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The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

An appeal to the President of the Republic

Those Responsible for the Events of Al-Kosheh Must Pay the Price

Cairo, 9 November 1998

On 14 August 1998, a murder took place in Al-Kosheh village, Suhag. The
following day, security forces from the governorate arrested hundreds of
men, women, elderly, and children suspected to have connections with the
crime. They were subjected to the most heineous and predominant methods of
torture used by the police in Egypt, such as being suspended for long hours
in the air, being tied up in difficult positions similar to that of a
slaughtered animal to increase the pain, jumping brutally on the bodies
lying on the floor causing some of them to empty their bowels
involuntarily, beating with hands, feet and other means, and administering
electric shocks in different parts of the body, including the genitals. The
last mentioned form of torture was applied even to boys and girls,
sometimes in front of their brothers and sisters.

[The details, documented with names and ages of the victims and the names
of a number of the officers who committed these brutal crimes, are included
in EOHR's report entitled "Collective punishment in Al-Kosheh village -
Random arrest, torture and degrading treatment of citizens", issued on 28
September 1998.]

Following the crime, the Public Prosecution made investigations into the
events and into the instances of torture. It examined the signs of torture
and confirmed some of them in its reports. This means that information
about the barbaric crimes committed against Egyptian men, women and
children was available to the Public Prosecutor and the Ministry of the
Interior for a long time. After twelve weeks, the Interior Minister
considered it sufficient to transfer a number of police officers from Suhag
in order not to influence the investigations.

During all this period of shameful silence, Egypt was the focus of the
foreign media. Some of them exaggerated the events to turn the threats of
rape or sexual harassment into actual rape, and the hanging into
crucification. Given that the majority of residents of Al-Kosheh village,
and the majority of those arrested and tortured, are Christians, the events
were reported in the context of accusing the authorities of practicing
religious persecution against Christians in Egypt. Such situation would
have been avoided if the officials of the Public Prosecution and the
Ministry of the Interior had carried out their duty by taking the
appropriate legal steps at the right time, and if the local media had
fulfilled its minimum professional and national responsibility towards the 
dignity of its people. The very issuance of the mentioned EOHR report
should have been enough to refute the allegations on religious persecution,
unless the ultimate aim of the above mentioned officials is to cover up the
crimes committed by police officers whatever the price might be, even if it
was at the cost of the dignity of the Egyptian people and the country's

The EOHR warned in its above mentioned report that "the failure of the
competent authorities to hold accountable those members of the security
forces responsible for the grave violations of the rights of hundreds of
citizens in Al-Kosheh village may open the door for the wide misuse of the
events and their depiction as a form of persecution and discrimination
against Coptic citizens." However, nobody listened to  the warning.

In fact, what urged the signing human rights organizations to issue this
appeal was not what was disseminated by some foreign press, but rather
their astonishment at seeing the strong nervous shock suffered by the
State's bodies of an old country like Egypt merely for the publication of
an article or more in a foreign newspaper. In the meantime, these bodies
were not moved by the actual barbarous crimes committed against their
people in the mentioned village.  Instead of proceeding to take the legal
measures provided by the Constitution, the law and human rights standards
and hold accountable those who procrastinated in taking  such actions, they
put all their efforts in organizing media campaigns inside and outside
Egypt to face a fabricated danger that would supposedly harm the 'nation',
as if Egypt or 'the nation' was an abstract identity that could have
meaning without its citizens, or perhaps at the expense of the dignity and
the physical safety of its citizens.  Unless torture is an adopted policy
and a recognized method during interrogations, the Minister of Interior is
required to explain to the public opinion why he did not investigate the
officers responsible for the events of Al-Kosheh in spite of the elapse of
three months since the occurrence of the crimes.

The public opinion, which was surprised by some of the decisions taken by
the Public Prosecutor in the last month, has the right to receive an
explanation about the stance of the Public Prosecution in these crimes, and
to know if they will be disregarded like hundreds of previous incidents of
torture, a negligence that led the international community to put Egypt  as
an example of a country where torture is 'a crime without punishment.'

With this appeal, the signatories aim to call upon the President of the
Republic, as the head of the executive, to set up a committee to refer
those responsible for the events of Al-Kosheh village to the judiciary, and
to hold accountable the senior officials who were accomplices in the
crimes. In addition, those responsible must apologize to the people of the
village for the collective punishment and torture to which they were
subjected, and compensation must be given to them for the material,
physical and psychological damage suffered. Finally, they should apologize
to the Egyptian public opinion for the harm inflicted to the Egyptian
people and to the country's reputation.

Also, the signatories appeal to the People's Assembly to form a
fact-finding committee to investigate the incidents of torture included in
the reports issued by Egyptian human rights organizations in the past
years, and to take the proper measures in the light of the results of the
committee to put an end to the practice of torture in police stations and
places of detention. In this regard, the signing organizations appeal to
the Assembly to review article 63, paragraph three, of the Code of Criminal
Procedure in order to enable victims of torture to bring direct lawsuits
against officers accused of torture and ill-treatment.

This year, civilized countries compete to celebrate the 50th anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to present themselves to the
whole world in the best image possible. These celebrations will see their
peak on 10 December 1998. By disregarding the dignity of their people, the
officials of the State's bodies have contributed to present Egypt in the
worse image possible.

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights is an important occasion to renew Egypt's commitment to
respect human rights and to prove that the dignity of its people is a
priority. It is also an opportunity to reach a national accord based on
actual respect of human rights principles.

Signing organizations:

Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Group for Democratic Development (GDD)
Center for Human Rights Legal Aid (CHRLA)
Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRCAP)
Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession
Arab Program for Human Rights Activists (APA)

Other EOHR Press Releases
EOHR || Human Rights in Egypt

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This document is published online by Derechos Human Rights. Derechos works against violations to human rights and humanitarian law all over the world.