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
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