Cablegate: Activist Urges U.S Diplomatic Approach to the Goe On Torture

DE RUEHEG #0213/01 0481338
R 171338Z FEB 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000213


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2035/02/17

REF: 10 CAIRO 147; 09 CAIRO 2164; 09 CAIRO 2064; 09 CAIRO 451

CLASSIFIED BY: Stephen O'Dowd, Counselor, State, Economic and
Political Affairs; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)


-- (C) Human rights activist XXXXXXXXXXXX told us February 10 he
believes the top USG human rights priority in Egypt should be
diplomatic approaches to urge the GOE to combat torture. He
recommended quiet diplomacy over public statements.

-- (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX was pessimistic the GOE would pass human
rights-related legislation besides a trafficking law before the
2011 presidential election, but asserted that the GOE could be open
to issuing a discreet order to stop torture

-- (C) He described police torture as pervasive, and attributed it
to senior-level Interior Ministry pressure on officers to extract
confessions, especially in murder cases, by any means necessary.

-- (C) He speculated that a change in Interior Ministry policy
could have a positive effect on the rule of law, relations between
the police and the public, and the overall human rights situation.

2. (C) Comment: XXXXXXXXXXX's suggestions, which focus on trying to change the GOE's political will through diplomacy, differ from
other activists' recommendations for legislative changes to broaden
the definition of torture (the law defines torture only in the
context of extracting confessions) and increase the penalties. In
response to USG approaches on specific torture cases, the Interior
Ministry has been defensive and has claimed that police brutality
is highly unusual (reftels). In the MOI's authoritarian power
structure, an order from senior officials regarding police
brutality could have a significant impact. End comment.

3. (C) On February 10, XXXXXXXXXXXX urged the U.S. to focus on quiet diplomatic approaches to the GOE on combating torture as our top human rights priority. XXXXXXXXXXXX believed such diplomacy would be more successful than efforts on other human rights issues. XXXXXXXXXXXXX advised that a series of discreet diplomatic approaches, as opposed to public statements, would be most effective in securing GOE agreement to combat torture. He said he has been in contact with diplomats from EU countries to encourage them to make similar approaches to the GOE.

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX was pessimistic that the GOE would pass significant political legislation, other than the human trafficking law, before the 2011 presidential elections. GOE discussions about lifting the State of Emergency and passing a counterterrorism law "are just a
distraction," he maintained. XXXXXXXXXXX asserted that MFA and NDP officials, as well as some journalists in the pro-government press,
are embarrassed over the extensive use of torture, and want to see
improvements. He believed that a discreet order from the Interior
Ministry to stop torture would have a powerful effect, and would be
more effective than the passage of legislation expanding the
definition of torture and increasing penalties, which the
quasi-government National Council for Human Rights and independent
NGOs have urged. (Note: A contact confirmed that on February 15 a
parliamentary committee rejected legislation proposed by a Muslim
Brotherhood-affiliated MP to increase prison terms for torture from
the current 3-10 years to 25 years, and extend the definition to
cover senior officers who order torture. End note.)

5. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the worst police torture takes place during murder investigations. He said that his brother-in-law who
is a police officer in the Delta Governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh
described "unrelenting pressure" from superiors to solve murder

CAIRO 00000213 002 OF 002

cases by any means necessary. XXXXXXXXXXX said human rights lawyers and XXXXXXXXXXXX have told him that to conduct murder
investigations, police will round up 40 to 50 suspects from a
neighborhood and hang them by their arms from the ceiling for weeks
until someone confesses.

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX believed that a GOE political decision to stop
pressuring police officers to solve crimes quickly by using torture
if necessary would have far-reaching effects. XXXXXXXXXXXX speculated
that such a policy change could have a broad positive impact on the
rule of law, the police's role in society and even political
participation. If the public's fear of the police waned, he noted,
citizens would not be as afraid to enter police stations to report
crimes, tell the police about their neighborhoods, or procure voter
registration cards for the coming elections. He said the current
pervasive nature of torture began in the 1990's when the security
forces were fighting Islamic extremists, and would be possible to
reverse. XXXXXXXXXXX recalled that the public respected the police in the 1980's, and he expected that with a policy change the GOE could
restore a positive relationship between the public and the police.

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