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Egypt: New president should commit to end torture

Egypt: New president should commit to end torture

Egypt's new president, due to be elected on 7 September, must take decisive action to end torture and other human rights violations and make a vital break with the past, Amnesty International said today.

"Torture remains widespread and systematic, and security forces have been allowed over many years to act with virtual impunity," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Middle East and North Africa programme. “The new president should force through long-needed human rights reforms.”

Torture is used against people from all walks of life, including political prisoners and people arrested in connection with alleged "terrorism" cases. Methods routinely used by security forces include beating, suspension by the wrists and ankles and electric shocks in sensitive parts of the body. Detainees are frequently kept naked and blindfolded while being interrogated and tortured.

No thorough, prompt and impartial investigations have been conducted into the hundreds of complaints of torture and deaths in detention that have been filed in recent years. The impunity afforded to those responsible for torture and ill-treatment ultimately encourages such abuses.

“Seeking an end to the systematic use of torture and breaking the spiral of impunity behind which the torturers have been able to hide should be a priority for the new president,” said Malcolm Smart.

Amnesty International welcomes the recent establishment of a National Council for Human Rights and a parliamentary Committee for Human Rights. These bodies should play a greater role in promoting respect for human rights in Egypt.

The state of emergency, which has been in force since 1981, has largely contributed to restrictions of rights and freedoms in Egypt. The Emergency Law gives wide executive powers to curtail freedom of expression, association and assembly and anyone considered “a threat to national security and public order” can be detained indefinitely without charge or trial.

Thousands of administrative detainees continue to be held under emergency legislation without charge or trial sometimes for years. Most of them are held in appalling conditions; a number of detainees have died in custody as a result of the denial of adequate medical care.

“Emergency regulations facilitate torture and other human rights violations that can never be permissible under international law. The new president must repeal these regulations or bring them into line with internationally accepted standards,” said Malcolm Smart.

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