By Amira El-Fekki
Egyptian rights group National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) is following up on rendition and torture claims that took place in Egypt under the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak.
The Council’s move follows the release of the US Senate report on CIA torture last week.
“The report was released with undisclosed information, but it is a matter of days before more information is revealed,” NCHR member Hafez Abu Seada told Daily News on Monday. “When that happens, all information related to Egypt must be investigated by local authorities.”
Despite a lack of clarity on procedures handling such investigations, NCHR spokesperson Amgad Fathy said this was a major human interest issue of global interest. He said that Egypt must take a step in response to the official report.
Fathy said exploration into the case would require collecting information from various sides, and include examination of Egyptian torture victims, and investigation of involved Egyptian officials.
“If the report exposes names, the NCHR will call on the current government to launch investigations with the officials who have cooperated with the CIA in rendition practices,” Abu Seada said.
Egypt was part of the CIA’s “interrogation programme”, hosting torture outsourcing with the purpose of extracting actionable information from terrorist suspects.
Omar Suleiman was the former chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service from 1993 until his death in the US in 2012. According to investigative journalist Jane Mayer’s book The Dark Side, “Suleiman was the CIA’s point man in Egypt for renditions.”
But Abu Seada believes information can be traced, at least through collected testimonies. He quoted the example of Ahmed Agiza, for whom he worked as a defence lawyer, an alleged terrorist arrested in Sweden and deported to Egypt.
“For him, torture began on the returning plane,” Abu Seada stated. The UN Human Rights Committee later proved Agiza was a victim of human rights violations, according to Amnesty International’s report in 2006, which also covered the similar case of Mohamed El-Zari.
However, renowned political and human rights activist Aida Seif Al-Dawla did not take NCHR’s intentions seriously, stating the impossibility of obtaining relevant information.
“Besides, the allegations are not news, Egyptian and international organisations had already collected and published the testimonies of some of the tortured prisoners in the past years, but nobody really did anything about it,” she said on Monday.
Seif said that for a torture system to be in place and go on for years, there must be a political decision and system backing it up. This system, she said, still exists through the Ministry of Interior and intelligence services.
“How about a visit to the prison of Al-Azouly?” Seif asked, in reference to Egypt’s military prison in Ismailia. International rights group Amnesty International condemned the prison in a May report, exposing disappearance of detainees in the military camp. Amnesty International added that prisoners “are subjected to torture and other ill-treatment to make them confess to crimes”.
Fathy admitted that proof for indictment could be difficult because information access could be problematic, especially from state officials. However, Fathy maintained that “torture is unacceptable and unjustifiable no matter the circumstances”.
For Abu Seada’s part, exposure of information will force Egyptian authorities to respond.