El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture and the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) held a press conference on the International day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, presenting documented cases of torture and human rights violations during the period from 30 June 2013 until 31 May 2014.
Psychiatrist Suzan Fayad from El Nadeem Center held Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim accountable for the documented cases of torture and human rights violations that have been reported when he was in office, even since the rule of former president Mohamed Morsi.
“Although the Egyptian people called for peace and security on 30 June, Egyptian citizens still fall victim to the violence of state institutions,” said Fayad. She added that the demand for the restructuring for the interior ministry has gone unanswered since the Supreme Council of Armed Forces came in power after Hosny Mubarak had stepped down in February 2011.
Torture victim Karim Taha, who was recently released after a six months long detention, said: “If I had stayed there longer than this, I would have forgotten my humanity.” He called on activists and rights defenders to, “Salvage the [remaining] humanity of those imprisoned”.
Taha provided testimony about his torture and cases of torture that he had witnessed being performed against his inmates.
Taha was arrested along with Mohamed Sherif at a check point in Cairo’s Mohandessin neighborhood on the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution for possession of stickers against military trials and the Protest Law. They were moved to different detention facilities and were assaulted repeatedly by their guards.
Taha, who is a member of 6 April Youth Movement, said that in his confinement he was able to make peace with his political rivals from Islamist factions. He added that he had witnessed “obvious torture marks and bruises”.
According to an official statement by the interior ministry, 1,079 “rioters” were arrested on 25 January 2014. Taha and Sherif were part of a group of 61 who were arrested at Dokki Police Station that day. The group was tried for a number of charges including “protesting without a permit, illegal assembly and damaging public and private property.”
El Nadim Center had reported 40 documented cases of torture in detention facilities and four cases of dead torture victims. A report prepared by the center included more cases that were mentioned in the media.
AFTE researchers present at the press conference meanwhile spoke on violations of media and academic freedoms spotted by the organisation.
Sarah El-Masry, media freedoms researcher at AFTE, described the period from 30 June 2013 until 31 May 2014 as “the most violent phase of media freedoms violations”.
El-Masry added that AFTE had documented during that period: 6 dead journalists killed on duty, 195 cases of physical violations against journalists, 14 cases of raids on media outlets, 68 cases of journalist confinement, along with 13 detained journalists, four of which have already been sentenced.
“Anyone with a camera or a cell phone in the street is in danger,” said El-Massry. She added that the Egyptian street is witnessing an unprecedented hostility towards journalists, especially women, who she pointed out also suffer from sexual harassment and violence.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Nagy, academic freedoms researcher at AFTE, discussed violations of academic freedoms, and described the past academic year as “the most violent in the history of Egyptian universities”.
Nagy said security forces broke into universities 42 times during the past year, resulting in clashes that left 16 students dead on campus. He added that at least 900 students have been arrested from the premises of their universities, some of which have already been sentenced.
Egypt witnessed a “black year for human rights” said Gamal Eid, Executive Manager of the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information, last December. Since Morsi’s military backed ouster on 3 July, rights groups have criticised the deteriorating human rights situation, with more than 40,000 arrested and at least 15,000 detained.
The International Day in Support of Torture Victims was designated by the United Nations General Assembly according to Denmark’s request, and was first publicly celebrated in 1998.