CAIRO: Assault complaints brought by prisoners against police officers are continuing to attract widespread media attention, but human rights groups are insisting that their cases are being ignored by investigators.
“It is illogic for the Interior Ministry to deny such complaints … their role is to open investigations to check the validity of the incidents,” the head of the Arab Organization for Penal Reform Mohamed Zarea told The Cairo Post on Monday.
Zarea’s statement came in response to the Interior Ministry’s denial of a report by The Observer Saturday about two male prisoners being sexually assaulted in custody.
Minister of Interior assistant for media affairs Abdel Fatah Osman told Youm7 Sunday that the allegations were “groundless” and “rumors” meant to defame the image of police officers. He added that an investigation had proved neither detainee in question had been exposed to such assault.
The British newspaper had reported that the two prisoners, Omar al-Shouekh and Fady Samir, said they faced sexual assault including torture with shocks to the genitals, beating and penetration of the anus.
“It is normal that the Interior Ministry denied the assaults, as it does every time,” Samia Jaheen, a member of the Freedom for the Brave campaign, told The Cairo Post.
She added that the campaign verified the claims in the Shouekh case by contacting his family and lawyer. They were confirmed as true, she said.
Since there is no evidence for such sexual assaults, Jaheen added, “After contacting families, lawyers and the victims themselves, we consider the complaints real until there are investigations that discount them.”
The campaign also sends reports to the Forensic Medicine Authority and the Attorney General to investigate complaints, “but nothing happens,” she said.
“Most of the complaints received by the campaign reported being tortured through ripping their clothes, beaten, throwing water on them, electric shock, using fingers or sticks to beat their genitals or penetrate their asses,” Jaheen said.
She added, “And this is rape.”
Other human rights advocates said such acts are practiced in police stations but are not considered “full rape” and only “sexual assaults.”
For male prisoners, Zarea said police officers use sexual and brutal assaults as a form of pressure and humiliation, and all the cases he received were sexual assault and not “full rape” by police officers.
Zarea added that rape involving the penetration of a penis to the anus of a male prisoner by a police officer has not occurred in the cases he received, but there have been such cases reported among prisoners in their cells.
“Homosexuality increasingly appears among male prisoners in the same cell, as they are being detained for a long time. Some of the incidents happen with the consent of both prisoners, while other cases are rape,” he said.
He continued, “Indecent assaults against prisoners frequently exist in police custody, like putting sticks in their asses, beating them on their genitals, rape threats, molestations, dressing male prisoners in female clothes.”
He described the Interior Ministry “as the tool of the existing authority,” and claimed that after the January 25 Revolution such assaults “disappeared for awhile,” and then returned under the regime of Mohamed Morsi to target “civil powers, while now it targets both civil and Islamic powers.”
Most recently, activists Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Doma were beaten by the police for 30 minutes, said Doma’s wife, Nourhan Hefzy, on March 10 in a post on her Facebook page.
Zarea referred to the return of police brutality in terms of the new draft amendments to the “counter-terrorism” articles in the penal code, which provides the police the authority to implement their work by any means.
“The latest case we received was for a student detained during the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, who claimed being raped by officers in the police station,” a source from the National Council for Human Rights, who requested anonymity, told The Cairo Post.
The source noted that the council received similar complaints from the families of Muslim Brotherhood prisoners who face assaults in police stations.
The head of the National Association for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms Waleed Farouq said Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian and Mohamed el-Beltagy claimed last November that they were raped during their detention, but the Forensic Medicine Authority denied their claims.
It is difficult to determine the numbers of cases of prisoners who were subject to assaults during their detention, because so many have been detained recently, he said.