CAIRO: An interior ministry spokesman and deputy to the ministry claimed in a live TV show on Tuesday that no violations of human or prisoners’ rights occur under the Emergency Law, saying that any incidents of ill-treatment were indeed rare.
When faced with written complaints, the deputy simply said that no investigation was launched into those grievances.
The complaints to the ministry included claims of ill-treatment, unjustified or sudden detention and imprisonment without trial or accusation. “There are no official entities that have looked into these complaints to attest [to] them. He said, adding that that they do not even “have the means to confirm these complaints. In short, it was the ministry’s word against their word.
It is surprising that no “official entities have investigated these claims. However, there is a possibility that these entities were not given the permission, the information or the adequate transparency to even attempt an investigation process in the first place. Local human rights groups are only allowed to file annual reports and comments, mostly through international and independent press, or send complaints to the attorney general, prosecutor, or president. These are often ignored. A different ministry spokesman, in response to questions raised by the press, said that the ministry refuses the term “political prisoners, adding that there are none in Egypt’s prisons.
Amnesty International, United Nations (UN) Special Reporter on torture, had once said that Egypt had been postponing a request for “prompt and impartial investigations into all torture allegations and the abolition of incommunicado detention. Investigations into such practices have been systematically blocked. Requests by UN and International human rights organizations have been pending since 1996.
Some official sources in the ministry have denied blocking any organizations, saying that they refused “the exaggeration of cases that some human rights groups cite. A point to consider, said officials in more than once instance, is “the fact that many detainees claim they have been tortured to strengthen their cases, or at least reduce the court’s verdict. Reportedly, in the few prove cases of ill-treatment, guilty individuals from the police force received penalties.
In a discussion with Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud more than a year ago, following arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members, Abdel-Maksoud cited incidents that could be considered to imply that detention, ill-treatment and sometimes torture under the Emergency Law are systematic and generally unwarranted. During that time, backed-up by the Emergency Law, not only were more than 50 Muslim Brotherhood leaders arrested, but also some of their businesses were shut down, and the Muslim Brotherhood official Web site was deactivated.
Additionally, according to the lawyer, the cases that the Muslim Brotherhood has presented to officials have been ignored. “They remain on the general prosecutor’s desk, Abdel Maksoud had said. “It’s a complicated problem and a deep issue, one must realize, since the torture is not only applied on the suspects, but also on those cleared by the court and on those proved innocent during the night they spend under investigation.
Islamist lawyer Montassir Al-Zayat, a veteran who has been defending Islamic activists for over 20 years, had also echoed Abdel-Maksoud’s allegations. “Our cases are ignored by both the Interior Ministry and the government. And although they get alarmed at the reports published by Human Rights group, the alarm is not strong enough to make a change.
Cases of ill-treatment have lately been openly manifested as Egypt’s opposition movements have become more vocal. The harassment of individuals and violence by state police has also been witnessed in protests, during a key vote day and in various confrontations with demonstrators or “rioters.
Even as the government formed the National Committee for Human Rights (NCHR) more than two years ago to investigate incidents of ill-treatment, matters did not seem to get any better. The Reform Plan Initiative publicized by the NCHR and endorsed by the government has not yet fulfilled its promises.
According to Abdel-Maksoud, the real change lay in removing repressive regulations; principally, the Emergency Laws.
The Emergency Law, according to Human Rights Watch, gives the right of “arresting suspects at will and detaining them without trial for prolonged periods, referring civilians to military or exceptional state security, prohibiting strikes, demonstrations and public meetings, and censoring or closing down newspapers in the name of national security.
Based on this, according to many, there is no better “reform plan initiative than one that includes the elimination of the decades-long law, recently extended to two more years “or until anti-terror measures are enacted.