Egypt Video Rekindles Torture Debate

A grainy video showing an Egyptian man being sodomized with a stick by a police officer has sparked a debate about the systematic torture.

Egypt Video Rekindles Torture Debate

"There is totally no political will to face this (torture) phenomenon," Ragia Shawky, a medical doctor at Egypt's Nadim Centre, which assists torture victims, told Reuters on Monday, December 11.

"In fact, it has the support and the consent of the authorities, totally. Systematic support also," she added.

The video, which has been circulated on Egyptian blogs last month, shows an unidentified Egyptian man, whose hands bound behind his bank and legs held in the air, screams as he lies on a white tile floor and is sodomized with what appears to be a wooden broomstick or baton.

Several other people, whose faces are never shown, stand by watching as the man screams: "Never mind Pasha, I'm sorry Pasha," addressing his abuser with a term commonly used in Egypt to refer to police officers or people of higher social status.

Based on some of the words in the recording, human rights activists think the victim might be a minibus driver.

An interior ministry spokesman declined to comment on the purported tape.

Impunity 

"Nobody would be surprised if it were authentic," said  Zarwan.
 

Rights activists say the tape highlights mistreatment that many detainees face in Egyptian jails, and the apparent impunity with which it can be carried out.

"Nobody would be surprised if it were authentic," said Elijah Zarwan, a Cairo-based consultant for Human Rights Watch.

"... While there is nothing to positively identify the tape as authentic, torture is certainly pervasive," he added.

Rights activists say the sodomy video was consistent with documented reports of torture in Egypt.

"It matches very much with what we have seen and what we know and what was reported and documented by many local and international human rights organizations," said Shawky.

The rights activist said abuses by police officers are often in Egyptian jails, including beatings and sexual abuses.

The victims of such abuses are often undressed and threatened with rape or public humiliation, she added.

The sodomy video was first posted on blogger Mohamed Khaled's blog Demaghmak (Mak's brain).

Khaled said he got the recording from a neighbor who had received it on his mobile phone through Bluetooth technology. He, however, said he does not know the original source.

Since the recording surfaced, a flurry of fresh torture allegations has appeared on Egyptian blogs.

Pictures of a prison inmate with his back covered in red bruises sustained during a beating were posted on the Misr Hura (Free Egypt) blog.

Ikhwanweb, affiliated with the main opposition group Muslim Brotherhood, also recently accused a state security officer of beating a 54-year-old man to get a confession that he had taken part in a pro-Palestinian vigil.

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Incommunicado

Human rights groups blame Egypt's emergency law, which has been in place since the 1982 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, for the common torture in Egyptian jails.

Zawran said the law provides little police accountability and create "a fertile environment for torture to flourish".

Coming under mounting calls from the opposition and human rights activists to scrap the law, President Hosni Mubarak has pledged to replace the law with an anti-terror legislation.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has said Egypt would hold a referendum next summer on constitutional changes to pave the way for ending the emergency laws.

Pundits and human rights activists, however, dismissed Mubarak's "initiative" as cosmetic, calling it a "torture in disguise" as the same excessive powers would remain at the hands of authorities.

The sodomy video, while it prompted an outcry on the Web and in leftist and human rights circles has met a muted reaction from the state-run media.

The main government-owned newspapers, on which many Egyptians depend for daily news, have not written about the video. Just one opposition paper has reported about the video.

Most Egyptians are unaware the tape exists.

"It hasn't created the uproar it should have because of a lack of focus and the government's indifference," publisher and rights activist Hisham Kassem said.

"There is very high apathy in the country. With things like this people just suck on their lips and say what a horrible thing it is and that's it."

Britain's The Independent newspaper had said the regime of Mubarak was caught between further repression or opening up to more reform and risking to lose power.

Source: islamonline.net

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