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Public figures denounce HRW report on alleged abuses in Egypt at parliament human rights cmte meeting

The committee said human rights organizations working in Egypt should issue a 'professional' response to HRW's report on Egypt

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 11 Sep 2017
Diaa Rashwan, head of the State Information Service (SIS) (Al-Ahram)
Diaa Rashwan, head of the State Information Service (SIS) (Al-Ahram)
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Egypt parliament's human rights committee denied in a meeting attended by various Egyptian officials and public figures on Monday that "torture has become a systematic practice in Egypt."

The meeting of the parliament's human rights committee was held to respond to last week's report by the New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on alleged human rights abuses in Egypt.

The head of the  State Information Service (SIS) and the head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) were among officials who attended the meeting to address HRW's accusations.

Head of the parliament's human rights committee Alaa Abed said "all institutions allowed to inspect the human rights situation in Egyptian prisons did not report any torture practices."

"Prisoners, including those affiliated with the outlawed group of Muslim Brotherhood, have even never said they face torture or any other abuses," said Abed.

Abed said HRW "politicized report on Egypt comes at a very crucial moment when the country has made many economic successes and begun to recover its influential role in the Arab region as an attempt to sow divisions and bring chaos to the country again."

Abed called upon human rights organizations in Egypt to issue a "unified" report on the situation of human rights in Egypt.

"This report should come as an objective and professional response to HRW's accusations," said Abed.

An official statement by the committee also said "state institutions like the foreign ministry, the State Information Service, and Egyptian embassies abroad should play a great role in responding to foreign reports on Egypt in a professional and regular way."

Diaa Rashwan, head of the State Information Service (SIS), said HRW's report on torture in Egypt was by no means well-documented.

"I urge those who claimed they were tortured to lodge complaints with the prosecutor-general," said Rashwan, adding that "he agrees that professional reports should be issued on human rights in Egypt to act as a professional response to HRW's flawed reports."

"We should also uncover the sources of funding provided to HRW and other Western human rights organizations because this is very important to understand how they politicize their reports," said Rashwan.

Rashwan said Egypt's State Information Service will issue a response to HRW's report in five languages.

"The response will be issued in a press conference on Monday afternoon," said Rashwan.

The HRW report that was released on Wednesday details alleged abuses used by Egypt’s interior ministry to gather information from political detainees.

Egypt's interior ministry has long denied subjecting any individual to torture in custody, stressing that such practices were “individual police violations.”

Deputy foreign minister Laila Bahaaeddin said "the foreign ministry's review of HRW's report concluded that it is a highly politicized report."

"When this report was issued on 5 September, the ministry found out that it contained a "politicised" introduction and included "fake" names of citizens who claimed they were tortured," said Bahaaeddin.

Bahaaeddin, however, urged Egyptian institutions not to give much attention to HRW's reports on Egypt. "We should rather focus on highlighting achievements and this will be the best response to such reports," said Bahaaeddin.

Mohamed Fayek, head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), said "Western periodical reports about systematic torture in Egypt are unfounded."

"There was torture and abuses in the past, but now I assure that there is no torture in Egyptian prisons," said Fayek, also indicating that "NCHR is now in constant contact with the interior ministry to make sure that police officers observe human rights and that there is no torture at all in Egyptian prisons," said Fayek.

Fayek also urged MPs and state authorities not to give much weight to HRW's reports. "These reports aim to exert pressure for political reasons, and I urge all to instead focus on fighting discrimination and reinforcing the principles of citizenship," said Fayek.

Dahlia Ziada, a human rights activist, said it is highly suspected that HRW receives funding from Qatar and political Islam movements like Muslim Brotherhood.

"Remember that HRW has even warned US president Donald Trump not to designate Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization," said Ziada.

Monsif Soliman, a member of NCHR, also indicated that "NCHR paid several inspection visits to Egyptian prisons, including El-Aqrab prison, to review the situation of human rights there."

"Even when we met with prisoners affiliated with the outlawed groups of Muslim Brotherhood, they denied in a recorded interview that they face torture and said they are well treated," said Soliman.

Soliman said NCHR's coordination with the interior ministry led to changing the regulations governing Egyptian prisons to go in line with international conventions on human rights.

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