Leaked diplomatic cables released by secrets outlet WikiLeaks show that Egyptian police regularly torture suspects due to “unrelenting pressure” from their superiors to solve criminal investigations.
The revealing documents were published amid mass protests in Egypt against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year regime.
During the fierce protests, Egyptians targeted police stations, with one in Suez being ransacked mid-Friday. Protesters freed prisoners and destroyed vehicles in a direct challenge to the country’s ruling regime.
In one leaked cable, an Egyptian human rights activist, whose name was redacted by WikiLeaks, said the US government’s number one human rights priority in Egypt should be urging the government of Egypt to combat the use of torture by its police force.
Although Article 42 of Egypt’s constitution prohibits the infliction of “physical or moral harm” upon persons who have been arrested or detained, the human rights activist told US diplomats that police torture was pervasive. He blamed the Interior Ministry of Egypt for putting pressure on officers to extract confessions “by any means necessary.”
During murder investigations police regularly round up 40 to 50 suspects from a neighborhood and hang them by their arms until they obtain a confession from someone, according to the cable.
Another leaked cable notes that “credible human rights lawyers believe police brutality continues to be a pervasive, daily occurrence in [Egyptian] detention centers, and that [the State Security Investigative Service] has adapted to increased media and blogger focus on police brutality by hiding the abuse and pressuring victims not to bring cases.”
“[Non-governmental organizations] assess prison conditions to be poor, due to overcrowding and lack of medical care, food, clean water, and proper ventilation,” the cable continues.
When confronted about the human rights violations by Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner in January of 2010, Interior Ministry State Security Director Rahman denied that any abuse occurred, saying that “in the past ten years” there has been “no abuse of prisoners at all.”
Rahman claimed that human rights organizations were dominated by “communists and extremists” that wanted to weaken the government of Egypt because it had distanced itself from the Soviet Union in the 1970’s.
A 2009 human rights report on Egypt published by the US State Department noted that police in Egypt used unwarranted lethal force and tortured prisoners during investigations. The report also said that police in Egypt arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, sometimes for political purposes, and kept them imprisoned for long periods of time without a trial.
The Egyptian human rights activist described in the leaked cable said that the pervasive nature of torture began when police were fighting Islamic extremists in the 1990’s.