Last edited: March 27, 2004

Group Urges Egypt to Prove Reform by Ending Torture

Reuters, March 1, 2004

CAIRO—An international human rights group called on Egypt Monday to show its commitment to reform by combating systematic torture by security agencies of victims including men suspected of homosexual activities.

“The Egyptian government says it is committed to reform on its own without outside prodding. A very good way for the government to demonstrate it ... would be to end the practice of torture,” Human Rights Watch said in Cairo.

The group unveiled a report on the torture of homosexual men and an Arabic version of an earlier report on torture of people who demonstrated against the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Egyptian officials have said Egypt investigates reports of torture and prosecutes perpetrators.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the rights group, said higher authorities tolerate the use of beating, whippings and electric shocks by Egyptian security to extract confessions.

The report chronicles the experiences of men suspected of homosexuality hung upside down by the ankles and beaten on the soles of their feet and others subjected to anal examinations.

“They took telephone wire and wrapped it around my fingers, my toes, my ear, my penis. It was connected to a kind of telephone they cranked up by hand to produce the shocks and it was like death,” said a man identified only as Gamal.

Homosexuality is a deep-seated taboo in Egypt, a conservative Arab country of about 70 million people.

The New York-based group urged a number of steps it said the Egyptian government should take to ensure Egyptians without the “right” contacts are not systematically subjected to abuse.

“One cannot make exceptions for unpopular victims,” said Roth. “When you permit torture for unpopular victims, you permit a cancer to spread that increases the risk for all Egyptians.”

President Bush last year challenged Egypt to adopt democracy, a rare criticism of one of its close allies.

In a joint statement following talks last week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia said the Arab world was undergoing its own process of reform and would reject change imposed from outside.

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