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Egypt has complied with international law in Sinai: Cabinet

The cabinet's statement comes on the same day Human Rights Watch released a report criticising the treatment of residents in North Sinai whose houses were demolished

Ahram Online , Tuesday 22 Sep 2015
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File photo: Egyptian army near Al-Arish in the Sinai peninsula (Photo: Reuters)
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Egypt has complied with international human rights law and has consulted with local residents while combating terrorism in Sinai, Egypt's new cabinet said in a press statement on Tuesday.

The statement, which sums up the efforts of the Egyptian government in Sinai over the past two years, said that residents subject to compulsory evacuation in North Sinai were surveyed to find out their preferred method of compensation.

The cabinet's statement came on the same day Human Rights Watch claimed that "the mass home demolitions and forced eviction of about 3,200 families in the Sinai Peninsula …violated international law."

The US-based rights watchdog said in a report that Egypt can "certainly protect itself from the insurgency and take action against the insurgents’ supply lines…in a way that does not arbitrarily harm civilians and violate their right to housing and their protections during forced evictions.”

For the past two years, Egypt has been combating a spike in a decade-long Islamist militant insurgency in North Sinai.

As part of its strategy to eliminate terrorism, the government evicted over 1,000 families and destroyed many houses, with the aim of creating a 1km-deep buffer zone along Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian forces have also been destroying underground tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, which they say are used by militants to smuggle weapons into Egypt.

The cabinet statement added that the majority of the surveyed citizens who were evicted from their homes to create the buffer zone wanted their compensation in the form of cash, while a minority preferred replacement land and housing.

The infrastructure of New Rafah, designed to replace the parts of the city of Rafah which were demolished to create the buffer zone, is currently being completed to absorb all those citizens who want to move there, the statement added.

The statement also said that security forces adhered to “the principle of not opening fire on a potential threat unless the source of threat imminently threatens security forces."

Human Rights Watch argued that, based on interviews with North Sinai citizens, Egyptian authorities had "provided residents with little or no warning of the evictions and no effective way to challenge their eviction, home demolition, or compensation."

The Human Rights Watch report also argues that Egypt has failed to use sophisticated tunnel-detecting technology, on which Egyptian personnel have been trained by the United States, in order to find and eliminate tunnels without destroying as many homes and buildings.

Cairo has repeatedly called Human Rights Watch's reports on the post-Morsi situation in Egypt biased.

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