Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)
Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

‘Report politically motivated’

Human Rights Watch’s most recent report on Egypt is met with pointblank denials, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

‘Report politically motivated’
‘Report politically motivated’

MPs and state officials teamed up this week to respond to New York-based Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) 5 September report which claimed “torture has become a systematic practice in Egyptian prisons.”

In a statement issued on Monday, parliament’s Human Rights Committee described the report as “flawed, politicised and unprofessional”.

“This report represents a stark intervention in the domestic affairs of Egypt and incites the international community to take punitive measures against the country,” reads the statement.

The committee went on to say that HRW’s report provided cover for terrorist organisations to mount more attacks against security forces.

“HRW issues flawed reports on a regular basis to exert pressure on officials in Egypt to reintegrate the Muslim Brotherhood into the political system,” says Human Rights Committee head Alaa Abed, a former security official. “But the Brotherhood will never return to power after the Egyptian people removed them from office in a popular uprising in 2013.”

The statement called for state institutions like the Foreign Ministry and the State Information Service and semi-official entities such as the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) to mobilise and highlight the real situation of human rights in Egypt.

“Egyptian embassies and information offices abroad should receive all the financial and logistical support necessary to refute reports issued by extremist liberal organisations like HRW,” said the statement.

“Organisations like NCHR which are permitted to inspect the human rights situation in prisons have not reported any incidents of torture,” said Abed. “Prisoners, including those affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, have never said they face torture or any other abuses.”

Abed said the New York-based HRW’s latest report had been timed to appear “just as Egypt is moving forwards economically and has begun to restore its influential role in the Arab region”.

“This politicised report is an attempt to sow divisions and bring chaos back to the country,” Abed said.

“The HRW report, for example, claims that torture is a systematic practice in the Interior Ministry’s headquarters in Lazoughly Square in downtown Cairo when we all know the ministry’s headquarters relocated to New Cairo a long time ago,” said Abed.

The Interior Ministry partially moved its headquarters to New Cairo in May 2016.

Abed called on human rights organisations to coordinate and issue “an objective and professional response to HRW’s accusations”, and cited HRW’s 7 September report in which it said that “rather than address the routine abuses in Egypt, the authorities have blocked website access to the report” (https://www.hrw.org) as another piece of misinformation.

“HRW’s website was never blocked. Everyone in Egypt has access to it. This claim underlines the politicised way in which HRW behaves,” said Abed.

According to Abed, “99 per cent of the complaints of torture and forced disappearances the Human Rights Committee received last year were based on incorrect information,” and investigation into the complaints revealed several members of the Muslim Brotherhood had not disappeared but fled the country to join terrorist organisations in Syria and Libya.

Mohamed Fayek, head of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), also dismissed any suggestion that torture has become a systematic practice in Egypt.

NCHR has repeatedly said there are no torture cases in Egyptian prisons or detention centres, said Fayek. He urged HRW not to publish reports without first verifying the information.

“NCHR’s policy is based on paying periodic visits to Egyptian prisons in coordination with the Interior Ministry. During the course of these visits prisoners are free to file any complaints which are then addressed,” said Fayek.

“We have never received complaints of torture during these visits.”

“NCHR maintains channels with the Interior Ministry to ensure police officers observe human rights and there is no torture at all in Egyptian prisons,” he said.

Fayek continued: “These reports aim to exert pressure for political reasons, and I urge all to ignore them and focus instead on fighting discrimination and reinforcing the principles of citizenship.”

“I urge those who claim they were tortured to lodge complaints with the prosecutor-general to investigate their complaints,” said Diaa Rashwan, head of the State Information Service (SIS).

“We should also uncover the sources of funding of HRW and other Western human rights organisations. This is important in understanding how they politicise their reports.”

The National Press Organisation (NPO) held a press conference on Sunday to respond the HRW report. NPO head Karam Gabr accused “some local human rights organisations” of providing HRW with flawed information.

Gabr also called for the Interior Ministry to allow “local media to pay visits to prisons to help refute claims about torture”.

“When I read HRW’s reports it feels like watching Al-Jazeera. Both are politically motivated against Egypt, defend the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam, and receive money from Qatar,” MP Margaret Azer, a member of the Human Rights Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

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