Human rights remain in crisis in Egypt: HRW annual review

Human Rights Watch said in its annual review on Wednesday that human rights remained in crisis in Egypt in 2015.

In the introduction to the review of over 90 countries, HRW’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote “the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East…led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security.”

“Authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.”

While HRW acknowledged that the “threat to Egypt’s security is real,” particularly in troubled North Sinai, New York based rights group said that Egyptian “authorities have used torture, disappeared scores of citizens, banned many others from travel, and possibly committed extrajudicial killings.”

The Egyptian government has repeatedly criticised HRW reports.

In a June 2015 statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry said HRW does not have “credibility” among Egyptians, charging that the rights group has been “determined to promote lies and false information based on inaccurate, undocumented data.”

IThe government also argued that the organisation’s reports since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 have “targeted the Egyptian people and their will to achieve their aspirations.”

In their report, the group touched on the military intelligence’s brief detainment of journalist Hossam Bahgat for two days in November to question him on an investigative report he wrote on a an alleged foiled military coup attempt.

HRW also described the terrorism law, passed last August, as “so broad that it could encompass civil disobedience.”

In North Sinai, HRW said Egypt’s armed forces “forcibly evicted more than 3,000 families from a town on the border with the Gaza Strip, violating international law,” in reference to the city of Rafah.

The Egyptian government has said the relocation of Rafah residents was a necessary step to allow security forces to control the Egypt-Gaza and stop terrorist movement of personnel or weapons.  The government also provided monetary compensations to evicted families.

The report also criticised what it described as “enforced disappearances of political activists;” violation of the international right to freedom of movement by “preventing activists, politicians, and academics from travelling;” and the use of torture by police in their investigations.

HRW cited an incident that took place in July, when police shot dead nine Muslim Brotherhood members in a home raid, as evidence “[government] killings may have constituted extrajudicial executions.”

In that case, the Egyption ministry of interior maintains that it shot dead the Brotherhood members only after they opened fire at police personnel.

Egypt’s interior ministry has repeatedly maintained that it remains committed to upholding human rights values.

Listing a relatively positive development, HRW states that in December 2015, the authorities referred to trial several police officers suspected of involvement in a number of torture cases.

Courts have sentenced three of these officers to five years in prison in one of those cases. The sentence can still be appealed.

Source: Ahram Online