Home > EGY Leaks > WikiLeaks: US reported ‘routine’ police brutality in Egypt

WikiLeaks: US reported ‘routine’ police brutality in Egypt


Torture widely used against criminals, Islamist detainees, opposition activists and bloggers, embassy cables suggest

Police brutality in Egypt is “routine and pervasive” and the use of torture so widespread that the Egyptian government has stopped denying it exists, according to leaked cables released today by WikiLeaks.

The batch of US embassy cables paint a despairing portrait of a police force and security service in Egypt wholly out of control. They suggest torture is routinely used against ordinary criminals, Islamist detainees, opposition activists and bloggers.

“The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders. One human rights lawyer told us there is evidence of torture in Egypt dating back to the time of the pharoahs. NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone,” one cable said.

Under Hosni Mubarak’s presidency there had been “no serious effort to transform the police from an instrument of regime power into a public service institution”, it said. The police’s ubiquitous use of force had pervaded Egyptian culture to such an extent that one popular TV soap opera recently featured a police detective hero who beat up suspects to collect evidence.

Some middle-class Egyptians did not report thefts from their apartment blocks because they knew the police would immediately go and torture “all of the doormen”, the cable added. It cited one source who said the police would use routinely electric shocks against suspected criminals, and would beat up human rights lawyers who enter police stations to defend their clients. Women detainees allegedly faced sexual abuse. Demoralised officers felt solving crimes justified brutal interrogation methods, with some believing that Islamic law also sanctioned torture, the cable said.

Another cable, from March 2009, said Egypt’s bloggers were playing an”increasingly important role” in society and “in broadening the scope of acceptable political and social discourse”. There had been a significant change over the past five years, it said, with bloggers able to discuss sensitive issues such as sexual harassment, sectarian tensions, the military and even abortion.

At the same time, a clampdown by the Egyptian government and other repressive measures meant bloggers were no longer a “cohesive activist movement”. In 2009, an estimated 160,000 bloggers were active in Egypt, writing in Arabic and sometimes English. Most were 20-35 years old.

Bloggers now appear to be at the vanguard of this week’s anti-Mubarak demonstrations, which led to the government switching off internet access. One woman had told the Americans, presciently, that the blogging community was bereft of “compelling and achievable political causes” but would play a crucial role “during the eventual succession”.

The WikiLeaks cables also shed intriguing light on the US’s staunch relationship with Egypt, its closest Arab ally. They show US diplomats concerned about the country’s woeful human rights record and keen to promote an agenda of democratic reform and greater political pluralism. There appears to have been little progress on these goals.

Source: WikiLeaks via The Guardian UK

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