At a conference organized by human rights organizations in collaboration with the Journalists’ Syndicate on Thursday, 10 December, and on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, several recommendations were put forward to the Egyptian government regarding allegations of police torture, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killings inside places of detention. The conference was held at the headquarters of the Journalists’ Syndicate and was organized by independent human rights organizations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the National Community for Human Rights and Law, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Alhaqanya Center for Law and Legal Profession, and the Al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture.
Regarding the issue of torture from a legal perspective, the organizations called for Article 126 of the Egyptian Penal Code to be amended, as it limits the definition of torture to actions taken against the accused in order to oblige them to confess. These organizations believe that this Article ignores several other forms of torture contained in the United Nations Convention Against Torture and have called for Egyptian law to be amended to allow torture victims to sue perpetrators directly. The law currently prohibits victims from suing perpetrators directly, limiting this power to the public prosecution. However, in the past, the prosecution has ignored several requests made by victims to open investigations into torture cases, according to these organizations.
The organizations also suggested a comprehensive draft law which addresses the criminalization of torture and imposes stricter punishments on perpetrators in accordance with the Egyptian constitution and Egypt’s international obligations. The organizations also suggested that a law be issued to protect witnesses in the framework of legally combating torture, and requested that an independent judicial police force subject to the public prosecution and independent from the Ministry of Interior be established.
Regarding implementation, the organizations have requested that an independent commission be formulated to investigate all cases of death and serious injury committed by the police. The proposed commission will be made up of independent members who do not belong to the state judicial, executive, or legislative apparatuses. The organizations also asked that investigations be opened immediately into allegations of torture and that the perpetrators be referred to trial.
The organizations recommended that the public prosecution do its part in conducting regular surprise inspections of places of detention in accordance with the constitution and Penal Code. The Code stipulates the public prosecution’s right members to visit public and central prisons and places of detention within police stations, examine records, and accept detainees’ complaints, all of which should take place at least once per month.
With regard to enforced disappearances, international organizations have recommended signing the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and implementing associated obligations by enacting constitutional and legal amendments to local legislation. The organizations also asked that a clear definition be set out for enforced disappearances under Egyptian law, and that clear mechanisms for redress be established for victims of this crime. The organizations requested that the law be amended to obligate the Ministry of Interior to immediately investigate any reports submitted regarding the disappearance of citizens, with a set deadline for informing the accused of the results of such research and investigations.
The organizations requested that an independent commission be formulated, with established authorizations and terms of reference, in order to receive reports pertaining to enforced disappearance cases and make prompt decisions. Such a commission could constitute an important guarantee against such cases, and should be comprised of members of the public prosecution and rights organizations, representatives of families of individuals who have been forcibly disappeared, and members of the National Human Rights Council. The organizations recommended that the jurisdiction and authorizations granted to the Council be expanded so as to ensure its role in supervising the state apparatus’ implementation of international human rights treaties and conventions and respect for the principles of human rights.
- Alhaqanya Center for Law and Legal Profession
- Al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
- Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination
- Hisham Mubarak Law Center
- Nazra for Feminist Studies
- The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
- The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
- The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
- The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
- The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- The National Community for Human Rights and Law
- United-Group, Attorneys at Law, Legal Researchers and Human Rights Advocates
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