UN Body “Deeply Concerned” Over Lack of Accountability for Torture in Egypt
A UN body has expressed its concern over torture and other ill-treatment in Egypt after assessing the country’s compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture.
The UN Committee Against Torture highlighted the “numerous and consistent allegations of systematic use of torture and ill-treatment” by Egyptian authorities, emphasising the deeply concerning lack of accountability contributing to a climate of impunity. The Committee underscored that various human rights abuses in Egypt are “widespread” including keeping detainees in a prolonged state of pre-trial detention, the use of incommunicado detention, and gender-based violence against women and girls.
The comments came as part of the Committee’s concluding observations from its review of Egypt’s record under the UN Convention against torture that took place on 14-15 November. The review takes place following Egypt’s failure to submit information to the Committee for more than 19 years.
REDRESS, in collaboration with international and Egyptian NGOs, submitted a detailed legal analysis to the Committee ahead of the review, which established that the Egyptian authorities’ use of torture is so widespread and systematic as to amount to a crime against humanity.
The legal analysis forms the basis of the report, “Torture in Egypt: A Crime Against Humanity”, written by REDRESS in collaboration with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), Dignity, the Committee for Justice (CFJ) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
The Committee echoed the report’s recommendation that Egypt reform its state of emergency laws and anti-terrorism measures. It highlighted concerns these laws’ far-reaching powers have been reportedly used to “silence actual or perceived critics of the Government”. The Committee notes that terrorism cases “often lack fundamental procedural safeguards to ensure fair trials”, which enable State security and law enforcement officers to commit abuses with impunity.
Egyptian authorities have weaponised torture as a political tool to persecute minorities and suppress dissent from human rights activists and political opposition for decades. It is the only country to undergo two inquiries by the Committee against Torture. Both found that the practice of torture was widespread and systematic in Egypt. REDRESS’ report draws on widely available documentation from human rights bodies, NGOs, and media reports to establish that the use of torture in Egypt is not isolated to individuals but part of a State-sanctioned policy, committed with the consent or wilful ignorance of the highest spheres of power.
REDRESS urges the Egyptian Government to implement the recommendations of the Committee, including amending existing anti-torture law and policy to meet international standards, reforming “overly broad” counterterrorism and emergency laws, establishing an independent national mechanism to monitor and inspect all places of deprivation of liberty, and to promote accountability for torture and other human rights violations in Egypt.
With the Committee’s finding that human rights violations in Egypt are “widespread,” REDRESS calls on the international community to recognize these violations as part of a systemic pattern of abuse against Egypt’s citizens. REDRESS urges States to use all available legal and diplomatic avenues to encourage compliance with international law and bring perpetrators to justice.
For more information, please contact Eva Sanchis, Head of Communications of REDRESS, on [email protected], +44 (0)20 7793 1777 (office) or +44 (0) 7857 110076 (mobile).
Photo by Reuters/Christian Hartmann