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Egypt’s unknown victims lost in limbo of rampant human rights violations

Traces of beatings, bruises and scratches were seen on the body of 29-year old Adel Abdel Samei, lying on a bed inside a morgue late October, after he was detained for two weeks at the notorious North Cairo Matariya police station.

Abdel Samei, 29, was announced dead on Oct.22 due to broken ribs and internal bleeding, his sister Nabila told The Cairo Post Thursday.

He was arrested on Oct.4 over allegedly stealing a mobile phone. In the last visit by his family, he appeared with swollen eyes, uttered once “they tortured me” and could not speak again, said Nabila.

Until this moment, Nabila has not received any response from officials at interior ministry, who promised to look into her brother’s death.

At least nine deaths were recorded by Amnesty International  at Matariya police station in April 2014, where “half-hearted” investigations took place.

The Interior Ministry repeatedly ruled out accusations of “systematic torture” at detention places, and instead called the incidents as “individual violations,” whose perpetrators will be brought to justice, according to November statements by ministry’s spokesperson Abu Bakr Abdel Karim.

Victims of torture in detention go through uphill battle to prove crime occurred due to broad legal definition and lack of timely addressing of the case by the prosecution. Meanwhile, those who succeed to bring their cases to court; however, are almost not fully satisfied with the outcomes, which many believe non-equivalent to the awfulness of the crime.

Some cases caused uproar against violations like in the case of lawyer Karim Hamdy, when lawyers’ syndicate held a general strike condemning police violence.

Two national security officers accused of beating Hamdy to death at Matariya police station, were sentenced Saturday to five years in prison.

Hamdy’s death was described by the prosecution as an “awful crime” as it occurred in a place supposed to protect citizens. The prosecution said the two officers used “means of middle ages to extract confessions.”

In Upper Egypt’s Luxor, five policemen involved in the death of an inmate were detained pending investigations after large protests by his relatives.

“We do not have anyone to fight for us. We chose to take the legal route,” Abdel Samei’s sister Nabila said. “I just want my brother’s right and the perpetrators be arrested; I do not want his case to die.”

 

What changed since Khaled Saeed?

On Thursday, the world was commemorating the Human Rights Day after around 70 years from the UN adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In November alone, nine died out of at least 49 cases of torture in custody in Egypt, the Nadeem Center documented via media reports, noting wide violations taking place at the maximum security Scorpion Prison, where inmates are reportedly denied treatment, visits and winter clothes.

“I hoped that after the January 25 Revolution and Khaled [Saeed]’s case, we would not see all these torture cases today on Human Rights Day,” Saeed’s sister Zahraa told The Cairo Post Thursday.

Five years ago, in 2010, Saeed’s death after being severely tortured from officers has helped incite public rage against police repression under Mubarak’s regime, one of the reasons protesters largely took to the streets in 2011.

“I see Saeed’s death repeated in every new torture case reported, nothing has changed, on the contrary, numbers escalated in a way that saddens anyone,” Zahra said.

She believes that in some cases, the assault is out of “revenge” from involved officers who were punished by being moved to another department or governorate, for example.

Officers found convicted in Saeed’s case were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Zahra considers the verdict “not enough;” however says that many cases have seen impunity.

 

Enforced disappearance

“Where is Hani Saad, where is my husband,” a doorman’s wife repeated over and over, asking about her husband’s whereabouts after he was last seen leaving for work Aug. 6.

Saad’s wife and his four children cannot live normally anymore after the woman started searching for her husband whose name was not found at any police station.

She received unconfirmed news from unofficial sources about her husband death in detention “after officers left him and other prisoners without clothes for a prolonged time,” she told The Cairo Post Thursday.

“I just want to know what happened to him,” she said while tears running on her face, “If he is dead then I just want you to give me his body to bury it, am I asking for too much?”

News about people arrested from their homes, work or streets and go missing for a while, has been frequently reported over the past months. “Many of these cases are famous on social media, while others remained in the shade,”Lawyer Mokhtar Mounir said during a Thursday conference at the Journalists Syndicate.

A total of 125 cases of enforced disappearance were reported during October and November; some 46 are still missing, according to a report by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.

Some of those who re-appear at detention places bear signs of physical assault, while the period of their disappearance is mostly not mentioned in the investigations, according to previous interviews

At Thursday conference, a number of local rights organizations recommended authorities to establish a clear definition of enforced disappearance in law, sign related UN convention and enforce law that allow immediate investigations into torture cases.

 

By Nourhan Magdi 

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