Since July 2013, when Egypt’s military overthrew the country’s first freely elected president, torture has returned as the calling card of the security services, and the lack of punishment for its routine practice has helped define the authoritarianism of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s administration.
Al-Sisi’s pursuit of political stability at any cost has granted the country’s chief domestic security institution, the Interior Ministry, a free hand, perpetuating the same abuses that fueled the 2011 uprising.
The Interior Ministry’s regular police and its National Security Agency have used widespread arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and torture against perceived dissidents, many of them alleged members or sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Sisi’s primary political opposition. The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), an independent human rights group, has identified 30 people who died from torture while being held in police stations and other Interior Ministry detention sites between August 2013 and December 2015. In 2016, the ECRF reported that its lawyers received 830 torture complaints, and that another 14 people had died from torture in custody.
The US and European nations now face a quandary, either to continue backing Sisi’s murderous rule and become more and more associated with it as time goes on (as if they aren’t already), or insist that the country reforms, in which case a suppressed rage in the country will duly spring up to cause widespread chaos. This will happen anyway – eventually. Reconciliation will not be possible.