officer Ashraf Mustafa Hussain Safwat on charges that he tortured to death Muhammad `Abd al-Qadir, who died in SSI custody in 2003. An autopsy performed soon after `Abd al-Qadir’s death showed bruises as well as burns on his mouth, nipples, and penis. A forensic doctor said he had sustained these injuries shortly before his death. Safwat was the first SSI officer to be investigated for alleged torture since 1986, despite numerous credible complaints of torture at the hands of the SSI; no SSI officer has ever been convicted of torture.