Thursday, June 15, 2006

Torture is Systemmatic in Egypt

Comes today not one but two allegations of torture and mistreatment out of Egypt. One comes from Mohamed Sharkawy, A KIFAYA activist who is in jail for allegedly insulting President Mubarak. Sharkawy suffers from broken ribs and other health problems but is denied proper medical attention.

The other claim comes from a former AI prisoner of conscience, who previously was convicted for "habitual debauchery" and jailed because, Amnesty believes, of his sexual orientation. One of Zaki's friends told Amnesty, "He is in the process of trying to get a student visa to attend Concordia University in Montreal, where he has been accepted in September. Yesterday he had to go to the police headquarters in Cairo for a police statement to get a Quebec Certificate. While there, he was detained several hours and tortured, and the police certificate they gave him said he was convicted of prostitution rather than 'habitual debauchery'. Because prostitution is a crime in Canada as well as in Egypt, this could stand in the way of his getting a visa in time to start Concordia." UPDATE: The friend who passed on that information now is informed that Zaki was not tortured while at the police station, but the experience of being kept for hours during the visa process resurrected his feelings of the past experiences in jail. My apologies for passing on this bad information, although we continue to be following the case to ensure that his efforts to obtain a visa are not improperly hindered.

A lot of attention has always been paid to the brutal manners of the security forces, their use of beating of opponents and demonstrators, and their use of torture to extract confessions from political prisoners. But these story is very common. When torture is systemmatic, it's everyone who is at risk. The actress who is stopped in a traffic incident. The teenager brought in on charges of stealing a bicycle. And, as these stories suggests, a citizen simply attempting to get a form from a public official.

The nature of torture is that it knows no boundaries. Once you let it in, once it becomes systemmatic, it finds it's way to all places.


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