Torture in Egypt has become an “unwritten law” that is more powerful than laws and the constitution, a group of human rights groups said on Wednesday.
In a press conference held to condemn the continued torture practices exercised by the Egyptian authorities, three human rights groups stressed that torture is “systematically” practiced. The groups included: Freedom for the Brave, Nation without Torture and Al-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims.
The groups released a statement during the press conference where they referred to torture as “one of the legacies of [former President Hosni] Mubarak’s regime.”
“More than three years have passed since the great [January 2011] revolution, whose icon was torture victim Khaled Said, yet the current authorities remain insistent on practicing this crime,” the statement read.
Aida Seif Al-Dawla, psychiatrist working with Al-Nadeem Centre, said during the press conference that since the centre’s establishment in 1993, torture has not stopped “for a single day.”
Tarek Tito, a member of Al-Dostour Party who was detained for taking part in a protest commemorating the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution, claimed during the conference that some of those arrested with him were electrocuted during their investigation by the prosecution.
The rights groups said in the statement that torture is no longer exclusively exercised on “political detainees”, adding that “all factions” now suffer from it, including students within university campuses.
“Unlike Mubarak’s regime, this regime doesn’t care to deny the exercise of torture,” the statement read. “It instead uses it under the pretext of protecting the state from collapse and for preserving national security.”
The groups said that torture is criminalised both by the constitution and by international conventions Egypt has ratified. The groups especially referenced the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture, which Egypt ratified in 1986.
Reda Marei, a lawyer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), noted during the conference that Article 93 of Egypt’s 2014 Constitution states that international conventions ratified by Egypt have the power of domestic laws. He added that, despite this fact, when referring to torture as a crime, authorities resort to the definition of torture in the Penal Code rather than using the more comprehensive definition available in the UN convention.
Ahdaf Soueif, journalist and columnist, criticised the 2014 Constitution for failing to properly define torture as a crime. Soueif listed several articles in the constitution’s Rights and Freedoms section, detailing how they have been repeatedly violated by the current regime.
“We find that the regime which drafted and struggled to pass this constitution could not bear respecting it for a single hour,” the groups said in their statement.
Soueif criticised the constitution’s Rights and Freedoms section for referring the regulation of most rights to the laws. She also questioned the doctrine of the police and the judiciary and whether such doctrine “would allow them to activate constitutional articles.”
In their statement, the groups also condemned the judiciary authority, which they accused of “giving up its role in protecting citizens and in searching and monitoring detention facilities.” They also accused the judiciary of taking the “criminals’ side” at certain instances and refusing to stand up for torture victims under the pretext of separation of powers.
“The prosecution is legally obliged to search detention facilities at least once per month,” Marei said, citing the prosecution’s general instructions.
The groups warned in their statement that the continuation of the practice of torture will create “ticking bombs” within society and would “push the people to revolt once more.”
Several detainees among the 1,079 protesters arrested during demonstrations marking the third anniversary of the revolution have complained of being subjected to torture during their detention. Their detention conditions have been condemned by several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and several other domestic organisations. The Ministry of Interior, however, denied torture allegations reported by those who had been preventively detained.