The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged torture
The last report from Egypt's El Nadeem Center

The El Nadeem Center is an extraordinary Egyptian NGO that documents police torture and counsels its victims. After a long period of groundless legal harassment, the center has now been forcibly closed by security forces. Just a few weeks ago it issued the following statement, alongside its annual report on torture -- which as its authors note is culled from media reports and statement on social media, and therefore under-estimates the phenomenon.   

"We release this Archive on the 6th anniversary of the 25th of January revolution, when the so called Police-Day turned into a day of revolution against that same police force and against all the atrocities it committed and continues to commit. We have no doubt that the news items we have managed to collect from the various media channels are but the tip of the iceberg.. below the surface or out of our reach and that of the media are many more crimes which we failed to access news about. For that we apologize for the people afflicted by them.

This archive begins with some official quotes made during 2016, beginning from the head of state to one of its main media spokespersons.. Most of which are quotes that deny and condemn those who oppose that denial.. According to those officials Egypt lives its best democratic eras, its prisons are akin to hotels to the extent that prisoners sometimes do not want to be released.. talk about forced disappearance is a lie that targets to defame Egypt's image in front of the work.. No torture is practiced in prisons or police stations.. and detainees are receiving the best medical care!!!

This media archive testifies to the opposite. The archive does not include testimonies taken by doctors working at El Nadim clinic, but includes only testimonies published on the various media channels, including social media. At the end of each testimony there is a link to the original publication for whoever would like to check.

We have classified statistics into killing (extrajudicial, although we oppose all killing even if ordained by law), death in detention, individual torture, collective maltreatment and torture, medical neglect in detention, forced disappearance, reappearance and finally acts of state violence outside places of detention.

Although we believe that every case of forced disappearance is most likely a victim of torture (for why else would security forces would deprive a detainee from every contact with the outside world if not to seize confessions under duress) the listed number of torture cases does not include those who have disappeared unless they have spoken about their torture after reappearing. In addition, we have also published the numbers of those who have reappeared according to the collected news. All of them reappeared in state institutions, none in Syria or with ISIS, as some claim.

The archive also has sections of letters sent from prisons, testimonies of former detainees as well as testimonies of their families during their time of detention. Those sections, we believe are the most valuable part of this archive. They testify to an era as well as to the resilience of individuals who, although deprived of their freedom, hold on to their humanity and belief in human values and solidarity.

2016 was a heavy year. At about this time in 2015 El Nadim released its 2015 archives of oppression, upon which the government made two attempts at its closure.. the only clinic - unfortunately - that provides psychological help to survivors of violence and torture. Some state institutions, in Egypt as well as some of our embassies abroad, claimed that the clinic is closed and that it no longer received clients. Despite the heaviness of the year and the challenges facing El Nadim and other civil society organizations and especially human rights organizations, we assure our constituency and supporters that the clinic has not closed, not for a single day. As long as there is a need for the service provided by the clinic it will continue providing it, even if it is forced to take other formulas and continue receiving survivors of violence and torture. Until then 3A Soliman el Halabi street, 2nd floor remains open.

This archive is not produced by the clinic. It is produced by an independent Egyptian NGO, El Nadim.

Let us hope that 2017 be more merciful to us all. "

PostsUrsula Lindseyegypt, torture
Watching Cheney: He’s Got Nothing

Andrew Sullivan on Dick Cheney's defense of torture:

To put it more bluntly, Cheney’s response is unhinged. It is suffused with indiscriminate rage which is indifferent to such standards as whether the prisoner is innocent or guilty, or even if he should be in a prison at all. He is acting out a revenge fantasy, no doubt fueled in part by the understanding that 3,000 Americans lost their lives because he failed to prevent it – when the facts were lying there in the existing surveillance and intelligence system and somehow never got put together.

What we have here is a staggering thing: the second highest official in a democracy, proud and unrepentant of war crimes targeted at hundreds of prisoners, equating every single one of the prisoners – including those who were victims of mistaken identity, including American citizens reading satirical websites, including countless who had nothing to do with any attacks on the US at all – with the nineteen plotters of one terror attack. We have a man who, upon being presented with a meticulous set of documents and facts, brags of not reading them and who continues to say things that are definitively disproved in the report by CIA documents themselves.

This is a man who not only broke the law and the basic norms of Western civilization, but who celebrates that. If this man is not brought to justice, the whole idea of justice in this country is a joke.

AsidesThe Editorscheney, CIA, torture
Please spread the word

Getting emails like this -- and knowing this is hardly newsworthy in Egypt, and this death like so many others will not get the attention or indignation it deserves  -- is the sickening part of being a journalist.  

Hasan is a 15 yo student that was detained on the past 15th of August driven to Al Bastin Police station where he was bing tortured systematically since then till his death today, here is the number of his relative Ayman :+ ………….

Please spread the word as it will help in stopping Human Rights violations here in Egypt.

Best Regards,

M Mourad

UPDATE: According to Human Rights Watch, the person in question died during a Rabaa anniversary protest, not in a police station. Not that either death is warranted, or that deaths in custody are uncommon

30,000 trafficked in Sinai

A guest post from contributor Parastou Hassouri, who lives in Cairo, works in the field of international refugee law, and specializes in issues of gender and migration.

Photo of central Sinai courtesy of  Shutterstock

Photo of central Sinai courtesy of Shutterstock

On Wednesday night, the report The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond, was launched in Cairo (it was launched simultaneously in several other cities including Tel Aviv, Brussels, and Lampedusa). The 238-page report is based on interviews with 230 trafficking survivors:  persons who survived the hellish ordeal of being kidnapped, held hostage and tortured brutally in the Sinai. It is a follow-up to a 2012 report, Human Trafficking in the Sinai: Refugees between Life and Death

I was first alerted to the issue of human smuggling and trafficking in the Sinai around 2007.  At the time, I was working at the NGO Africa Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA).  The issue most often came up when we had to assist those who had been apprehended trying to reach the Sinai (and would be detained by Egyptian authorities, even if they were registered with the UNHCR as refugees). Back then, most of the cases we dealt with involved refugees who were voluntarily crossing the Sinai in hopes of reaching Israel, where they expected to find more work opportunities and perhaps an easier way of reaching Europe. Our biggest concern was the fact that Egyptian authorities in the Sinai were using lethal force to stop this “irregular migration,” which had resulted in numerous fatalities. There was a belief, at the time, that the Egyptian authorities were only responding to pressure being placed upon them by Israelis to stem the flow of migrants. I remember spending a lot of time advising clients against making the journey, telling them the risks were not worth it (especially as so many of them faced detention once in Israel anyway).

Over the course of months, we started to hear about situations involving hostage taking: that the smugglers who had promised to take the refugees, asylum seekers or other migrants to the Sinai would inform them mid-trip that they were being kept hostage until they could pay them more money than initially demanded.  However, the situation was one that still started out “voluntarily”:  the migrants were choosing to undertake the journey, despite the risks. The numbers choosing this route seemed to increase as the number of refugees being resettled to third countries (i.e. the U.S. and Canada) declined (this started during a period when the resettlement of Iraqis had taken priority for political reasons).The people going were from different countries:  Sudan, Ethiopia, and often Eritrea. I once assisted two men from the Ivory Coast who had been detained after being abandoned by their smuggler, when he realized he had no chance of getting more money out of them. Looking at the turn things have taken, those men are lucky they lived. 

In the years since, the human trafficking networks appear to have gotten more extensive and definitely more brutal. 

Although there are still cases of smuggling that have turned into involuntary imprisonment, there has been an alarming rise in the number of cases that start out as kidnapping. The victims are actually abducted and forcibly transported to the Sinai – sometimes the abduction takes place in Sudan, especially in Eastern Sudan near the Shagarab refugee camp. The authors of the report also interviewed individuals who were kidnapped within Eritrea.    

According to the authors, between 2007 and 2013, some 25,000 to 30,000 persons have been trafficked in the Sinai.

The other thing that astounded me was the amount of money the kidnappers are now demanding in ransom.  In some cases, ransoms of 30,000 and 40,000 US dollars are being demanded.  Again, the authors estimate that some 600 million US dollars have been collected in ransom by traffickers over the past several years.

The prime targets for these kidnappings are Eritreans (and most of the survivors interviewed were Eritrean). The authors posit several reasons for this.  First, the kidnappers choose Eritreans because the extensive Eritrean diaspora makes it more likely that the victim has relatives abroad who have the financial means to pay the ransom. The authors believe that another reason for this is the involvement of some Eritrean authorities and military officials in the trafficking network (especially given that some of these abductions are happening inside Eritrea). 

The victims are transported from Eritrea to Sudan, and then taken by boat to Egypt, where they are handed off to others who bring them to Sinai and hold them hostage until ransom is collected. Some are held hostage in “torture houses” that seem to have been specifically constructed for this purpose – for example, they feature hooks on the ceilings from which the kidnapped are hung as they are beaten.

Those who are able to pay their ransom are released. Many who are unable to are either shot, or tortured and left with no medical treatment until they die. 

The launch of the report included some readings of testimonies from trafficking survivors, who recounted in gruesome details the torture to which they are subjected while held hostage. The traffickers sometimes place calls to their relatives as they torture them, in an effort to make sure the ransom is paid. The tortures include beatings, burning of the skin, electrocution, and sexual violence. 

Some of these trafficking survivors had initially thought about attending the launch to testify about their experience in person. However, at the launch, we were informed that the survivors were concerned about their safety, since even those who are now in Cairo live in fear of their traffickers. There were also reports that there were concerns about Egyptian state security. 

Instead of testifying in person, parts of their testimony were read. Also, we were shown one video of a survivor’s testimony (although the person’s face had been obscured).

Ahmed About Deraa, a reporter from the Sinai who has been following the situation, also attended the launch. He showed several extremely graphic photographs and some film footage showing some of the survivors bearing terrible scars and disfigurements caused by the torture. 

Abou Deraa spoke of the efforts of one local Sheikh, someone he referred to as Sheikh Mohammed, who has been trying to assist some of the persons who either manage to escape or are let go after ransom is collected. 

He also spoke a bit about the situation since June 30, 2013.  According to Abou Deraa, the military operations taking place in the Sinai since June 30th have led to the army raiding some of the “torture houses” and to the release of some of the kidnapped. Unfortunately, the people who have been “saved” are simply put into detention and charged with “illegal entry” into Egypt.  Apparently, approximately 144 such individuals are currently in detention in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities want to repatriate them back to Eritrea, but expects the kidnapped to pay for their tickets back. 

Although Abou Deraa seemed to think that there have been fewer cases of kidnapping and hostage taking since 30 June, 2013, those presenting the report seemed to think that the current situation in the Sinai may simply pushing kidnappers to use different routes. 

Lastly, even for those who are released by the kidnappers or somehow manage to escape on their own, the situation remains dire. They can try to reach Israel, which is quite difficult in light of the fence the Israelis have constructed. Once inside Israel, the migrants are subjected to the Anti-Infiltration Law which means months of detention. 

The other option is to come to Cairo, where the survivors continue to live in fear of the traffickers/kidnappers (some report getting threatening phone calls from them), and where the limited opportunities to work or study, combined with xenophobic attitudes (heightened since 30 June) and racism, make life very difficult. 

Also, these young men and women are suffering from extreme trauma, and though some are receiving some psychological counseling and support, the scale of abuse is great and the resources in Cairo are limited. 

Technically, as survivors of torture, refugees who have been kidnapped and held hostage in the Sinai should be prioritized for resettlement to third countries. The UNHCR does refer some of these cases for resettlement, but the process of resettlement is cumbersome and lengthy. Resettlement to the United States, for example, can take more than a year.

The situation described above has been going on for a number of years. It seems hard to believe that abuse of this scale can be happening with nothing really being done to address it. It seems especially hard to comprehend this, considering that some of the traffickers are identified by name in the report, that millions of dollars are being wired and exchanging hands, and that calls are being made to relatives and being received by the refugees from the traffickers. It seems like the authorities could identify and arrest at least some of the agents involved in this vicious and brutal cycle, if the political will to do something existed. It seems hard to believe that people could be kidnapped from Eritrea, taken through the Sudan and into Egypt – three countries with extensive state security networks – without any sort of detection. 

In fact, the horror of the situation is such that there was an element of incredulity on the part of some in the audience. The report was presented to a fairly large audience, most of whom were foreigners, but which included some Egyptians. As far as I noticed, the only people who asked questions tinged with skepticism were Egyptians. 

In response to one survivor’s testimony of being harassed by Egyptians in Cairo, one young man asked, almost incredulously, why an Eritrean would be harassed by Egyptians? He even said something like: “Are they wearing particular costumes that are making them stand out?” He could not bring himself to believe that the man’s foreignness and skin color would subject someone to taunts in Egypt. 

Some wondered how it could be that people were being kidnapped across borders and into the Sinai with all its checkpoints without the authorities stopping it. 

Indeed, the more one learns about the situation, the more convinced one becomes that the situation must be taking place with the complicity of officials. The report itself suggests that at least in Eritrea, military officials themselves have been implicated in the trafficking.

The launch was attended by some Egyptian journalists. One can only hope that media coverage of the issue in Egyptian papers (which so far has been virtually nonexistent) will bring more attention to the issue (and help also in countering attitudes of incredulity towards the problem).

Given recent events in Egypt, the political uncertainty and turmoil, the economic problems, people’s concern about increasing insecurity, it seems like the issue of the trafficking of African migrants across the Sinai is the last thing some may want to hear about. 

But horror of this scale cannot go on, and no one in Egypt should be unaware that it is happening. 











Police brutality (part 2)

Also published in El Shorouk this week is this horrifying, familiar account of torture by a journalist working for the satellite channel MBC, Islam Fathi, whose ordeal began -- as they often seem to -- when he got into an argument with an officer while trying to approach the site of an explosion in Minya. The piece is too long for me to translate entirely, but here is a sample. After he has been beaten and subjected to a torture called "the bag" that involves tying together and suspending the prisoner from his handcuffed hands and feet:   

As I was hanging there all night I saw the legs of soldiers and officers coming in and out to beat me. I even saw a woman dressed in black, she must have worked in the station, because she made them tea -- she also joined them in beating me, and said to them: ‘Beat him some more, he’s not getting out of here alive.’
Then soldiers took Islam to a cell and ordered him to face the wall. After two hours the door opened and another high-up officer who said: ‘So you’re the one acting like a big man?’and he was taken back to the room for another torture session.
The officer was hitting me himself and said to me: ‘Say: I’m this…I’m that.’

After all this, the officer he had an argument with asks Islam: "Have you learned your lesson now?" He is charged with attacking the authorities (the charges are dropped when he says he will not contest them in any way) and a nearby hospital refuses to document his torture. Eventually he goes to another hospital; files charges; and goes to the press. He tells Shorouk: "If they did this to me for no reason, knowing I'm a journalist, what might happen to poor, simple people?" 

Khaled Fahmy on police reform

Khaled Fahmy asks What doesn't Morsi understand about police reform?, looking at a landmark 1861 decision to end beatings by the Egyptian police.

After I spent many years exploring the National Archives, I concluded that torture was repealed from the Egyptian criminal code in the 19th Century because of a decision from within the state apparatus itself, specifically the police which reached an advanced degree of professionalism. It was also a reflection of a high degree of centralisation, strength and self-confidence of the state’s administrative apparatus, at the heart of which is the police.

It is disappointing to watch the serious regression of the Egyptian state over the past 30 years; a regression back to torture practices at police stations and locations of detention in Egypt.

Even more upsetting is that those in power today do not recognise the dangers of continuing to ignore this explosive issue, especially after a revolution which – in my opinion – primarily occurred to end torture and other systematic abuses by police against citizens.

The president has not said a single word about torture; the prime minister went to the headquarters of Central Security Forces after recent clashes in Port Said to promise them he would give them more weapons; the government has brushed aside all initiatives to reform the police; the minister of justice denied torture existed under President Morsi, and has often said the police cannot be reformed except from within and based on initiatives by its leadership. And so it seems, President Morsi’s government has made up its mind on this matter and does not wish to address police violations, and at the same time cannot force police leaders to change their ways in dealing with the people.

Libya: Prisoners held in shipping containers


From Amnesty International:

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

Amnesty International Reveals Detainees in Libya Left to Suffocate in Blazing Hot, Cramped Metal Containers

Survivors Describe “A Day From Hell” as Detainees Drink Urine and Sweat to Try to Stay Alive

(New York) – Libyan forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi forces left 19 detainees to die of suffocation while locked inside metal containers in the sweltering June heat in northwestern Libya, Amnesty International has discovered.

Three survivors described how al-Gaddafi loyalists tortured them and then imprisoned them along with 26 others in two cramped cargo containers on June 6 at a construction site in al-Khums, 75 miles east of Tripoli.

The detainees endured temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit and drank their own sweat and urine when the limited water supply ran out. Their captors shouted “rats, shut up," ignoring their cries for help.

This is the first report of the June incident, because al-Khums was off-limits to independent reporting until it fell under the control of the National Transitional Council (NTC) on August 21

“This is obviously appalling and inhumane treatment of a group of people who were mostly civilians,” said Diana Eltahawy, North Africa researcher at Amnesty International, who is currently in Libya.

It is a war crime for any party to a conflict to kill or torture prisoners.

Amnesty International’s team in Libya examined the two metal containers used to hold the detainees in al-Khums. Once the doors were locked shut, the containers had no windows and the only ventilation came from dozens of bullet holes along the metal walls.

The larger container held 19 people, 10 of whom survived. Only one person emerged alive from the smaller container, which measured 6 feet by 19 feet and was used to hold 10 people. Some had been held at the site since May 20.

Guards eventually opened the containers late in the afternoon on June 6, and the 11 survivors were transferred to other detention centers in Tripoli. They were freed on August 21 and one later died of kidney failure.

It is unknown what happened to the bodies of those who died in the containers.

One of the survivors of the containers, school teacher Mohamed Ahmed Ali, a father of eight, described how armed men arrested him at his home on May 20 after he had taken part in anti-government protests in al-Khums.

The pro-Gaddafi forces forced him to kneel before electrocuting him and beating his head and back with metal wires. He was later detained in the larger container at al-Khums.

According to Mohamed Ahmed Ali, on 6 June some of the captives found it difficult to breathe and had been banging on the metal doors since early morning, crying out for ventilation and more water.

“People were falling on the floor all around me. Our clothes were dripping in sweat. Many were murmuring the shehada [a Muslim affirmation of faith which is recited when expecting to die]. We were screaming: ‘we will die in here, let us out’,” he told Amnesty International.

“Eventually, I couldn’t even see anymore, and I was getting increasingly weaker. Everything got so blurry. I lost consciousness.”

Another survivor, Faraj Omar Al-Ganin, 27, said that detainees were getting increasingly desperate as the hours went by. Several started drinking their own urine and sweat.

“For hours we were screaming for help; the detainees in the second container were doing the same,” Al-Ganin said.

“It then became eerily quiet. I realized that I was the only one still conscious. I screamed: ‘They have all died’. The guards finally opened the doors. They then made me drag the bodies out by their feet.”

Abdel Rahman Moftah Ali, 24, was the only survivor of the smaller container, and watched his fellow inmates die in front of him:

“None of us could stand up straight anymore. Foam was coming out of some people’s mouths… I saw my cellmates drop to the ground and become motionless one by one… I think I fell and hit my head…Eventually I regained consciousness, and was covered in blood…It was a day from hell.”

Human rights and Egypt's transition

One of the big questions for the future of Egypt is how to change the culture of police enforcement, security agencies and the army when it comes to accountability, respect of the rule of law, human rights practice and more generally attitudes towards public freedoms. It was always unrealistic to expect to change this overnight, and there are several problems to tackle — to start with: 

  • deeply ingrained institutional practices (sometimes codified in laws, regulations and procedures that have their origins in the days of British rule in Egypt, as well as the security state established by Nasser);  
  • the need for a shift away from a culture of entitlement, paternalism, sexism, and authoritarianism;
  • a structural adjustment to end a micro-economy of corruption that made police officers, for instance, resort to accepting bribes because their basic salaries are low and they were practically encouraged to be on the take to compensate. This of course benefited more senior officers who were engaged in more serious corruption (and were paid adequately) and shielded them from criticism, since everyone was on the take. 

The problem of military police having supposedly set up a torture room at the Egyptian museum, its use of beatings, electrical prods and other methods reveals the first two problems. The MPs have denied torture is taking place but activists have documented it fairly thoroughly. A quite worrying development is that newspapers are said to be spiking reporting on military torture, so information about this, while online, has not been propagated through the print and broadcast media inside Egypt.

The latest scandal, involving forcing female protesters  to take ‘virginity tests’, is pretty outrageous:

Amnesty International has today called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced ‘virginity tests’, inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square earlier this month. 

After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on 9 March, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

Over the last day or so the military's announcement that it sought to pass a law criminalizing protests has shocked a lot of people and been taken as a sign of the beginning of a slide back towards the old authoritarianism — particularly at a time when labor grievances are rising and new independent unions are forming. It is unclear whether the law has been decreed yet as far as I understand, and its announcement reflects the military's ongoing concern about labor unrest and returning economic activity to normal — as well as, I suspect, the fact that it can probably do little for now to answer the demands for higher salaries of strikers. In some sense this law is likely to be only very selectively enforced, even if it is reminiscent of the post-1952 crackdown on the labor movement. 

Another issue is that of the rehabilitation of human rights abusers from State Security. Hossam at 3arabawy has been doing a great job is providing context to the stash of pictures of State Security officers he found when the service's headquarters were raided by protesters a few weeks ago. He's compiling them at Here's a recent example:

SS General Mortada Ibrahim لواء أمن دولة مرتضى إبراهيم

General Ibrahim was promoted in 2004 to become the Interior Minister’s Assistant, heading إدارة المساعدات الفنية the “Technical Assistance Department.” This department is in charge of surveillance, phone tapping of citizens, dissidents and government officials alike. The infamous reputation of this department reached the extent that the state-run Akhbar el-Youm reported (after the revolution of course) a conversation between General Ibrahim and another senior police official, whereby General Ibrahim said: “I listen to your breathing, even when I’m asleep.”

From SS Officers

Instead of putting him on trial for running this fearsome apparatus that invaded the private lives of millions of Egyptian citizens a day, General Ibrahim has been rewarded by Essam Sharaf’s cabinet a new post in the “revolutionary government” as the Interior Minister’s Assistant for Research and Planning.

This kind of thing is exactly the reason I have been advocating a truth and reconciliation commission of some kind — there is a risk of glossing over the role State Security has played and not getting full accountability, which consist of an airing of grievances by its victims, an admission of guilt by its officers, and an official recognition of the state of these crimes. I don't see how you can reform the security services or turn a page without that. 

A piece at al-Masri al-Youm also shows some of the issues at stake in reforming State Security, which was recently renamed as part of what looked like more a rebranding effort rather than a real overhaul: 

Reform security, secure reform | Al-Masry Al-Youm: Today's News from Egypt

The path chosen by General al-Eissawy to reform the SSI suggests he is familiar with Joffe’s conclusions. Al-Essawy's restructuring process has largely been a game of musical chairs, where some officers have been given forced leave, others have been moved to different departments within the Interior Ministry, while a new National Security Agency has been newly established to absorb the remaining ex-SSI officers and take up duties that deal with internal securities.

So is SSI merely being re-branded as NSA?

Until now, the answer is yes. Al-Essawy had told the press this new security body “will only monitor terrorist threats and threats to national security, without impeding citizens’ lives.” Thus, Egypt’s notorious security apparatus may follow the path of the Soviet KGB, rather than the East German Stasi.

Unlike the Stasi that was effectively dismantled, the sprawling KGB underwent a cosmetic name change after the fall of the Soviet Union. It was first broken up into five agencies, one of which became the Russian Federation’s internal security agency, the FSK – Federal Counterintelligence Service. Under ex-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the FSK was merged with other KGB spin-offs to become the ever stronger FSV – Federal Security Service. This was done under the pretext of confronting the rising threat of Chechen terrorism.

There are however cases of genuine security reform — in Chile, Indonesia, East Germany, and, to an extent, South Africa. But success takes time, an engaged public and a real democratic process that upholds human rights. Of course there are no prototypes. The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that may have worked in South Africa, might not work in Egypt where the SSI has operated largely in contravention of Egyptian laws. Following East Germany's example, granting victims and researchers access to security files kept hidden from the public may help ease the pain of families who don’t know why and how their loved ones disappeared.

Most importantly, Egypt’s new and reformed security agencies must be under organized judicial, parliamentary and ministerial supervision. That’s the only way to ensure the security apparatus’ subordination to the will of the people. Without commissioners appointed to monitor human rights, legal compliance and budgetary transparency, the newly founded NSA might just as well be a reincarnated SSI.

One debate now taking place is whether political forces and activists can/should pressure the military and government to put this on the agenda immediately, or whether it's something that can be handled by the new parliament when elected later this year. Many prefer to get the momentum going now, and the issue is likely to stay topical till the elections and after. The military, however, appears to want to stabilize matters first after the referendum, and may become less likely to give in to political pressure than it has in recent weeks.

The justifications of the torturer
Alaa al-Aswany in the Los Angeles Times:

"As President Obama prepares for his trip to Egypt this week, the Mubarak regime is facing unprecedented waves of social protest because life here has become intolerable for millions of Egyptians, who now have no choice but to take to the streets to proclaim their demand for a life fit for humans. Today, between 40% and 50% of Egyptians live below the poverty line; Egypt has become two different countries -- one for the poor and one for the rich.

As for the regime, it is now completely incapable of serious reform, so it pushes the police to confront, repress and torture people, overlooking the simple and important fact that police officers are, first and foremost, Egyptian citizens and that what applies to Egyptians in general applies to them too. Most of them suffer in the same way as other Egyptians.

I often recall the discussion I had with the State Security officer at the wedding. And I reflect that a political system that relies for its survival on repression always fails to see that the apparatus of repression, however mighty it may be, must be operated by individuals who are part of society and whose interests and opinions generally conform with those of the rest of the population. As repression increases, a day will come when those individuals can no longer justify to themselves the crimes they are committing against people. At that point the regime will lose its power to repress and will meet the fate it deserves. I believe that we in Egypt are approaching that day. "

The story opened with a meeting with a State Security officer whom he confronts about working for the regime. It's worth reading in its entirety.
Fault Lines on the torture debate, Obama's relationship with Mubarak, Saudis
I caught a glimpse of a very lively debate on torture on Al Jazeera English's new show Fault Lines (hosted by Josh Rushing, former US Army spokesman in Qatar captured in the wonderful documentary on al-Jazeera Control Room). The show is about the recent US controversy over President Obama to close US-based torture programs (but not torture carried out by allied countries such as Egypt, Jordan or Morocco), his decision not to release further Abu Ghraib and other photos, and his ambivalence about prosecuting senior Bush administration officials who were involved in the decision to authorize torture.

Part I

The second part has an interesting outburst by former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer against Obama's visit to Cairo. At around 1:08 he says:

This business of rendition and interrogation is important and should get sorted out. But when congressmen and other people say, "this is a a great recruiter for al-Qaeda" -- let me tell you what's the great recruiter for al-Qaeda: when Mr. Obama goes to Cairo and raises his arms with Mr. Mubarak and cheers for freedom, and then goes and kisses the royal buttocks of King Abdallah in Saudi Arabia because we're dependent on their oil, that's much more of a recruitment tool then anything that happened at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. This is small potatoes.

Later (3:38) he adds:

Mr. Obama does not know the first thing about how this world works and cheer freedom with Hosni Mubarak.

Part II

Abu Ghraib abuse photos 'show rape' - Telegraph
Abu Ghraib abuse photos 'show rape' - Telegraph
Explosive - these are the pictures Obama does not want released: "At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee. Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts."

Reuters AlertNet - Afghan was taken to Guantanamo aged 12-rights group
Reuters AlertNet - Afghan was taken to Guantanamo aged 12-rights group
Grotesque: "Interviews with the family of Mohammed Jawad, who like many poor Afghans does not know his exact age or birthday, showed he was probably not even a teenager when he was arrested in 2002, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said. He was picked up by Afghan police in connection with a grenade attack in Kabul in which two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded. He was transferred to U.S. custody the same day and flown to Guantanamo in early 2003. Commissioner Nader Nadery said in addition to being a minor at the time of his detention, Jawad was tortured and abused by the Afghan police and while at the Guantanamo detention centre, located at a U.S. naval base in Cuba."

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