UNCAT Must Recognize that Systematic and Widespread Torture in Egypt Amounts to a Crime Against Humanity
Ahead of Egypt’s review by the United Nations Committee against Torture (UNCAT), scheduled between 12-15 November 2023, Egyptian and international human rights organizations submitted a joint report to the Committee, stressing that torture in Egypt is a systematic policy and that perpetrators enjoy complete impunity with the blessing of different state institutions. This report serves as a crucial response to the Egyptian government’s persistent denial of the reality of gross human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearance, ill-treatment, and medical neglect in places of detention.
Since the UNCAT reached “the inescapable conclusion” in 2017 that “torture is a systematic practice in Egypt,” the Egyptian government has not taken any serious steps to address the issue, it has instead resorted to utilizing public relations initiatives designed to whitewash its human rights record. These include the government’s National Human Rights Strategy, which selectively praises inadequate national legislation, while turning a blind eye to the systematic violations committed by law enforcement agencies and the role of the judiciary and prosecution in upholding a sweeping policy of impunity. The Egyptian government also celebrates the establishment of new prisons as a sign of improvement in detention conditions, despite prisoners suffering even worse conditions in these prisons.
Our organizations present this joint report to dispel the government’s misleading claims and shed light on the systematic use of torture by Egyptian authorities. This practice is deliberately institutionalized to enforce repressive policies, coerce confessions, and maintain control, including to crackdown on and deter peaceful political dissent. Ahead of Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections, authorities have employed the practices of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture, against supporters of the opposition.
This joint report is the result of extensive monitoring and documentation conducted by Egyptian independent human rights organizations, including the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, El-Nadeem Center, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, Committee for Justice, and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). It is also supported by the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), DIGNITY, and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).
The report draws upon primary and secondary sources, including victims’ testimonies, accounts from victims’ families and lawyers, and court documents. It is further strengthened by the NGOs’ legal analysis of Egyptian laws. By highlighting the main patterns of violations observed over the past decade, this report conclusively verifies the systematic nature of torture in Egypt, and the involvement of different governmental bodies and institutions, including the judiciary and prosecution safeguarding its perpetrators.
We call upon the UNCAT and all concerned stakeholders to carefully review this alternative report; acknowledge the patterns of widespread and systematic violations during the past decade; and recognize that torture in Egypt amounts to an ongoing crime against humanity. Egypt’s upcoming review offers a rare opportunity to bring light to the reality of torture in Egypt, and to exert pressure on the Egyptian government to end the culture of impunity and ensure the protection of human rights for all its citizens.