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Country Assessment Report

The Arab Republic of Egypt


developed by

© International Rehabilitation Council for Torture

Victims (IRCT)
Borgergade 13
P.O. Box 9049
DK-1222 Copenhagen K
Map of Egypt

The present report has been prepared by the IRCT on the basis of information compiled from
relevant national organizations and associations, including the El Nadim Centre for
Psychological Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, besides acknowledged
international human rights sources.

These sources tend to focus more broadly on human rights rather than specifically on torture.
Moreover, it is difficult to obtain accurate and objective figures on the number of torture
survivors and related information due to the clandestine nature of the act itself that largely
forces survivors to remain in the shadows. Therefore, the present report does not necessarily
provide a comprehensive picture of the real dimension of the problem of torture in Egypt.
Table of Contents
1. Summary ................................................................................................................ 1
2. General country description ....................................................................................... 1
2.1 Overview .......................................................................................................... 1
2.2 Historical background ......................................................................................... 2
2.3 People.............................................................................................................. 2
2.4 Political system ................................................................................................. 3
2.5 Economy .......................................................................................................... 4
3. General human rights situation................................................................................... 5
3.1 The Emergency Law ........................................................................................... 6
3.2 Detention and prison conditions ........................................................................... 6
3.3 Disappearances ................................................................................................. 7
4. Human rights situation relating to torture .................................................................... 8
5. Status on international framework and national policy/legislation with respect to torture .... 9
5.1 National and international legal remedies/reparation measures ................................ 9
5.2 The debate in national parliaments and other relevant official bodies with respect to
torture and international obligations ........................................................................ 11
5.3 Assessment of actual implementation of legislation ............................................... 11
5.4 International mechanisms ................................................................................. 12
5.5 National mechanisms ....................................................................................... 12
6. Overview of judicial/legal system .............................................................................. 14
6.1 Court system - administration of justice .............................................................. 14
6.2 Public prosecution............................................................................................ 15
6.3 Legal profession: judges and lawyers.................................................................. 19
6.4 Relation between lawyers and doctors ................................................................ 20
6.5 Legal assistance to victims of torture .................................................................. 20
7. Overview of national health system........................................................................... 21
7.1 Mental health care services ............................................................................... 21
7.2 Medical educational system ............................................................................... 21
7.3 Medical organisations and ethics ........................................................................ 22
7.4 Rehabilitation of victims of torture...................................................................... 23
7.5 Notes on forensic medicine in Egypt ................................................................... 24
7.6 The Istanbul Protocol (IP) ................................................................................. 26
8. Trials carried out in relation to alleged torture (including administrative and disciplinary
bodies) ..................................................................................................................... 26
9. Civil society ........................................................................................................... 27
10. Media/journalists’ associations and the public debate and media coverage of torture ...... 30
11. Other relevant organisations/associations ................................................................ 31
12. International organisations..................................................................................... 32
13. Other donors........................................................................................................ 33
14. List of relevant web links ....................................................................................... 33
15. Literature list ....................................................................................................... 34
Egypt Country Assessment Report

1. Summary
One of the major challenges with regard to the human rights situation in Egypt is the
persistence of the Emergency Law of 1981, which continues to allow arbitrary detention and
indefinite detention of individuals solely on the basis of allegations of their “posing a danger to
security and public order”. In recent years, and especially since the elections in 2005 which
saw the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood as a strong political factor, this provision of the
Emergency Law has been used to mute Islamist voices in Egypt. Although Egypt is party to a
number of international treaties dealing with torture, among them the ICCPR and the CAT, it
has not signed the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR nor the OPCAT and has furthermore entered
reservations with regard to certain articles of CAT. On the national level, both the Egyptian
Constitution and the Penal Code contain articles dealing with torture and the punishment of
torture. However, insufficient definitions of torture, inadequate penalties for those responsible
for torture and ill-treatment as well as the lack of a monitoring mechanism to investigate
abuses are highly problematic and continue to promote a culture of impunity in Egypt.
Observations by i.e. the National Council for Human Rights point to the fact, that torture and
ill-treatment have become almost standard practice during interrogations in police stations.
Since the mid-nineties, Egypt has also become a major receiving country for detainees from
third countries - primarily other Arab countries - accused of participating in planning or
carrying out terror. According to a Human Rights Watch report of 2005, the number of such
prisoners can be as a high as 200, many of the kidnapped and flown in by secret flights, the
existence of which has also recently come to debate.

Medical ethics in Egypt are guided by a ministerial decree from 2003. Several of its provisions
refer to torture and among other things forbid physicians to participate either actively or
passively in acts of torture. On the other hand, no programme is in place in university
curriculum to introduce medical students to the definition of torture. In addition, students of
forensic medicine only rarely have the opportunity to examine live cases or do autopsies, and
doctors manage cases of torture the same way as any other “accident”.

2. General country description

2.1 Overview
Area: 997,739 sq. km
Capital city: Cairo (population – 16.7 million)
Major political parties: National Democratic Party (ruling party), Wafd Party, Al Tagammu
and the Nasserist Arab Democratic Party. There are a number of other smaller parties, the
most important of which is Al Ghad party presided by Ayman Nour(in jail now after a notorious
trial) The Muslim Brotherhood Group, which is legally banned constitutes the largest opposition
group in Parliament
Government: Republic
Head of State: President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak (since October 1981)
Prime Minister: Dr Ahmed Nazif (since July 2004)
Foreign Minister: Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit (since July 2004)

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Egypt Country Assessment Report

2.2 Historical background

The special combination of the Nile River and semi-isolation provided by deserts in both east
and west allowed Egypt to develop into one of the world's great civilisations as far back as the
fourth millennium BC. A unified kingdom arose around 3200 B.C., after which a series of
dynasties ruled for the next three millennia. Then came the Persians, the Alexandrian Greeks,
the Romans, the Byzantines, and finally the Muslim Arabs. Islam was introduced by the Arabs
in the 7th century, and they ruled Egypt for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the
Mamluks, took control about 1250 and continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the
Ottoman Turks in 1517. In 1798 the invasion of Napoleon initially concluded the Ottoman rule,
although the French were expelled again by an Anglo-Ottoman alliance just a few years later.
In the midst of this power struggle, the Albanian Muhammad Ali triumphed in Egypt and
westernisation was introduced to the country.

Following the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt became an important world
transportation hub, but also fell heavily into debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, Britain
seized control of Egypt's government in 1882, but until 1914 nominal allegiance to the
Ottoman Empire continued. Following World War I there was a great resurgence of Egyptian
nationalism and in 1922 Egypt was recognised as an independent sovereign state. An Anglo-
Egyptian treaty of alliance was signed in 1936, which recognised Egypt’s full independence and
secured full withdrawal of British forces. However, the last British troops did not leave the Suez
Canal Zone until 1956. During this period the Egyptian monarchy struggled from the waves of
nationalism and the defeat in the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. In 1952 the King abdicated, and
the following year General Muhammad Neguib was proclaimed the first President of the new

In 1954, Neguib was replaced as president by Gamal Abd Al-Nasser, and a popular vote
affirmed his presidency in 1956. Under Nasser, Egypt recognised Sudanese independence;
Israel, Britain and France launched a tripartite attack (the Suez War, 1956); Egypt and Syria
enjoyed a short union, the United Arab Republic (1958-61); and following the June 1967 War,
the Sinai Peninsula was occupied by Israel. Yet Nasser was extremely popular across the entire
Arab world, and his death in 1970 sent shockwaves far beyond Egypt's borders.

Nasser's successor, Anwar Al-Sadat, presided over the expulsion of Soviet military advisers
(1972); the October 1973 War, which represented a partial triumph for Egypt; improved
relations with the USA and a peace agreement with Israel. The latter prompted Egypt's
expulsion from the Arab League and complicated Sadat's already ambivalent relations with
domestic opponents: on 6 October 1981, militant Islamists assassinated him at a military

Following the assassination of Sadat, Vice-President Hosni Mubarak was appointed president, a
post he occupies to this day. Mubarak oversaw the return of Egypt to the Arab League in 1991,
following over a decade of isolation. During this time, Egypt joined the international coalition,
which drove Iraqi occupation forces out of Kuwait, and since then, Mubarak's Egypt has played
a pivotal role in the Middle East peace process.

Though previously a source of tension, the British influence is still far-reaching in Egypt. Today,
the British and the Egyptian governments hold strong relationships, and the UK is the largest
non-Arab investor in Egypt, with total cumulative investment by the top UK companies in the
country amounting to some $18 billion.1

2.3 People
Egypt has a population of 78,887,007 (July 2006 est.) with a population growth rate of 1.75 %.
The population consists of 98% Egyptians, 1% Berber, Nubian, Bedouin, and Beja and 1%

Country Profile for Egypt, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2005

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Greek, Armenian, other European (primarily Italian and French). 90% of Egyptians are
Muslims – most of whom are Sunni – and the rest are Coptic and other Christians. Article 40 in
the constitution protects equal rights irrespective of religion; however, discrimination of non-
Muslim minorities does exist. For example Christians are refused admission to the Al-Azhar
University – a publicly funded institution. Also members of the Baha’i community (around 2000
persons in total) are discriminated by continuously being denied civil documents such as ID
cards, birth certificates, and marriage licenses. As the police often make random inspections of
civil documents with the risk of arrest for all who are not able to provide these, many Baha’is
choose to avoid public places out of fear.2

Birth rate: 22.94 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate: 5.23 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.21 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female
Total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
Total: 31.33 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 32.04 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 30.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
Total population: 71.29 years
Male: 68.77 years
Female: 73.93 years (2006 est.)
Literacy: (definition: age 15 and over can read and write)
Total population: 57.7%
Male: 68.3%
Female: 46.9% (2003 est.)

2.4 Political system

Egypt’s constitution, adopted in 1971, established a democratic system and outlined the role of
public authorities. The executive power is vested in the President of the country who is elected
for a term of six years by referendum. The constitution was amended in 1980 to allow for an
unlimited number of presidential terms.

President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak began his fifth term of office following an election in
September 2005, when for the first time other candidates were allowed to stand against him
after the government amended Article 76 of the constitution. The amendment was first
proposed by President Mubarak in February 2005, and then approved by a national referendum
in May 2005. Amongst the principles set out in the amendment was the establishment of an
independent Election Commission with the aim of supervising the election process.3 However,
the amendment provoked uproar amongst the opposition, who where infuriated by the

Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Egypt 2005, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

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restrictions on candidacy contained in the new election system. According to the opposition the
amendment made it impossible for an independent candidate to run for president, and the
Muslim Brotherhood amongst other parties called for a boycott of the entire election. 4
Furthermore, there were allegations of electoral fraud. In December 2005, Ayman Nour, leader
of the al-Ghad party, who came second in the election with less than 10 percent of the poll,
was prosecuted and jailed for five years, allegedly for fraudulently obtaining signatures to
support his application to legalise his party. The prosecution provoked a lot of both
international and national criticism.

The People’s Assembly is the legislative branch of the state composed of 444 directly elected
members and 10 members appointed by the President who serve for a period of five years.
The Shura Council is a consultative body that proposes new laws and regulations to the
People’s Assembly. Administratively, Egypt is divided into 27 governorates and 246 districts.
The governorates are headed by a governor who is appointed by the President. In districts,
government units work closely with locally elected bodies in managing public utilities and
providing services.

Elections for a new parliament were held in three stages in November and December 2005.
They were marked by serious irregularities and violence, including police shootings of voters,
which left at least 11 dead and many more injured. Many supporters of candidates associated
with the Muslim Brothers5 were detained by police, and many others were violently attacked by
supporters of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) who were allowed to act with
impunity. While the NDP kept its majority in parliament, the Muslim Brothers won 88 seats,
thus becoming the largest parliamentary opposition in Egypt despite being formally banned in
the country since 1954.6

According to the Egyptian constitution, the authority vested in the head of the state, who is
also the head of the executive authority, is huge and he owns exceptional powers in the face of
legislative and judiciary authorities. He has power to issue and repeal laws and lay down
general state policy; he is head of the supreme judiciary council, arbiter between different
authorities, head of police authority, national defence council, the Supreme Commander of the
armed forces, and by convention he controls all foreign affairs. He is empowered to appoint the
Prime Minister – a post which since July 2004 has been occupied by Ahmed Nazif – the cabinet,
and the governors of the 27 governorates in Egypt.7 Furthermore, during the emergency law,
the President appoints majors and deans of faculties, and he can hire and fire people in the
private sector.8 No new parties can be registered without the approval of the NDP-dominated
Political Parties Committee.9

2.5 Economy
Egypt is in the process of transforming from a government-controlled economy to a free
market system. However, state-owned enterprises still dominate important sectors of the
economy. Economic sector reform and a privatisation program failed to produce the expected
outcome and resulted in high rate of unemployment (8.4% in 2000–2001).10

A dynamic business sector provides prosperity and opportunities for a small part of the
population, but the majority of the people of Egypt depend on sources vulnerable to external
influences. Approximately 17 percent of the population live in poverty, but the poor

Al-Ahram Weekly 12- 15 May 2005
Also called The Muslim Brotherhood (Full title “The Society of the Muslim Brothers”). Egypt is generally considered
the centre of the movement, which is a world-wide Islamist religious, political, and social movement that advocates
Islamist reform. The movement, which is banned in several Arab nations, has been illegal in Egypt since 1954 when it
tried to assassinate Gamal Addel Nasser. Unofficially though, the movement is tolerated by the Egyptian government
Country Report covering January – December 2005, Amnesty International
“Egypt – Constitution, Government, and Legislation”,
Country Profile for Egypt, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2005
Country co operation strategy, who paper EM/ARD/011/E /R, 2005

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Egypt Country Assessment Report

performance of the economy over the past four years has increased that figure.11 Although
poverty has decreased in the four major cities of the country, it is on the rise in Upper Egypt.
The slowdown of the economy since 1999–2000 has raised concerns about a possible increase
in poverty that is more pronounced in rural Egypt (43%).12

With the population still growing at close to two percent a year, economic growth in recent
years has been well below the long-term target of about seven percent per annum, which is,
however, sufficient to provide only a slow improvement in average income, and unemployment
and poverty are still widespread, especially in Upper Egypt. 13

Basic Economic Facts14

GDP: $82bn (2003)
GDP per head: $1220 (2003)
Annual growth: (real GDP, 1999-2004): 3.9%
Inflation: (consumer price index, Q4 2004/Q4 2003): 11.9%
Major industries: Agriculture, manufacturing, services. Egypt is heavily import-dependent.
Exports include oil, cotton and textiles. Service industries, specifically tourism, canal revenues
and emigrant workers' remittances, provide a significant proportion of foreign currency
earnings. 15

3. General human rights situation

The Government respects human rights in some areas; however, its record is poor in others,
and serious problems remain. The 1981 Emergency Law, extended in February 2003 for an
additional three years (ref. 2.1), continues to restrict many basic human rights. Among these,
the people of Egypt do not have the meaningful ability to change their government. The use of
military courts to try civilians and Emergency Courts to try political cases continue to infringe
on a defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial before an independent judiciary. The security
forces continue to mistreat and torture prisoners (ref. point 3), arbitrarily arrest and detain
persons, hold detainees in prolonged pre-trial detention (ref. 2.2), and occasionally engage in
mass arrests. Local police kill, torture, and otherwise abuse both criminal suspects and other
persons. Police also continue to arrest and detain homosexuals.

The Government partially restricts freedom of the press and significantly restricts freedom of
assembly and association. The Government also places some restrictions on freedom of
religion. Domestic violence against women remains a problem. Female genital mutilation
(FGM) persists, despite government and nongovernmental efforts to eradicate the practice,
and in general there is discrimination against women and religious minorities, including
Christians and particularly Baha'is. The Government has limited workers' rights. Child labour
remains widespread, despite government efforts to eradicate it. Exposure of workers to
hazardous working conditions and other employer abuses continue.16

Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) issued its first report in April 2005, covering
February 2004 to February 2005. The council was formed in June 2000 with the aim of
fostering human rights awareness. 17 It was initially conceived with the idea that its
composition and mission should be decided upon by the President. However, because the UN
Principles on National Institutions provide for an independence of these bodies from the Chief
Executive, Mubarak decided to affiliate NHCR with the Upper House in the Parliament (The

Country Profile for Egypt, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2005
Country co operation strategy, who paper EM/ARD/011/E /R, 2005
Country Profile for Egypt, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2005
Sources: World Bank, IMF (IFS, DOTS)
Country Report covering January – December 2005, Amnesty International
”NCHR speaks out finally” Al-Ahram Weekly 21- 27 April 2005

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Egypt Country Assessment Report

Shura Council, which still has about 1/3 of its members appointed by the President).18 Today,
NCHR shares its office building with the headquarters of the Shura Council. It is state funded
and possesses no legislative powers. Rather it acts as an advisory body, which can request
cooperation from government agencies and recommend specific cases for prosecution.19 In its
2005 report, NCHR called for the abolition of the state of emergency, drew attention to
continuing human rights violations, notably torture and ill-treatment, which according to the
report is found to be “nearly a standard practice” during questioning in every police station and
the State Security Investigations Service (SSIS). The report did not present new findings, but
built on complaints from citizens and reports from a number of human rights organisations,
especially Human Rights Watch. The report also gave a number of legal recommendations,
calling for improved prison conditions, provision of legal assistance during interrogations, and
release of prisoners detained without charges.20

The blunt conclusions made by a government affiliated body attracted a lot of attention and a
lot of diverse opinions, including a great deal of scepticism. 21 In the article “Rhetorical
Acrobatics and Reputations: Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights” Joshua Stacher notes:
“It was tempting to believe that the report was more evidence that President Husni Mubarak’s
regime is beginning to bow to popular pressure for reform.”22 However, the opposition and
independent MPs in Egypt argued that the entire formation of NCHR and the report was merely
window-dressing rather than part of a genuine democratic reform from the government, and a
number of NGOs made a collective condemnation of the council, refusing to deal with it in any

In September 2005, the European Union and Egypt began negotiating an Action Plan for Egypt
within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. In this connection, 25 Egyptian
NGOs called for a stronger human rights agenda to be considered.24

3.1 The Emergency Law

Despite continuous calls from human rights groups, CAT and the National Council for Human
Rights, a state of emergency has existed since the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, except for an 18-
month break in 1980. The state of emergency was re-imposed following the assassination of
President Anwar Sadat in 1981, when it was renewed for one year by a temporary resolution
no. 560/1981. This has since then been extended many times – most lately for another two
years in April 2006, effective 1 June 2006.25 The emergency rule still provides the basis for
arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without trial, creating an atmosphere of impunity, in
which torture and ill-treatment flourish (ref. point 3). Approximately 15,000 people remain in
prolonged detention without charge under the terms of the Emergency Law, according to the
Cairo-based Human Rights Association for Assistance of Prisoners (HRAAP). Several car bomb
attacks on tourist sites since October 2004 led to additional mass arrests, arbitrary detentions,
and credible allegations of torture.

The Emergency Law allows detention of an individual without charge for up to 30 days, after
which a detainee may demand a court hearing to challenge the legality of the detention order,
and may resubmit a motion for a hearing at one-month intervals thereafter. There is no limit
to the detention period if a judge continues to uphold the detention order or if the detainee
fails to exercise his right to a hearing. Incommunicado detention is authorised for prolonged

See e.g. “Rhetorical Acrobatics and Reputations: Egypt’s Nacional Council for Human Rights” by Joshua A. Stacher,
School of International Relations at St. Andrews University in Middle East Report Online
“Rhetorical Acrobatics and Reputations: Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights” by Joshua A. Stacher, School of
International Relations at St. Andrews University in Middle East Report Online
“NCHR speaks out finally” Al-Ahram Weekly, 21-27 April 2005
“Unsatisfactory improvements” Al-Ahram Weekly 12- 18 June 2003
“Rhetorical Acrobatics and Reputations: Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights” by Joshua A. Stacher, School of
International Relations at St. Andrews University in Middle East Report Online
“NCHR speaks out finally” Al-Ahram Weekly, April 21-27
Country Report covering January – December 2005, Amnesty International
“The Emergency Law in Egypt”

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periods by internal prison regulations. Human rights groups and the UN Committee against
Torture both expressed concern over the application of measures of solitary confinement. 26

3.2 Detention and prison conditions

The country has both local and national law enforcement agencies, all of which fall under the
Ministry of Interior. Local police operate in large cities and Egypt’s 27 governorates. The
ministry controls the SSIS, which conducts investigations, and the Central Security Force
(CSF), which maintains public order. SSIS and CSF officers are responsible for law
enforcement at the national level and for providing security for infrastructure and key officials,
both domestic and foreign. As a whole, the security forces operate under a central chain of
command and a culture of impunity exists which prevents systematic prosecution of security
personnel who commit human rights abuses (ref. point 3).

The Egyptian constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, police and security
forces conducted large-scale arrests and detained hundreds of individuals without charge
under the Emergency Law. Most of these arrests happened in connection with unlicensed
demonstrations and the parliamentary elections, and they remain a significant problem for
Egypt. In order to obtain a warrant in accordance with the Emergency Law, police must only
express that an individual "poses a danger" to security and public order. In cases tried under
the Emergency Law, access to counsel is often restricted or denied prior to the transfer of the
accused to a courtroom for the start of proceedings. Many detainees under the Emergency Law
remain incommunicado in State Security detention facilities without access to lawyers. After
these cases are transferred to trial, the court appoints a lawyer.

The Penal Code also provides the government with broad detention powers. Prosecutors must
bring charges within 48 hours following detention, or release the suspect. However, suspects
may still be held for up to six months while the case is being investigated. Arrests under the
Penal Code occur openly with warrants issued by a district prosecutor or judge. The Penal Code
contains several provisions to combat extremist violence, which broadly defines terrorism to
include the acts of "spreading panic" and "obstructing the work of authorities".

Based on reports from a number of human rights organisations, government arrests and
detention of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters have increased significantly since
2004. The government continued to use the Emergency Law under the official state of
emergency to try non-security cases in the emergency courts and to restrict many other basic
rights. Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners and other credible NGOs
estimated that there were approximately 15,000 detainees during the year.27 However, the
number of detainees at any given time has often been disputed. For example, in June 2005,
the government announced that it had released approximately 300 Muslim Brotherhood
members and supporters who had been detained after May demonstrations, and that 349
Muslim Brotherhood detainees remained in custody. The Muslim Brotherhood acknowledged
the releases, but asserted that 2,400 persons had been arrested and that 590 remained in
detention. At the end of 2005 there were conflicting accounts of remaining Muslim Brotherhood
detainees, ranging from several dozen to several hundred.28

Prison conditions remain poor, and the government does not permit visits by international
human rights observers. Officials from the government-sponsored National Council for Human
Rights (NCHR) did visit several prisons during the year 2005. However, relatives and lawyers
are still not able to obtain regular access to prisons. Special restrictions have been placed on
the number of visits and visitors to prisoners incarcerated for political crimes or terrorism. As
required by law, the public prosecutor continues to inspect all regular prisons during the year;
however, findings have not been made public. SSIS "detention centres" were excluded from

Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Egypt 2005, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour
“Egypt’s Torture Epidemic” – a briefing paper from Human Rights Watch, February 2004
Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Egypt 2005, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

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mandatory judicial inspection. 29 The International Committee of the Red Cross and other
international and domestic human rights monitors did not have access to prisons or to other
detention centres.30 The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and Human Rights
Association for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRAAP) have both highlighted deteriorating
conditions in prisons, especially overcrowded cells and a lack of medical care, proper hygiene,
food, clean water, proper ventilation and recreational activities. Tuberculosis is widespread and
overcrowded cells remain a problem.31 Often no qualified medical staff are available, and the
medically trained prisoners try to provide care to their inmates. In the worst cases, prisoners
die in custody suffering, while being denied adequate medical care.32 In three of the prisons in
Egypt, the prisoners went on hunger strike to object against the deteriorating living conditions,
the lack of proper medical care, even in critical cases, and the widespread torture and ill-
treatment. In the Wadi El-Natroon Prison, for example, 300 detainees went on hunger strike.
As in many other cases, however, the hunger strike ended again due to violent pressure from
the prison administration.33

3.3 Disappearances
Human rights monitors continue to call attention to a number of unresolved cases of
disappearances. In 2004, the EOHR reported that it had been following 59 cases of
disappearances within the country since 1992. Domestic human rights organisations provided
names to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; yet the
government did not respond to this. No new cases of disappearance were reported during

4. Human rights situation relating to torture

Torture in Egypt is consistently reported to be a widespread and persistent phenomenon.
Particularly during interrogation, security forces and the police torture or ill-treat detainees. In
most cases, the aim of this is to obtain information and coerce confessions, occasionally
leading to death in custody. In other cases, officials use torture to punish, intimidate, or
humiliate detainees. Police also detain and torture family members to obtain information or
confessions from a relative, or to force a wanted relative to surrender.35

Traditionally, torture was mostly used against political dissidents, but that has changed in
recent years. Today torture affects large numbers of ordinary citizens who find themselves in
police custody as suspects in connection with criminal investigations. Egyptian police regularly
detain street children they consider “vulnerable to delinquency” or “vulnerable to danger”.
During arrest, these children are routinely beaten with fists and batons. According to Human
Rights Watch, children also report sexual violence carried out by the police or other adult
detainees while in custody. They face brutal and humiliating treatment and, in some cases, this
ill-treatment is so severe as to constitute torture.36 In addition, groups made vulnerable by
stigma or social marginalisation continue to be subject to discrimination. Human Rights Watch
reported that 52 men were put on trial in 2001 charged with “habitual practice of debauchery”
– the legal charge used to criminalise homosexuality in Egypt.37 A number of men arrested
solely for consensual homosexual conduct, or suspicion thereof, were later beaten and tortured
in police custody. In a statement to the General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur on
Torture noted that although no statistics exist on this specific issue, it seems that members of
sexual minorities are disproportionately subjected to torture. Most of these torture incidents

“Prison conditions in Egypt”, Amnesty Internacional, 1997, AI Index: MDE 12/02/97
Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Egypt, 2005, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
“Prison conditions and deaths in custody, Egypt”, Amnesty Internacional, 1999, AI Index: MDE 12/27/99
”Torture Record in the year of reform” – A Review by the Egyptian Association Against Torture, June 2005
“Egypt’s Torture Epidemic” - a briefing paper by Human Rights Watch February 2004
“Egypt’s Torture Epidemic” - a briefing paper by Human Rights Watch February 2004
“In a time of torture” – Human Rights Watch Report March 2004

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are sexually violent acts, rape and sexual assault, used as a kind of punishment.38 In its 2004
report Human Rights Watch found that doctors often participate in the torture of homosexuals
by making degrading and abusive examinations while claiming to be collecting evidence for the
charge.39 In its 2002 report on Egypt, CAT voices concern at the fact that penal legislation is
not adequately clear in regard to ill-treatment of men due to real or alleged homosexuality.40

In 2004 the EOHR reported 292 known cases of torture between January 1993 and April 2004,
120 of which resulted in the death of the suspect or prisoner. As of 23 June 2005, EOHR
reported to have monitored 27 cases of torture and five deaths during 2005 alone. The records
of NGOs working in the field of human rights show that there have been thousands of torture
cases in police stations, prisons and state security headquarters during the past decades.
According to Human Rights Centre for the Assistance of Prisoners, the organisation monitored
1,124 torture cases in prisons. However, the exact numbers of torture victims is difficult to
determine, and it seems likely to expect many more victims than these numbers reveal. For
various reasons, including the fear of further arrest or torture of themselves or their family
members, victims are generally reluctant to lodge complaints against their torturers, let alone
take legal action.41

Recently, a number of arbitrary mass arrests by SSIS have taken place in North-Sinai,
apparently as part of the investigation of the Taba bombings in October 2004. Many of these
detainees were kept for days without being informed of the reason for their arrest, and many
were subjected to torture and ill-treatment by the SSIS.42

In their report “Torture Record in the year of reform” the Egyptian Association against Torture
points to the fact that Egypt has become a major receiving country for detainees from other
countries; most of them are alleged Islamic extremists considered to carry crucial information
in what the US calls the “war against terrorism”. 43 The 2005 Human Rights Watch Report
“Black Hole – the fate of Islamists rendered to Egypt” lists the identity of more than 50
persons, claimed to be Islamist jihadists, who have been brought to Egypt since the mid-
nineties. However, according to the report, the number is most likely as high as 200. Most of
these people come from Arab countries; some having been kidnapped and flown in by secret

Although the government investigated torture complaints in some criminal cases and punished
some offending police officers, punishments generally have not conformed to the seriousness
of the offence. The government has not prosecuted any SSIS officers for torture since 1986 - a
fact that was confirmed to Human Rights Watch by a senior Ministry of Interior official.
Egyptian authorities admit only to “the occasional case of human rights abuses”. One factor
underlying Egypt’s failure to investigate and punish acts of torture by law enforcement officers
may be the apparent conflict of interest in placing the responsibility to investigate and
prosecute abuses by officials within the same office (the SSIS falls under the Ministry of
Interior, ref. 2.2) that is responsible for ordering arrests, obtaining confessions, and
successfully prosecuting criminal suspects. 45 To this date, Egypt has refused to permit the UN
Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit the country although he has requested such a visit
several times.46

Methods of torture in Egypt

The most common methods of physical torture in Egypt involve punching, kicking, beating with
batons, whips, electric wires, chains, etc. and are always associated with insults, verbal abuse

“Egypt: Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct Exposes Torture Crisis”, Common Dreams Newswire 2004
“Torture in Egypt – Facts and Testimonies”, El Nadim Center for Psychological Healing and Rehabilitation 2003
“Torture Record in the year of reform” A review by The Egyptian Association Against Torture June 2005
”Black Hole – the fate of Islamists rendered to Egypt”, Human Rights Watch May 2005, vol.17 No.5 (E)
Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Egypt, 2005, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour
”Black Hole: The Fate of Islamists Rendered to Egypt” – A Human Rights Watch Report May 2005

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and threats. Physical methods also involve stripping, rape threats or actual rape; hanging from
windows and doors; use of Falaka and crucifixion; and use of electricity and cigarette burns.
Victims may also be deprived of food, drink, sleep or use of the toilet. The cells are usually
very narrow and overcrowded with little or no ventilation. The methods of torture reportedly
employed by the police and the SSIS include stripping and blindfolding victims; suspending
victims from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beating victims with fists,
whips, metal rods, or other objects; using electrical shocks; and dousing victims with cold
water. Victims frequently reported being subjected to threats and forced to sign blank papers
for use against themselves or their families should they in the future complain about the
torture. Some victims, including male and female detainees and children, reported sexual
assaults or threats of rape against themselves or family members. Arrest or torture can also be
inflicted on relatives of the victim, a procedure that has come to be known as hostage taking.
Less common methods of torture include scalding with hot water, releasing dogs to attack
victims, drowning, mock execution, etc. 47 Psychological torture always accompanies physical
torture but can also be executed alone, involving abuse, humiliation, threats of injury to victim
or family, forcing victim to make impossible choices, etc.

While the law requires security authorities to keep written records of detentions, human rights
groups reported that the lack of such records often effectively blocked investigations.48

5. Status on international framework and national

policy/legislation with respect to torture
• Ratification of ICCPR 18 September 1981
• Ratification of CAT 25 June 1986 – reservations towards Articles 21 and 22
• Non-ratification of OPCAT

5.1 National and international legal remedies/reparation measures

Egypt is party to the major human rights treaties dealing with torture, notably the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture
(CAT). Hence, Egypt is strictly obliged to prohibit any form of torture and ill-treatment and to
take positive measures in order to protect victims of torture by carrying out thorough,
impartial, and prompt investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment and filing
criminal charges where appropriate. In October 1998, the Government of Egypt in its
supplementary report to CAT stated that: “The Convention is the law of the country, all of its
provisions are directly and immediately applicable and enforceable before all State authorities
(…)The Egyptian Constitution prohibits the subjection of individuals to physical or mental

However, Egypt did not sign the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which establishes a
mechanism for receiving individual complaints. Nor did Egypt sign the Optional Protocol to CAT
enabling independent international experts to visit and review detentions. Egypt also entered
reservations with regard to Articles 21 and 22 of the Convention against Torture. Those articles
affirm the right of State parties to the Convention to file torture-related complaints against
another state as well as the right of victims of torture to file grievances directly with the
Committee that oversees compliance with the Convention.50

On a national level, despite the importance and relevance of what is contained in the Egyptian
constitution and penal code, there are still some problems. One of these problems is that the
definition of torture stated in Article 126 is poor and highly insufficient, as it only specifies

Torture in Egypt is a reality. Human Rights Centre for the Rights or Prisoners, 2001
“Egypt’s Torture Epidemic” - a briefing paper by Human Rights Watch

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torture that is used in coercing a confession. However, the definition does not include other
forms of torture, such as torturing to get information from the accused or anyone else related
to a particular case, torturing someone simply for being suspected of a crime, for personal
reasons or self-gratification or even to appease someone else who would benefit from the
victim being tortured. Sometimes torture is used to degrade the victims, to take away their
dignity, to humiliate them and disrupt their morals. Article 126 also fails to implicate anyone
who assists in the act of torture physically, or by covering it up, and excludes those who keep
silent from any punishment or repercussion.

Article 42 of Egypt’s Constitution provides that any person in detention “shall be treated in a
manner concomitant with the preservation of his dignity” and that “no physical or moral
(m`anawi) harm is to be inflicted upon him”. Egypt’s Penal Code recognises torture as a
criminal offence, but the definition of the crime of torture falls short of the definition in Article
1 of the Convention against Torture. For example, under Article 126 of the Penal Code, torture
is limited to physical abuse, occurs only when the victim is “an accused,” and only when
torture is being used in order to coerce a confession. Furthermore, Article 126 of the Egyptian
Penal Code only penalises acts of civil servants or public employees who commit or order acts
of torture. The definition of torture in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture, by contrast,
also covers situations when “pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the
consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”.

Egypt’s Penal Code also fails to provide for effective punishment of law enforcement officials
responsible for torture and ill-treatment. Article 129 of the Penal Code states that any official
who subjects persons to “cruelty”, including physical harm or offences to their dignity, “shall
be sentenced to an arrest period of no longer than one year, or with a fine not to exceed L.E.
200 [$30]”. Article 280 of the Penal Code provides for similarly inadequate penalties regarding
illegal detention.

5.2. The debate in national parliaments and other relevant official

bodies with respect to torture and international obligations
Throughout 2006–2007 the Egyptian parliament has witnessed heated debates around human
rights issues. Provoking such debates, among others, was the election of 88 members of the
Muslim Brotherhood to parliament, the violence that accompanied the electoral process and
the violations, arrests, torture and trials that targeted members of the Brotherhood in the
wake and aftermath of the 2005 elections, described by several media sources to be one of the
most violent in contemporary Egyptian history. Several opposition MPs, mostly Muslim
Brotherhood members, have submitted calls for hearings and investigations regarding
violations of human rights committed by security authorities. Several parliamentary
committees have discussed violations by the Ministry of Interior, highlighting several cases of
torture in addition to the deterioration of prison conditions and the trial of civilians in front of
military courts.

Other calls for investigation concerned police violations in Egyptian universities, violations of
the constitution and the laws organising the exercise of political freedoms, which surrounded
the second and third phase of the 2005 parliamentary elections, and violations of the
independence of the judiciary. Complaints were submitted regarding the violations that
surrounded the referendum over the constitutional amendments, including the various forms of
widespread rigging which deprives the amendments of their legitimacy. Further complaints and
requests for investigation were presented regarding the trade union and workers elections, and
the malpractice on part of the police system and its violation of human rights, including the
Ministry of Interior’s breach of the international conventions and agreements ratified by the
Egyptian government, committing the latter to the respect of human rights. In one of those
motions, the complaint was against the Minister of Interior for his abuse of the emergency
state resulting in several human rights violations and torture in police stations and SSI
headquarters. The MPs demanded the presence of the Minister of Interior to answer to
parliament. However, he did not show up but sent his deputy instead, who denied all
allegations of any violations. The chairperson of the human rights committee in parliament,

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himself a member of the ruling party, justified those violations on the basis that they were a
reaction to violations of the law. A famous example of such justification was his statement
regarding the arrest of Howaida Taha, producer at Al Jazeera satellite channel, who was in the
process of preparing a documentary on torture in Egypt. Howaida was later sentenced to six
months imprisonment, a sentence defended as “appropriate” by the ruling party member,
since she was disseminating lies and defaming the image of Egypt, thereby breaching the law.
(For more about debates in the Egyptian Parliament, see

5.3 Assessment of actual implementation of legislation

The District Attorney, at the allowance of Article 162 of the Egyptian Law of Criminal
Procedures, has sealed dozens of litigations. By doing so, the investigation is no longer under
judicial jurisdiction, and the victim is rendered helpless and with no means to appeal. However,
in case the District Attorney stalls the case instead of sealing it, no effective measure can be
taken to prevent it or speed up the cases, since the victim is not allowed to acquire an
investigations judge, a right reserved only to the District Attorney and the Minister of Justice.51
Even when a case reaches the courts, the judge can dismiss it on the basis that there is no
“grounds for the complaint”, or for reason of lack of evidence. This is permissible according to
Article 154 of the Law of Criminal Procedures which states that “a judge can dismiss a
complaint on the basis that the incident is not punishable by law, or due to lack of evidence,
and in both cases he orders that there is no grounds for the complaint”.

Many difficulties are connected to the collection of evidence of torture. Victims are usually
blindfolded while they are being tortured, and the policemen call each other by false names, so
that no positive identification can be made. Furthermore, there are forms of torture which
leave little physical traces and are thus difficult to detect, such as sexual abuse, the rape of
women and electric shocks. In addition, many victims are not examined by a forensic doctor
until after the scars have healed. It is also worth mentioning that forensic doctors only record
the external injuries of the victim and pay no attention at all to the psychological toll that
torture takes, which can be just as brutal, lasting, and perhaps even more damaging for the
individuals, their families and the society as whole.

In 1989, 44 police officers and prison guards were declared innocent after being accused of
torturing members of fundamentalist Islamic groups, because the victims could not identify
their torturers clearly as they had been blindfolded at the time.52

5.4 International mechanisms

The U.N. Committee against Torture (CAT), the U.N. Human Rights Committee and the U.N.
Special Rapporteur on Torture have consistently expressed concern with regard to the human
rights situation in Egypt.53 CAT raised a number of concerns in its concluding observations in
2002. Amongst these were: the persistence of the emergency rule (ref. point 2.1 above), the
many consistent reports received concerning torture and ill-treatment of detainees by law
enforcement officials, in particular by the State Security Investigation Department – treatment
which is reported to be facilitated by the lack of any mandatory inspection by an independent
body of such detention premises; the many reports of abuse of under-age detainees, especially
sexual harassment of girls, committed by law enforcement officials; the lack of a monitoring
mechanism to investigate such abuse and prosecute those responsible; reports received
concerning ill-treatment inflicted on men because of their real or alleged homosexuality,
apparently encouraged by the lack of adequate clarity in the penal legislation in Egypt; the
absence of measures to ensure effective protection and prompt and impartial investigations,
and the fact that victims of torture and ill-treatment have no direct access to the courts to
lodge complaints against law enforcement officials.54

“Torture in Egypt – Facts and Testimonies”, El Nadim Center for Psychological Healing and Rehabilitation
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Egypt, CAT/C/XXIX/Misc.4., 20 November 2002.

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Remedial actions cited by the government in 2004 include: the abolition of flogging in prisons;
unannounced inspections of places of detention; court decisions that disregarded confessions
obtained under duress; increased human rights training for police officials; the establishment
of a Human Rights Committee in 1999 with the mandate to study and propose ways and
means of ensuring a more effective protection of human rights; and the establishment of a
national human rights commission. With assistance from the UN Development Program, the
government continued to implement the committee's recommendation for increased human
rights training for law enforcement personnel and prosecutors.55

5.5 National mechanisms

During the 1990s the Egyptian government developed several national governmental
mechanisms in the field of human rights. Among these are:

• The National Council for Motherhood and Childhood, established by presidential decree
in 1988.
• The National Council for Women, established by presidential decree in 2000.
• The General Administration for Human Rights Affairs at the Ministry of Justice,
established by ministerial decree in 2002.
• The Department of Human Rights Affairs at the Ministry of Interior, established by
ministerial decree in 1996.
• The Higher Committee for Human Rights at the Ministry of Interior, established by
ministerial decree in 2001.
• The Human Rights Committee at the Ministry of Social Affairs, established by ministerial
decree in 2004.
• The National Council for Human Rights, established by presidential decree in 2003.
• The Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, established in 2003.

Except for the parliamentary committee, where the majority of members belong to the ruling
National Democratic Party, none of these bodies enjoy financial independence and their
membership is appointed by the executive authority. Also, none of them is authorised to carry
out independent investigations or fact finding missions regarding the complaints they receive.
Their main task is to refer the complaint to the institution against which it is filed, and
subsequently await its response. Although the National Council for Human Rights has carried
out some field visits and hearings, none of the outcomes of those missions have yet been

The National Council for Human Rights has organised some training workshops to look into
complaints (ombudsman offices). It is noteworthy that much criticism has surrounded the
functioning of the council to the extent that one of its members (one of only two council
members from civil society organisations) has repeatedly criticised the performance of the
council and has refused to extend his membership concluding, from his experience, that the
council in its present status acts as window dressing for the government which continues to
refuse to relate to the council in a serious manner. This member also accused the council of
being reluctant to carry out its role in the defence of human rights.

Although the council has produced three annual reports, organised a number of seminars,
carried out a number of hearings and field visits to prisons and contributed to the monitoring
of elections, it still has not produced any public statement regarding any of those activities or
the outcome of its investigations. It only has produced a summary of those actions in its
annual reports.

The council at times even provided the rationalisation and justification to some governmental
violations of human rights, an example of which is its silence vis-à-vis the sexual harassment
of women activists and journalists by police forces following the 2005 referendum and the


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newly proposed anti-terrorism law. The resigning member enumerated the main reasons
behind the council’s inability to perform as a human rights instrument, among which were the
lack of cooperation of relevant ministries and governmental bodies, which on some occasions
exerted enough pressure to influence the decisions of the council. He also mentioned the
imbalance in the formation of the council; membership which included a large percentage of
former executives and members of the ruling party or their allies, the lack of internal
democracy and transparency of the council. He also highlighted the fact that many of the
appointments in important executive positions inside the council were based on personal
relations rather than qualification and efficiency, a matter which negatively affected its

6. Overview of the judicial/legal system

6.1 Court system – administration of justice
The Egyptian judiciary system is divided into three categories:

1. The normal courts, in charge of general public disputes.

2. The administrative court – State Council – in charge of looking into administrative
and civil punitive disputes in addition to being a state counsellor in civil and religious
3. The constitutional court – The High Constitutional Court – which occupies the top of
the Egyptian judicial hierarchy, since it looks into the constitutionality of laws and
regulations. The decisions of this court, which is based in Cairo, are final, not
subject to appeals and compelling to all, including state authorities. The chair of the
High Constitutional Court is appointed by a presidential decree after consultation of
the Higher Council of the Judiciary, as are the court members.

The normal Egyptian judiciary system is based on a two-level system supervised by a higher
court, the Court of Cessation. The courts are divided into partial courts, primary courts and
courts of appeal.

Partial courts

These consist of a single judge and are present in every administrative centre or district.
Partial court decisions are appealed in front of the primary court through an appeal committee.
Partial courts look into civil and criminal cases.

• Criminal mandate: Partial courts look into felonies and breaches where the
punishment ranges between a fine and imprisonment for less than three years. Cases
are raised in front of the partial court through the public prosecution (also termed
indirect appeal). The courts also look into civil complaints which are raised consequent
to the criminal complaint (also called direct appeal). Felonies committed by newspapers
lie beyond the mandate of the partial courts, and are judged by criminal courts.
• Civil mandate: Partial courts are also in charge of all civil and commercial disputes,
the value of which does not exceed ten thousand Egyptian pounds. However, from 1
October 2007 the financial ceiling of the partial court cases will be raised to forty
thousand Egyptian pounds according to the provisions of Law 76/2007. Rulings can be
appealed in front of a primary court of appeal but are final if the value of the claim is
less than two thousand Egyptian pounds.


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Primary courts

Primary courts are located in the capitals of governorates, and highly populated governorates
can host more than one (Cairo for example has two; one for South Cairo and one for North
Cairo). Each court consists of three judges and is responsible for the following:

• Civil disputes with a claim higher than ten thousand Egyptian pounds and appeals of
partial court decisions, both in criminal and civil issues.
• Criminal disputes, looking into the appeals of decision made by partial courts.

Courts of appeal

Egypt has eight courts of appeal located in Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta, Mansoura, Ismailia, Beni
Soueif, Assiut and Qena. Each court consists of three judges and its mandate involves civil and
criminal cases:

• Criminal mandate (criminal courts): These courts look into criminal cases, which
are punishable by imprisonment, 15 or 25 years imprisonment with hard labour or the
death penalty. It also looks into felonies committed by newspapers according to the
provision of article 216 of the law of criminal procedures. Its decisions can be appealed
in front of the court of cessation.
• Civil mandate: Courts of appeal look into appeals of decisions made by the primary
courts. The relevant court is decided on the basis of specialization according to whether
the appeal concerns a civil, commercial, trade union or personal status issue. Its
decisions are appealed in front of the court of cessation.

6.2 Public prosecution

The public prosecution represents society in processing criminal cases, combining the
responsibilities of filing charges and interrogation. In some cases it is also concerned with
processing civil and personal status postulations in addition to criminal ones. Another
important and hypothetical role of the public prosecution is to supervise prisons and places of
incarceration. It also collects fees and fines in criminal, civil and personal status cases.

Appointment of members of the prosecution

The prosecutor general is the highest authority of the public prosecution. He is appointed by a
presidential decision from among deputies to chairs of courts of appeal, judges of cessations or
senior public attorneys. The public prosecutor gives his oath to the president of the republic.
The assistant to the prosecutor general, the senior public attorney and the remainder of
members of the public prosecution are appointed by a decision of the president of the republic
after consultation with the higher council of the judiciary. All of them give their oath to the
Minister of Justice in the presence of the prosecutor general.

Members of the prosecution are graduates of the faculties of law, shari’a and law at El Azhar
University and the police faculty, in addition to possible appointment of a percentage of
lawyers. All members of the prosecution enjoy impunity except for the assistants to members
of the prosecution, who are newly appointed members, remaining in that position for six
months before being promoted.

Structure of the public prosecution

The structure of the public prosecution in Egypt is hierarchical, with the prosecutor general the
highest level and assistants to members of the prosecution at the lowest. The structure
includes assistant public attorneys, senior public attorneys, public attorneys, heads of
prosecution category A, heads of prosecution category B, prosecutors of excellence, public
prosecutors and assistants.

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Administrative structure of the public prosecution

• Office of the prosecutor general: headed by the public prosecutor, assisted by his
• Technical office of the prosecutor general: affiliated to the office of the prosecutor
general, is headed by a senior public attorney, who is assisted by members of the

The following administrations follow the prosecutor general’s office:

1. Three specialised prosecutions: the high state security prosecution, the high public
funds prosecution and the prosecution for financial and commercial affairs and tax
evasion. Each is chaired by a senior public attorney assisted by a general attorney and
a number of prosecutors.
2. Department of judicial inspection of the public prosecution: chaired by a senior
public attorney, assisted by a number of public attorneys and senior prosecutors. It is
concerned with judicial inspection of the prosecution.
3. Appeal prosecutions: in each court of appeal there is a public prosecution that is
supervised by a public attorney, assisted by a number of prosecutors. It is concerned
with the supervision of the prosecution involved in the court of appeal in which it
functions. The country has eight such prosecutions.
4. The general prosecution: one in each primary court. It is chaired by a public attorney
and a number of prosecutors and is concerned with the supervision of the partial
prosecution within the scope of its mandate. It also issues decrees of referral in criminal
5. Partial prosecution: located in each partial court; administered by a senior prosecutor
or prosecutor, who is assisted by a number of prosecutors, assistants or deputies to
prosecutors. It is concerned with felonies and violations.
6. Specialised prosecutions: include juvenile prosecution and traffic prosecution.
7. General prosecution of cessation: it is chaired by a judge from the court of
cessation or appeal or by a public attorney, who is assisted by a number of members of
prosecutions of excellence. It plays the role of public prosecution for the court of
cessation and is entitled to contribute its opinion in appeals presented to the court of
cessation, whether on criminal, civil or personal status law issues.

Mandate of the public prosecution

The main mandate of the public prosecution is concerned with criminal cases, in addition to its
responsibilities in civil cases.

Responsibilities of general criminal prosecution

• Carrying out interrogations and pressing charges.

• Filing criminal charges and processing them.
• Closing a criminal case or reporting lack of evidence to process the case.
• Representing minor plaintiffs.
• Deciding on appeals in felonies.
• Pressing charges of libel in documents and papers presented to court.
• Issuing criminal order in felonies and violations punishable by imprisonment or fines.
• Presenting cases receiving the death penalty to the court of cessation within 30 days of
the decision, accompanied by a memo with its viewpoints.
• Supervising the execution of criminal sentences.

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Responsibilities of public prosecution in civil cases

• Processing of declarations of bankruptcy in commercial issues.

• Call for dissolution of associations according to association law.
• Intervention in personal status law cases.
• Processing disputes of ownership.

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Responsibilities of public prosecution in the - hypothetical – supervision of prisons57

Constitution Article 42: Every citizen who is arrested or whose freedom is in any way
restricted has to be treated in a way that maintains the human dignity and
should not be subject to any physical or psychological harm; should not be
incarcerated except in places other than those subject to the laws organising
prisons. Any statement made by a citizen under coercion or threat by any of
the measures mentioned above will be discarded and will not be taken to be
Article (71): Any person who is arrested or detained has to be immediately
informed of the reasons of his arrest or detention. That person is entitled to
make a phone call to inform parties of his choice of his whereabouts or to ask
for help as stipulated in the law. He has to be informed as soon as possible of
the charges pressed against him and he or others have the right to appeal in
front of court the procedure that restricted his personal freedom. The law
organises the right to appeal, specifying therefore a certain period of time,
after which the release of that person becomes obligatory.
Law of criminal Article 36: The police official has to immediately take the statements of the
procedures defendant. If the latter cannot provide evidence for his innocence he has to be
referred within 24 hours to the relevant public prosecution, which has to take
his statements within 24 hours, then either order his release or arrest.
Article 40: No person is to be incarcerated except upon an order by the
legally assigned authorities. Also he has to be treated in a way that maintains
the human dignity; and he should not be subjected to physical or
psychological harm.
Article 41: No person is to be incarcerated except in assigned prisons. The
director of the prison should not accept the imprisonment of any person
except upon an order signed by the relevant authorities, nor should he keep
that person beyond the time frame specified in that order.
Article 42: Members of the prosecution and chairs and deputies of primary
and appeal courts are entitled to visit public and central prisons present in
their territory and to ensure that no person is illegally incarcerated. They are
entitled to access prison files and the orders of arrest and incarceration and to
take copies thereof and to contact any inmate and listen to his complaints.
The prison director and employees have to provide them with all the
necessary help to obtain the information they request.
Article 43: Every inmate has the right to, either verbally or in writing, submit
a complaint to the director of the prison and to demand its communication to
the public prosecution. The director of the prison has to accept the complaint
and to report it immediately after recording it in the prison register of
Any person informed of an illegal incarceration of another person or informed
of that person being incarcerated in a place not specified for incarceration, has
to inform a member of the public prosecution. As soon as the information has
been communicated, the latter has to immediately go to the location where
that person is being incarcerated, to carry out an investigation and to order
the release of the illegally incarcerated person and to prepare a report in that
Law of Article 127: Any public employee or any person in charge of a public service
penalties who is ordered to punish a convict or himself inflicted a punishment upon that
convict which is more severe than the one sentenced by law or which has not
been sentenced yet is punished by imprisonment.
Article 280: Any person, who arrests or incarcerates a person without an
order from a relevant authority and in situations other than those where laws

References are from: the Egyptian constitution, Law of judicial authority no. 46/1972 and its subsequent
amendments, Civil and commercial procedures law no. 13/1968, Law of criminal procedures no. 150/1950, Law for the
organization of prisons no. 396/1956, Dr. Mohamed Fathi Nagib: Egyptian Judicial Organization – Dar El Shourouk –
Cairo – 2003.

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and regulations permit the arrest of suspects, is punished by imprisonment

and a fine not exceeding 200 LE.
Article 281: Anybody who knowingly lends out illegal locations for
imprisonment or incarceration is punished by a period not exceeding 2 years
in prison.
Law of judicial Article 27: The public prosecution is responsible for the supervision of prisons
authority and other places where criminal penalties are executed. The prosecutor
general reports to the Minister of Justice the observations of the public
prosecution in that regard.
Law of the Article 1 replicate: Any person who is arrested, detained, incarcerated or
organisation of whose freedom is restricted in any way is admitted into one of the prisons
prison fulfilling the provisions of the previous article or any other places designed for
the purpose by means of a decree by the minister of interior. All provisions of
this law apply in that regard, provided admission to those places
authorisations granted in article 85 to the prosecutor general or any member
of the prosecution representing him and fulfilling at least the position of chief
of prosecution.
Article 20 replicate: Any person whose freedom is restricted without a
judicial order is treated according to the regulations specified for those
imprisoned by way of security in this law. Any contradictory provisions are
Article 79: No member of the authority is to contact the prisoner by way of
security inside prison except by a written permission from the public
prosecution. The director of the prison has to register the name of the person
who gave that permit, the time of the meeting, the date of the permit and its
Article 80: The prison director has to accept any written or verbal complaint
made by the prisoner and to communicate it to the public prosecution or the
authority concerned after documenting it in the prison register designed for
Article 85: The prosecutor general and his deputies, each in their respective
territories of authority, are entitled to enter into all places of a prison and at
any time to ensure: 1. That the orders of the prosecution and the magistrate,
in cases which he has investigated, and the court decisions are being executed
as should be; 2. That no person is illegally imprisoned; 3. No person is doing
hard labour if the court sentence did not order it except in cases specified by
the law; 4. Each category of prisoners is isolated form other categories and
are treated according to the criteria specified for each category; 5. That prison
registers and books required by law are kept and maintained as should be; in
addition to generally inspect that all relevant laws and regulations are being
respected and followed and to undertake what they consider necessary
regarding any observed violations. They are entitled to receive complaints
made by prisoners and to examine the records and legal documents to ensure
their fulfilment of required formats. The prison director or his deputy has to
provide them with all information required to carry out their mission.
Article 86: Heads and deputies of courts of appeal and primary courts and
magistrates are entitled to enter at any time into prisons present in the
territories of their courts. The head and deputy of the court of cessation is
entitled to access to all prisons. The prison administration has to communicate
the observations they make to the general director.
Article 91, replicate: Any public employee or person entrusted with a public
service who incarcerates or orders the incarceration of a person whose
freedom is restricted in any other place other than prisons and locations
specified in articles one and one replicate of this law is punished by

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6.3 Legal profession: judges and lawyers

The lawyers’ profession in Egypt is organised by law no. 17/1983. Egypt has about 360,000
lawyers involving 6 categories:

• Lawyers in training (general registrar). These are lawyers who work for two years under
the supervision of lawyers in the three following categories.
• Lawyers qualified to stand in front of primary courts. Administrative courts are
considered equivalent to primary courts. Lawyers have to perform for five years in this
category before they can move on to register in the appeal registrar.
• Lawyers qualified to stand in front of courts of appeal. Courts of administrative judiciary
are considered equivalent to courts of appeal. Lawyers need 10 years in the appeal
registrar before moving on the cessation registrar.
• Lawyers qualified to stand in front of courts of cessation. The High Administrative Court
and the High Constitutional Court are considered equivalent to the Court of Cessation.
• Registrar of non-practicing lawyers (for personal reasons or as a result of punitive
• Special registrar for lawyers working in the public sector, public agencies or press

Law 46/1972 organises the profession of judicial bodies. Egypt has about 4,000 public
prosecutors and about 5,300 judges working in the different courts (partial – appeal –
cessation). The State Council has a membership of about 1,400.

Role of lawyers in gathering evidence outside the court

The role of lawyers in gathering evidence outside the courthouse is restricted to their right to
demand examination of the victim of torture by forensic medical authorities, consultation with
an expert and summoning of witnesses testifying against the allegation.

1. Consulting forensic medicine experts: Articles 85 and 292 of the law of criminal
procedures entitles the court and also the complainants, represented by the lawyer, to
appoint an expert in the case. Law 96/1952 organises the role of experts in front of
judicial bodies. Articles 32-60 of that law describe in detail the role of experts of the
forensic medical institution, all of whom follow the Ministry of Justice. In each
directorate of a primary court there has to be a department of forensic medicine. The
directorate includes serological and chemical laboratories as well as laboratories to
detect falsifications and forgery. The forensic medical institution is chaired by a
physician who occupies the position of the Senior Forensic Doctor, helped by deputies,
assistants and forensic doctors. The lawyer is entitled to demand the examination of his
client by forensic medicine at the time of the interrogation and also during the court
2. Right to appoint an expert consultant: Article 88 of the law of criminal procedures
grants the plaintiff the right to ask for an expert consultant. However, the public
prosecution and the other disputants retain the right to reject that expert. Also the
report provided by the expert does not compel the court. In torture cases, victims
usually submit reports prepared by expert consultants in forensic medicine (not working
in the forensic medicine institution at the time of the case). This usually happens when
there is a delay in referring the victim to the official forensic institution or in cases
where there is concern regarding the impartiality of the official forensic report.
3. Witnesses: Articles 10–122 of the law of criminal procedures specifies the regulations
for summoning witnesses in front of criminal courts. While the Egyptian legislator has
provided disputants and their lawyers the right to demand the summoning of witnesses
to prove or disprove the incident – as in the case of torture – it has at the same time
restricted this right by leaving it to the estimation of the judge to decide on the
usefulness of those testimonies. Another obstacle in that regard lies with the lack, in
Egypt, of a witness protection program.

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6.4 Relation between lawyers and doctors

There is no legal framework to organise the relationship between lawyers and doctors except
what was mentioned above regarding the lawyers’ right to request the referral of the victim to
forensic medicine and also their right to request the opinion of a medical expert consultant.

However, this relationship is of utmost importance when providing medical care and help to
the victim after his/her torture and release. In that regard it is important to note the
importance and need for a protocol of collaboration between the Bar Association and the
Doctor’s Syndicate to provide medical and legal aid to victims of human rights violations in

6.5 Legal assistance to victims of torture

Egyptian law organises and entitles victims of torture to seek legal aid. Article 25 of the law of
criminal procedures grants every citizen who is aware of a crime having been committed, the
right to inform the public prosecution of that crime and to request an investigation thereof. Use
is made of that provision insofar as it allows every citizen who is aware of a case of illegal
incarceration or a case of torture to use his or her legal right in informing on that crime. The
enactment of the provision is dependent on people’s and victims’ awareness of their right to
report a crime. It also depends on the availability of protective measures of those citizens once
they report on the crime of torture.


Article 64 of law 17/1983 regulating the exercise of the legal profession obliges lawyers to
provide legal aid to citizens unable to recruit such aid on their own. Lawyers taking up such
cases are obliged to grant them the same level of care and commitment they grant their own
private cases. Unfortunately this provision is not adequately implemented because of the weak
of the committee of liberties in the Bar Association, both at the national or local level.

The right to counselling

Article 124 describes the illegal nature of any interrogation of a citizen concerning a felony if a
lawyer has not been invited to attend the process. The provision has its pitfalls since it
criminalises the “lack of invitation” of a lawyer. If the interrogator provided evidence that a
lawyer has been invited the interrogation is then legally sound. In reality this invitation is only
a matter of form and not substance. The provision should have required the actual attendance
of a lawyer and not only the invitation of one. The trial process is also annulled if a criminal
case is processed by the criminal court in the absence of a lawyer to represent the defendant.
In that case the court is obliged to appoint a lawyer for the defendant.

7. Overview of national health system

A large number of different public entities are involved in management, financing and the
provision of medical care in Egypt. The Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) is responsible
for overall health and population policy, including the provision of public health services, and
also serves as the major provider of the inpatient-based curative system. The Ministry of
Higher Education (MOHE) is responsible for medical education as well as service delivery. The
Health Insurance Organization (HIO) is both an insurer/financier and provider of care.
Therefore medical care is directly provided by MOHP, MOHE, other ministries (Defense and
Interior), teaching hospitals, Curative Care Organization, HIO and other public sector
organisations and in the private sector by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), private
hospitals and clinics.

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The health sector has many different types of health facilities. Public health care facilities which
provide primary care are well distributed all over the country in both rural and urban areas.
With regard to secondary and tertiary care, there are 139,619 hospital beds in the country of
which 33,063 are in Cairo, 10,930 in Giza, and 10,092 in Alexandria. The vast majority of
these beds are in the public sector. According to the annual report of the MOHP (2003) there
are 60,877 physicians registered in the country. Human resources in each category within the
health sector in Egypt is above the regional average. Most physicians working for the MOHP
have private clinics which provide their main source of income.58

7.1 Mental health care services

The total number of psychiatric beds in Ministry of Health hospitals in Egypt is about 6,626
beds, constituting about 86% of the total number of psychiatric beds. The remainder are
distributed between private psychiatric hospitals (10%) and psychiatric departments in
university hospitals (4%). All major Ministry of Health psychiatric hospitals are subject to the
supervision and inspection of the Mental Health Secretariat of the Ministry, which supervises
5,607 beds distributed over seven hospitals: El Abaseyya, Al Khanka, Maamoura, Helwan,
Airport, Port Said and Assiut. Other remote hospitals are not subject to such supervision. They
host about 1,019 psychiatric beds. According to 2002 statistics, about 20,000 outpatients visit
the outpatient facilities of the Ministry of Health psychiatric hospitals at a rate of about 200 per
month. Outpatient facilities suffer a high level of crowding partially because of the limitation in
available space and partly because of the deficiency in doctors. In Abaseyya for example, a
single psychiatrist examines between 40 and 50 cases daily. More than one doctor may be
sharing the same examination room at the same time. The available time does not permit
adequate interviewing, documentation and completion of patients’ files. Also, paramedics lack
in training and skills. The number of psychiatrists practicing in MOHP facilities is about 371 at a
ratio of 1:14 patients.

Mental hospitals with forensic departments include Abaseyya, Khanka and Maamoura. The total
number of forensic beds is 771. Forensic cases refer to those individuals who have been
arrested or referred by respective legal bodies to be tested for their mental sanity and
consequently their responsibility for their actions. In these cases, a committee of three
psychiatrists is formed to evaluate the case in question within a period of 45 days, liable to
extension upon certain conditions. The process is supervised by a mental health monitoring
committee that includes amongst its membership doctors, legal personnel and security officials.

Legislation issued in 1944 continues to organise the practice of psychiatric medicine. It is

primarily concerned with patients under involuntary admission and those incarcerated for
reasons of mental illness. The law provides the therapist and the patient’s family broad
authority regarding the restriction of freedom of mental patients. The mental health secretariat
has recently submitted a draft for an alternative law to parliament, providing more
consideration for the human rights of mental patients and more accurate supervision of the
performance of psychiatrists and mental health professionals. 59

7.2 Medical educational system

There are 13 public medical schools in Egypt, 60 in addition to one newly founded private
medical school. MOHE is responsible for medical education. However, there does not seem to
be an effective mechanism of coordination between the MOHE and MOHP to ensure that the
training and graduation of doctors take into account the needs of the health system. Concerns
also have been expressed about the relevance of the content of the curriculum as well as the
quality of training taking place in medical schools.61

Country co-operation strategy, WHO paper EM/ARD/011/E /R, 2005
Site of mental health secretariat
Site of MOH
Country co-operation strategy, WHO paper EM/ARD/011/E /R, 2005

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All medical schools have forensic medical departments. However, there is no record of the total
number of doctors working there. Ain Shams University, for example, employs 70 forensic
doctors. Forensic doctors can further specialise either in forensic medicine or in toxicology and
clinical toxicology. Forensic departments in universities have no opportunity to examine live
cases or do autopsies except on rare occasions. Students at medical schools also do not
receive practical training in forensic medicine. The curriculum is purely theoretical and the
practical aspect of it is limited to observation of specimens in the forensic museum of some
injuries. They never examine live injuries, nor are they trained to carry out autopsy or to
specify causes of death. Furthermore, there is no programme to introduce students to the
definition of torture. Doctors manage cases of torture like any other “accident”.

To gain practical experience, doctors request the co-operation of the forensic department of
the Ministry of Justice on an informal basis, since there is no official channel to organise the
exchange of experience. University staff can, however, be appointed as consultants for the
Ministry of Justice. On the other hand, few forensic doctors in the Ministry of Justice register
for postgraduate degrees in the universities. University forensic medical doctors are not
routinely requested to perform any official legal forensic examination or reporting and clinical
autopsies are seldom done. Some private forensic consultation clinics exist, mostly run by
university professors since forensic department doctors in the Ministry of Justice are forbidden
by law to work in the private sector.

7.3 Medical organisations and ethics

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate was founded by law 54/1969 and is primarily an occupational
syndicate. Membership of the syndicate is mandatory for all graduates of medical schools in
Egypt and a prerequisite for obtaining a licence to practice.

The mandate of the syndicate is wide, including improving and raising academic levels, sharing
in forming and implementing health policy, cooperation in continued education with colleagues
from other countries, fostering socialist ideas and defending issues of independence, and
development of job opportunities. The syndicate also has an ethics committee for the practice
of medicine (see

After the Muslim Brotherhood gained control of many of the professional unions, including the
medical syndicate, the government issued law 100/1993. This legislation included many
administrative restrictions and interferences, and led to stagnation and interruptions of most of
these union activities. Since then, the medical syndicate has not witnessed elections and the
current board has been in charge for more than 10 years.

There also are a number of academic medical associations established on the basis of
professional specialisation, a list of which can found on the site of MOHP.62

Code of ethics

A professional code of ethics has been issued by ministerial decree no. 238/2003 governing
the practice of medical professions. Several of its provisions refer to torture, such as article 33,
which obliges the physician to inform relevant bodies of any injuries or incidents suspected of
criminal nature such as cases of gunshots or cuts or deep wounds, etc. in addition to writing a
detailed medical report of the condition at the time of examination. The physician may ask for
the help of a colleague in examining the case and preparing the report. Article 35 obliges the
physician in charge of the care of incarcerated subjects to provide them with the same level
and quality of health care as those who are not incarcerated. It forbids the physician to either
actively or passively participate in acts of torture and other forms of cruel or inhumane


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treatment, or to be complicit in or to incite such acts. It also forbids the physician to use
his/her professional knowledge or skills in interviewing the incarcerated in a way that would
harm their physical or mental health or to participate in any act that would limit their freedom
of movement unless this is dictated by known medical criteria aiming at the physical and/or
mental safety of the incarcerated. Article 34 entitles and obliges the physician to report to the
public prosecutor any aggression or violence he/she may be subject to during their
professional practice. At the same time physicians are required to inform their respective
syndicates as soon as possible, so that they might step in, and offer their support.

7.4 Rehabilitation of victims of torture

While several human rights organisations provide legal aid and legal counselling services to
victims of torture, El Nadim remains the only centre in the country which provides
psychological help. El Nadim also provides limited medical treatment through contacts with
other specialists and facilitates legal aid for victims. In addition, there is a limited number of
charity organisations (faith-based) which provide social and medical help to refugees and
asylum seekers and usually work in close collaboration with UNHCR-Cairo (e.g. All Saint's

Medical documentation of torture

Medical evidence is crucial to determining whether torture has been committed. Without
medical evidence or a forensic report, the Prosecutor General may block torture complaints
from proceeding to court, and thus survivors have little chance of receiving a proper
investigation of their claims, let alone a criminal prosecution. Also, access to specialists in the
Ministry of Justice department for forensic medicine requires referral by the Prosecutor General
or a court. During the interrogation the prosecutor has to examine the defendant or the victim
for any injuries. If present, these have to be documented in the files. If there are any
suspected, invisible injuries described by the victim the prosecutor has to try to examine them,
document the claims and refer the case for medical examination.

General physicians

In cases where the victim needs treatment for injuries, he/she is first referred to the nearest
public hospital within the geographical territory of the prosecution or the police station to
which the victim is affiliated. The treating doctor is asked to write a report describing the injury
and the duration of time required for treatment only. The police officer can also directly refer
the victim to a doctor in a hospital without having to ask for the permission of the prosecution.
This is, however, only the case when the accused is not a member of the public authority. In
some cases the police station sends victims of torture to hospitals when their condition
deteriorates for fear of their death at the police station. In those cases false explanations are
given to explain the different injuries.

The attitude of the prosecution differs according to the nature of the victim and the accused. If
the victim accuses another civil individual of the injury the prosecution is more permissive. It
allows the victim to seek medical examination on his own and he can later take the medical
report and personally deliver it to the office of the prosecution, which is a breach of the law.
In cases where the victim accuses a member of public authorities of inducing the injuries or of
torture the procedures are different. In that case, the victim is referred to hospital in the
company of guards appointed by the prosecution. The victim cannot receive the medical
report, which is directly sent to the prosecution or the investigating body. If the victim is not
incarcerated and goes to seek treatment, the law obliges the doctors to inform the relevant
bodies of all injuries of suspected criminal origin. Usually the nearest police station is informed
and the report is later referred to the prosecution.

The hospital to which the victim is referred may be a public or a university hospital. The victim
is admitted into the casualty department where he/she is treated as a case of emergency
requiring diagnosis and treatment. Victims are usually examined in the casualty room, which

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lacks privacy. The examination often takes place in the presence of police personnel
accompanying the victim, especially if the victim is incarcerated or detained. The resident
doctors carry out the examination and they may request the consultation of colleagues or
seniors in the same hospital in addition to requesting necessary investigations. The medical
report in this case is expected to describe the injury from the perspective of treatment,
specifying the necessary duration of treatment and the percentage of resulting disability, if

Forensic doctors at the forensic medicine administration are affiliated with the Ministry of
Justice, while prison doctors are affiliated with the Ministry of Interior. Physicians receiving
victims in general hospitals are affiliated with the Ministry of Health. While doctors should be
functioning independently, Ministry of Health doctors are frequently subject to pressures by
police authorities who accompany the victim throughout the examination.

Forensic doctors

If the victim does not need treatment, or after treatment is completed, the prosecutor may
refer the victim to be examined by the forensic administration. Also the victim or his/her
lawyer can ask for such a referral. Despite the importance of such requests and the
prosecution’s unlikelihood of its refusal, the prosecution sometimes denies such referrals,
especially in cases that involve state security intelligence. In case the referral does take place,
the victim is usually examined either on the same or the following day. The referral should be
accompanied by a summary of the case prepared by the prosecution in addition to any
previous medical reports, a description of the injury, the instruments used and an inquiry into
whether those injuries correspond to the victim’s story. Forensic authorities have no deadline
in submitting their reports.

Forensic reports

In general, the court can discard forensic reports, even if produced by the official forensic
authorities. In any case the forensic report is considered circumstantial and not solid evidence.
On the other hand the court can also accept forensic reports prepared by consultancy offices,
private offices or rehabilitation centres. The final decision remains with the court, which enjoys
wide authority. The forensic report can also be disputed, in which case the whole matter is
referred to a tripartite or 5-partite committee. Discrepancy between reports based on different
professional interpretations is not punishable. However, if evidence of falsification is provided
the doctor in question is referred to court on charges of falsification. In one such instance, a
prison inmate died and the prison doctor reported the death to be due to overdose of
narcotics. However, the prosecutor noticed signs of torture and referred the victim to forensic
authorities who confirmed the torture and denied any evidence of narcotic use. The doctor was
put on trial.

7.5 Notes on forensic medicine in Egypt

Legal framework

Law 96/1952 authorised forensic authorities to provide technical assistance to the judiciary. A
forensic department has been set up in affiliation with every partial court, and the Ministry of
Justice has outlined their terms of reference. The law permits forensic departments at courts of
appeal to affiliate branches of chemical, serological or other laboratories. It also orders the
formation of an administration for technical inspection of the different departments. The
administration is chaired by the Senior Forensic Inspector.

Organisational structure

There are four different forensic administrations. The first is the department concerned with
field work which carries out forensic examination of individuals. The second deals with issues
of rigging and forgery. The third involves the chemical laboratories testing for toxins, narcotics

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etc., and the fourth is the medical department in charge of examining tissue samples
(pathology), DNA, blood grouping, etc.

The office of the main forensic department is based in Cairo, close to Zeinhom morgue,
housing the office of the senior forensic doctor and his deputies and assistants. All
governorates in Egypt (except for three or four remote ones such as New Valley and Sinai)
have a forensic department. Remote governorates send their forensic cases to the nearest
governorate. There are five chemical laboratories, each serving four or five governorates, and
one Cairo-based medical laboratory, serving the whole country.

The Zeinhom morgue is the only morgue where forensic autopsies are carried out. In the
remaining governorates the forensic doctor goes to the respective hospital morgue to carry out
the autopsy there. These morgues are usually not well equipped, and doctors have to bring
along their own equipment.

At the central office of the forensic department in Cairo doctors of all specialties are available
for recruitment based upon needs of individual cases. In such cases the victim is referred to
them for examination.

Forensic doctors

There is a great shortage of forensic doctors in Egypt (only 143 in total). Sixty of those work in
other Arab countries, since Egypt constitutes the main source of technical assistance in that
regard, especially to Gulf countries. Appointment to the forensic administration is done through
an open advertisement for medical school graduates. Appointment is confirmed after a
personal interview. In the beginning of their career forensic doctors work as assistants to
already practicing forensic doctors, receiving six months of theoretical and practical training.
However, there is no specific curriculum for the training, which is mostly based on the personal
efficiency of the trainers. After three years of working as an assistant under the direct
supervision of a senior authority, the doctor is permitted to work independently. Promotion is
based solely on seniority and is not pending on any postgraduate degrees, higher studies,
research or trainings received; this situation does not encourage forensic doctors to pursue
higher levels in their education. Also the scarcity of forensic doctors makes it difficult for them
to register for postgraduate studies since the Ministry does not grant them the time needed to
pursue such studies.

There is no co-operation between forensic doctors at the official administration and their
counterparts at universities, despite the larger number of doctors present at the latter.
University forensic staff members are allowed to have their own, profit making consultancy
offices. Official forensic doctors tend to withhold information from them that could be useful in
court. Also, university education in forensic medicine is purely theoretical and, apart from
clinical autopsy of those deceased at the hospital, they lack any chance of practical experience.

Examination of cases and preparation of reports

Cases are referred by the prosecution to forensic authorities and are accompanied by a report
that describes the case: the story, the date of the assault, notes by the prosecutor, any earlier
medical reports, etc. The forensic doctor is expected to specify whether the injuries coincide
with the claims of the victim. Most victims referred for forensic examination are in police
custody or in prison and released inmates only rarely seek forensic consultation. The victim
arrives for examination escorted by guards appointed by the prosecution. Those guards are
frequently members of the police personnel in the territory of authority of the prosecutor’s
officer, who have been ordered to carry out the mission. In many cases, they come from the
same police station where the victim was tortured. Victims do not need a prior appointment to
be examined. The examination takes place immediately and the victim is returned to the place
of incarceration after the examination is completed.

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The examination takes place in a separate room. Police personnel are not allowed to be
present during the examination. The doctor listens to the story of the victim then carries out
the clinical examination. The offices are equipped with basic investigation equipment such as
normal x-rays. More sophisticated investigation equipment such as electromyograms or
eudiometry requires referral to public or nearby hospitals. In these cases, the prosecution
orders the investigations to be done with no expenses paid by the victim. Despite the presence
of specialists in the office of the senior forensic doctor, their consultation takes a long time and
most prefer to refer cases to public hospitals.

There is no special format for a forensic report, the preparation of which takes between two to
three weeks under normal circumstances. Doctors can easily request the opinion of colleagues
during this process. However, none of the forensic departments have modern equipment for
documentation, e.g. cameras. Cases that need examination of specimens in the laboratories in
Cairo may take months, since only one such lab exists in the country. Examinations only
include physical examination and do not take into consideration the psychological aspects of
torture. Furthermore, forensic doctors in general lack awareness of the psychological
consequences of torture. Victims are referred to a psychiatrist only if a mental disorder is
observed. The objective in those cases is to exclude or confirm a mental disorder. All reports
are revised by the doctor in charge in each department before they are sent out. The reports
are then sent back to the prosecution, with a copy kept in the archive of the administration.

The court has the right to demand a reconsideration of a case based on the forensic report, in
which case it appoints a committee of three forensic doctors from the same department or
asks for the involvement of the senior forensic doctor.

Theoretically speaking, forensic doctors enjoy independence since they fall under the Ministry
of Justice and not the Ministry of Interior. They do not, however, enjoy judicial impunity, which
leaves them subject to pressures and indirect threats.

7.6 The Istanbul Protocol (IP)

The Istanbul Protocol is almost totally unknown in Egypt. It might be mentioned in a few
research documents as one of the United Nations manuals for effective documentation of
torture and as a training document, but has not previously been used in training, not even for
human rights organisation professionals working with torture victims.

8. Trials carried out in relation to alleged torture

(including administrative and disciplinary bodies)
No reports documenting cases of torture allegations against officials, nor their outcomes, the
respective court decisions or punitive measures undertaken are prepared by any governmental
body, be it the Ministry of Interior or the Ministry of Justice. There is also no adequate
documentation of the number of complaints made, or the number of cases which are closed by
the prosecution and therefore never reach the court in the first place. In general, only a small
percentage of torture victims resort to filing a legal complaint, for fear of retaliation by their
torturers or because of their shame and lack of faith in any positive outcome of such a

The wide powers and authority enjoyed by the police allows them to exercise all forms of
pressure on the victims. While a complaint is being processed, whether the victim is free or
incarcerated, the accused officer remains in his post, exercising pressure and threats against
the victim or his/her family, sometimes even taking some family members as hostages to force
the complainant to withdraw the complaint. The concerned police personnel also have free
hands to manipulate the scene of the crime, any available evidence or to seek the help of
seniors, colleagues or even false witnesses to acquit themselves. Several times, an unexpected
inspection by the prosecution of police stations has revealed unaccounted for police reports,
narcotics, weapons and citizens incarcerated with no supporting legal documents.

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The victim also faces a wide range of legislation that obstructs access to justice. Article 62 of
the law of civil procedures restricts a complaint against a public official to the authority of the
prosecution, which answers to the public prosecutor appointed by the government. Also police
officers usually keep their victims incarcerated until the torture marks fade away. They rarely
keep a correct registration of citizens coming in and out of the police stations. Incarcerated
citizens are sometimes registered as summoned witnesses to bypass any questioning during
an inspection by the prosecution. The registration is then renewed every day to explain the
presence of those citizens in police stations.

In several cases, police officers prepare false indictments for their victims, which they back up
with false evidence. Some charges have led victims to imprisonment while their torturers were
enjoying freedom.

For victims to claim their civil right to compensation they have to provide evidence and
witnesses to the torture they have endured. Compensation is usually very low and is based on
the estimation of the judge, since there is no legal reference for estimation. Also Egyptian
courts tend to compensate for physical harm only, neglecting moral and psychological harm.

Punitive measures are determined according to law 109/1971. Such measures are pending on
a ministerial decision or a decision of the general inspection agency. Assuming the impartiality
of both bodies, their decisions are obstructed by long bureaucratic procedures. Punitive
measures against officers are to a great extent dependent on the decision of the prosecution,
which usually does not take such measures on its own. Egyptian human rights organisations
have documented several cases where officers, accused of torture more than once and in more
than one location, were not only permitted to stay in their positions, but were rewarded by
promotions upon their accusation.

9. Civil society63
To operate in Egypt as an NGO free of control and influence is not an easy task. There have
been laws restricting the work of NGOs and criminalising any “political” NGO activities since
1964 (Law 32 of 1964 which was renewed in 1999 as Law 153).64 Until 2002, however, many
NGOs were still able to carry out their operations by legally functioning as companies
registered under different provisions of Egypt’s civil law.65 With the new “NGO Law”, Law 84 of
2002, civil society was deprived of this possibility. According to the law, which passed through
the Shura Council on the 3 June 2002, all groups or companies who carry out NGO activities
must register with the Ministry of Social Affairs.66 The registration enables the government to
politically control all NGO activity in the country.67

The Ministry must approve all nominees to the board of directors of associations in advance of
their appointment (article 34) and NGOs cannot be affiliated with any international
organisations without prior approval of the Ministry (article 16). The Ministry can liquidate any
association - including seizing its property, confiscating its papers and freezing its assets - if it
violates certain conditions (article 42). Conditions which may lead to dissolution include:
allocating resources for a purpose outside the organisation’s mandate; joining any institution
or association outside of Egypt without prior permission from the authorities; accepting foreign
funding without prior permission; violating any aspect of the law; failing to call for a general
assembly meeting for two consecutive years; in addition to carrying out any of a list of
activities enumerated in article 11, which involves prohibition of any political or syndicate
activities, leaving both kind of activities without further specification, other than disturbing

More organisations working within the human rights field but not considered directly relevant for the Prevention through
Documentation project can be found in the Arab Human Rights Index at
“Mubarak plays pharaoh – Egypt’s new NGO law”, Human Rights Features July 2002 HRF/61/02
“Egypt’s new chill on Rights Groups” Human Rights Watch June 2003
“Mubarak plays pharao – Egypt’s new NGO law”, Human Rights Features July 2002 HRF/61/02

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public order. The dissolution of an association takes place through an administrative decree
and is conducted without judicial determination.68

Egyptian human rights organisations

Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary

8/10 Matnab El-Manyal Str, Manyal El-Roda
11451 Cairo
Tel: (202) 355 0871
Fax: (202) 594 2734, 362 0732

Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR)

Established in 1983, the organisation offers legal assistance to victims of human rights
violations based on complaints from individuals, groups and organisations.
91, Al-Marghany St. Heliopolis, Cairo
Tel: (20 2) 4181396 – 4188378
Fax: 4185346

Association for Human Rights Legal Aid (sometimes referred to as Association of

Legal Assistance on Human Rights)
The Association aims to raise awareness on human rights education amongst a vast majority
of the population and to provide legal assistance for victims of human rights violations.

Egyptian Association Against Torture (denied registration by the Ministry of Social

Affairs on the basis of article 11)
14, Ali Elkasar Street Azbakia, Cairo

Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR)

EOHR is one of the oldest NGOs, founded in 1985. It has 2,300 members nationwide, and 17
provincial branches located throughout Egypt. It is part of the international and Arab human
rights movement, granted special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and
Social Council in 2006. EOHR is also a member of five international organisations: the Arab
Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), L'Organization Mondiale Contre La Torture (OMCT),
Federation International Des Droits De L'Homme (FIDH), the International Commission for
Jurists (ICJ), and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). The organisation
is currently running campaigns against torture and inhuman prison conditions amongst others.
8/10 Mathaf El-Manial ST, 10th Floor, Manyal El-Roda
Cairo, Egypt
Tel: (202) 363 6811, 362 0467
Fax: (202) 362 1613

El Nadim Centre for Psychological Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of

The El Nadim Center for Psychological Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
provides medical and psychological rehabilitation to victims of torture and violence. Target
clients include victims of torture, victims of state violence, victims of rape and victims of
domestic violence. The El Nadim Center conducts educational programmes for health
professionals, lawyers and the media. Documentation activities include medical documentation,
legal documentation, a library and database. The centre collaborates with the IRCT and is a
member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress and the AMAN network.
3A, Soliman Al Halaby Street, Al Tawfikia, Cairo


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Tel: (202) 257 87089

Fax: (202) 257 76792

Hisham Mubarak Law Center

The centre was founded in 1995 under the name “The centre of human rights legal aid”. In
1999 it was divided into “The association of human rights legal aid” located in Alexandria, and
“Hisham Mubarak Law Centre” located in Cairo and Aswan. The centre seeks to use the
Egyptian court system to help victims of human rights violations and reform Egypt in
consistency with international human rights law.
1, Souq El Tawfikeyya St, 5th floor, Downtown Cairo
Tel: (202) 575 8908

Human Rights Centre for the Assistance of Prisoners

The Human Rights Centre for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRCAP) was established in 1997, as
a non-political, non-profit civil company. It aims to provide legal assistance to prisoners and to
advocate for the reform of prisons for them to become places of correction and rehabilitation.
9 Al Horaya Street , Tera’at El Sawahel
Embaba, Giza, Egypt
Tel: (202) 712 1656, 010 611 4621

Arab Network for Human Rights Information

The network is a central repository for human rights information and websites in Arabic
throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights is an Egyptian human rights organisation
established in 2002 to promote and defend the personal rights and freedoms of individuals.
8 Elbergas St., Garden city, Apt. 9
Cairo, Egypt
Tel: (202) 2794 3606
Fax: (202) 2796 2682

Egyptian Civil Monitor for Human Rights

The organisation aims to monitor civil and political human rights violations in Egypt,
networking with other civil society organisations with regard to service provision to victims of
human rights violations, training of individuals and NGOs regarding human rights principles
and development of qualified human rights lawyers.
36A El Komi street – El Sayyeda Zeinab
Tel: (202) 253 17268, 010 922 3559

El Horeyya Center for political rights and support of democracy

87 El Sheikh Rihan street – Abdin
Tel: (202) 239 59394

El Awn Association for Human Rights

Qalubeyya governorate – Shebin El Qanater – Midan El Nenaeyya
Tel: 010 424 2304, 013 271 5714

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Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression

Arabic website:
Tel: 012 653 2303, 302 575 8908

Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Development Studies (ICDS)

The Ibn Khaldoun Centre is a non-governmental institution, registered in Cairo since 1988.
ICDS has its own research, advocacy, and development programmes, but it also conducts
commissioned research, provides consultation and training services to governmental and non-
governmental organisations on issues of public policy. The Centre carries out supportive
activities related to its objectives, including organising seminars, conferences and the
publication and dissemination of information. ICDS seeks to become a focal point for national
and regional NGOs sharing its mission. For fifteen years since its establishment in 1988, ICDS
has undertaken more than 75 research projects, organised over 150 conferences, seminars
and workshops, and provided consultations to a number of prominent Egyptian, Arab and
international organisations.
Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies
17 St. 12, P.O. BOX 13, Mokattam
Cairo, Egypt
Tel: (202) 508 1617, 508 1030, 667 0974
Fax: (202) 667 0973

Legal Research and Resource Centre for Human Rights

The Centre was established in 1991 with the aim of creating a sensitive and well-informed
public on the issue of human rights. It aims at emphasising respect for legal sovereignty as
well as establishing the principles of human rights as set out in the international instruments.
7 Al-Higaz St., Roxi, Cairo
Tel: (202) 452 0977
Fax: (202) 259 6622

10. Media/journalists’ associations and the public

debate and media coverage of torture
Egypt has one press syndicate, the board of which is elected by its members. As opposed to
the doctors’ syndicate and the bar association not every journalist or mass media professional
is a member. Still the syndicate is one of few spaces of relative freedom where different
groups among journalists can organise independently.

The Committee for Liberties is an independent committee established within the press
syndicate by independent, mostly young journalists who are concerned with issues of human
rights and their violations in Egypt. While mainly concerned with issues related to freedom of
the press and expression and following up cases of violations against journalists, the
committee also has been active over the past three years in matters concerning human rights
violations in general.

Apart from the syndicate as an institution, opposition newspapers and independent press have
increasingly picked up the issue of torture and have provided coverage of many stories which
have stirred public opinion. A number of independent journalists also act as liaisons between
victims and NGOs seeking to help them. Recent months also have witnessed an increasing role
for Egyptian bloggers in disclosing and documenting stories of torture in police stations.

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11. Other relevant organisations/associations

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
The CIHRS is an independent regional NGO founded in 1994, aiming at promoting human
rights education. The institute develops and proposes policies, legislative and constitutional
alternatives conducive to the improvement of the human rights situation in the Arab region,
carries out educational courses, capacity-building, and develops knowledge and skills in the
field of democracy and human rights. CIHRS enjoys a consultative status in the United Nations
ECOSOC, and an observer status in the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The CIHRS is also a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and
the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX).

National Human Rights Council (NHRC)

The NHRC is headed by Boutrous Boutrous Ghali, and composed of university teachers and
international law experts, as well as three activists in the area of human rights. The council
was formed by the government and is still affiliated with the Shura Council Parliament. In
February 2004 it was boycotted by 15 human rights organisations, which refused to
collaborate as long as the Emergency Rule prevails. Later in 2004, however, the Council signed
an agreement with UNDP for capacity building. The project was also supported by the Dutch

12. International organisations

Delegation of the European Commission to Egypt
37, Gameat El Dowal El Arabiya Street , El Fouad Office Building, 11th Floor
Mohandesin Giza, Cairo
Tel: (202) 749 4680
Fax: (202) 749 5363

Embassy of Belgium
Ambassador H.E. M. Guy Trouveroy
20, Kamel El Shennawi Street; Garden City
11511 Cairo

British Embassy
HM Ambassador Sir Derek Plumbly, KCMG
7 Ahmed Ragheb Street
Garden City, Cairo

Royal Danish Embassy in Cairo

Ambassador Mr. Bjarne H. Sørensen
12, Hassan Sabri Street
11211 Zamalek

German Embassy
Ambassador Martin Kobler
2, Sh. Berlin, (off Sh. Hassan Sabri); Zamalek


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Royal Netherlands Embassy

Ambassador H.E Mr. Tjeerd de Zwaan
18, Hassan Sabri
11211 Zamalek, Cairo

Royal Norwegian Embassy

8 El Gezirah Street, Zamalek

Embassy of Sweden
Ambassador Mr. Stig Elvemar
13, Mohamed Mazhar Street
Zamalek, Cairo

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Egypt

Contact details:
1191 Corniche El-Nil St., World Trade Center
Tel: (202) 578 4840–6

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)

8 El Fawakeh Street, Mohandiseen,
Tel: (202) 762 1570-3

World Health Organisation (WHO)

Magles El Shaab St, Ministry of Health and Population

13. Other donors

Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation

The Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organisations (AGFUND)

14. List of relevant web links

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15. Literature list

Country Profile for Egypt 2005, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Egypt 2005, Bureau of Democracy, Human
Rights and Labour

Country Report, January–December 2005, Amnesty International

“Rhetorical Acrobatics and Reputations: Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights”, Joshua A.
Stacher, School of International Relations at ST. Andrews University, Middle East Report Online

“NHCR speaks out finally”, Al-Ahram Weekly, April 21-27 2005

“Egypt’s Torture Epidemic” – a briefing paper from Human Rights Watch, February 2004

“Prison conditions in Egypt”, Amnesty International 1997, AI Index: MDE 12/09/97

“Prison conditions and deaths in custody, Egypt”, Amnesty International 1999, AI Index: MDE

“Torture Record in the year of reform” – A Review by the Egyptian Association Against Torture,
June 2005

“In a time of torture”, Human Rights Watch Report, March 2004

“Egypt: Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct Exposes Torture Crisis”, Common Dreams

Newswire 2004

“Torture in Egypt – Facts and Testimonies”, El Nadim Centre for Psychological Healing and
Rehabilitation, 2003

“Black Hole – the fate of Islamists rendered to Egypt”, Human Rights Watch, May 2005

“Torture in Egypt is a reality”. Human Rights Centre for the Rights of Prisoners, 2001

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Egypt,

CAT/C/XXIX/Misc.4., 20. November 2002

The Egyptian Constitution

Law of judicial authority, no. 46/1972 and its subsequent amendments

Civil and commercial procedures law, no. 13/1968

Law of criminal procedures, no. 150/1950

Law for the organization of prisons no., 396/1956

Country co-operation strategy, WHO paper EM/ARD/011/E/R, 2005

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“Mubarak plays pharaoh – Egypt’s new NGO law”, Human Rights Features, July 2002

“Egypt’s new chill on Rights Groups”, Human Rights Watch, June 2003

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