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Viewing cable 10CAIRO213, ACTIVIST URGES U.S DIPLOMATIC APPROACH TO THE GOE ON TORTURE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10CAIRO213 2010-02-17 13:01 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO5696
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0213/01 0481338
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 171338Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0290
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000213 
 
SIPDIS 
DRL FOR A/S POSNER 
FOR NEA, NEA/ELA AND DRL/NESCA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2035/02/17 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM KTIP EG
SUBJECT: ACTIVIST URGES U.S DIPLOMATIC APPROACH TO THE GOE ON TORTURE 
 
REF: 10 CAIRO 147; 09 CAIRO 2164; 09 CAIRO 2064; 09 CAIRO 451 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Stephen O'Dowd, Counselor, State, Economic and 
Political Affairs; REASON: 1.4(B), (D) 
 
1. KEY POINTS 
 
 
 
-- (C) Human rights activist XXXXXXXXXXXX told us February 10 he 
believes the top USG human rights priority in Egypt should be 
diplomatic approaches to urge the GOE to combat torture.  He 
recommended quiet diplomacy over public statements. 
 
 
 
-- (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX was pessimistic the GOE would pass human 
rights-related legislation besides a trafficking law before the 
2011 presidential election, but asserted that the GOE could be open 
to issuing a discreet order to stop torture 
 
 
 
-- (C) He described police torture as pervasive, and attributed it 
to senior-level Interior Ministry pressure on officers to extract 
confessions, especially in murder cases, by any means necessary. 
 
 
 
-- (C) He speculated that a change in Interior Ministry policy 
could have a positive effect on the rule of law, relations between 
the police and the public, and the overall human rights situation. 
 
 
 
2. (C) Comment:  XXXXXXXXXXX's suggestions, which focus on trying to change the GOE's political will through diplomacy, differ from 
other activists' recommendations for legislative changes to broaden 
the definition of torture (the law defines torture only in the 
context of extracting confessions) and increase the penalties.  In 
response to USG approaches on specific torture cases, the Interior 
Ministry has been defensive and has claimed that police brutality 
is highly unusual (reftels).  In the MOI's authoritarian power 
structure, an order from senior officials regarding police 
brutality could have a significant impact.  End comment. 
 
 
 
3. (C) On February 10, XXXXXXXXXXXX urged the U.S. to focus on quiet diplomatic approaches to the GOE on combating torture as our top human rights priority.  XXXXXXXXXXXX believed such diplomacy would be more successful than efforts on other human rights issues.  XXXXXXXXXXXXX advised that a series of discreet diplomatic approaches, as opposed to public statements, would be most effective in securing GOE agreement to combat torture.  He said he has been in contact with diplomats from EU countries to encourage them to make similar approaches to the GOE. 
 
 
 
4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX was pessimistic that the GOE would pass significant political legislation, other than the human trafficking law, before the 2011 presidential elections.  GOE discussions about lifting the State of Emergency and passing a counterterrorism law "are just a 
distraction," he maintained.  XXXXXXXXXXX asserted that MFA and NDP officials, as well as some journalists in the pro-government press, 
are embarrassed over the extensive use of torture, and want to see 
improvements.  He believed that a discreet order from the Interior 
Ministry to stop torture would have a powerful effect, and would be 
more effective than the passage of legislation expanding the 
definition of torture and increasing penalties, which the 
quasi-government National Council for Human Rights and independent 
NGOs have urged.  (Note:  A contact confirmed that on February 15 a 
parliamentary committee rejected legislation proposed by a Muslim 
Brotherhood-affiliated MP to increase prison terms for torture from 
the current 3-10 years to 25 years, and extend the definition to 
cover senior officers who order torture.  End note.) 
 
 
 
5. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the worst police torture takes place during murder investigations.  He said that his brother-in-law who 
is a police officer in the Delta Governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh 
described "unrelenting pressure" from superiors to solve murder 
 
CAIRO 00000213  002 OF 002 
 
 
cases by any means necessary.  XXXXXXXXXXX said human rights lawyers and XXXXXXXXXXXX have told him that to conduct murder 
investigations, police will round up 40 to 50 suspects from a 
neighborhood and hang them by their arms from the ceiling for weeks 
until someone confesses. 
 
 
 
6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX believed that a GOE political decision to stop 
pressuring police officers to solve crimes quickly by using torture 
if necessary would have far-reaching effects.  XXXXXXXXXXXX speculated 
that such a policy change could have a broad positive impact on the 
rule of law, the police's role in society and even political 
participation.  If the public's fear of the police waned, he noted, 
citizens would not be as afraid to enter police stations to report 
crimes, tell the police about their neighborhoods, or procure voter 
registration cards for the coming elections.  He said the current 
pervasive nature of torture began in the 1990's when the security 
forces were fighting Islamic extremists, and would be possible to 
reverse.  XXXXXXXXXXX recalled that the public respected the police in the 1980's, and he expected that with a policy change the GOE could 
restore a positive relationship between the public and the police. 
SCOBEY