Egyptian MPs slam 'flawed' Human Rights Watch report on alleged abuses in Egypt

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 11 Sep 2017

Egyptian Parliament (Reuters)
Egyptian Parliament (Reuters)

The head of the Egyptian parliament's human rights committee Alaa Abed said on Saturday that the committee will hold a meeting on Monday to respond to a recent report the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleging widespread torture by Egyptian police and national security officers.

Abed said the meeting was scheduled after many MPs complained that HRW's report, issued on 5 September, contained "a lot of lies that aim to defame the image of Egypt."

"This new flawed HRW report represents another episode in this organisation's systematic policy of hostility towards the state of Egypt," said Abed.

"Not only is this flawed report politicised, but it serves the agenda of certain countries and political Islamist movements that are fond of lying about the human rights situation [in Egypt]."

"The HRW and several Western media outlets also lied when they claimed yesterday that the Egyptian government responded to the organisation's report by blocking [the HRW] website," Abed said.

"This is another lie that shows how biased they are."

On Saturday, several Egyptian newspapers quoted government sources who dismissed HRW's claim that its website was blocked in Egypt.

The pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat cited Egyptian authorities as insisting that "anyone can access HRW's website and it is by no means blocked."

Abed said that parliament's human rights committee will review HRW's report and respond to its accusations.

Abed revealed that the meeting will be attended by head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) Mohamed Fayek; chairman of the State Information Service and director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) Diaa Rashwan, and the deputy foreign minister for foreign organisations.

"We hope that during this meeting we can formulate a new strategy to stand up to extremist Western human rights organisations that insist on issuing politicised and flawed reports on Egypt," said Abed.

In its 63-page report, HRW said that "torture has become a systemic practice in Egypt."

Two days after the report was released, HRW said that "rather than address the routine abuses in Egypt, the authorities have blocked website access to its report."

Abed said that "HRW's claim that its website was blocked shows how its reports are based on media rumours and flawed information. It also reflects how this organisation is ready to repeat lies and how its reports are formulated in a non-professional and politicised way."

Abed said that HRW receives funding from Qatar, which is the world's greatest sponsor of radical Islamist movements.

"After the Muslim Brotherhood regime was removed from Egypt in a popular uprising in 2013, HRW was mobilised to attack the new regime in Egypt with periodical reports based on flawed information," said Abed.

On 8 September, NCHR head Fayek dismissed in a statement the notion that "torture has become a systemic practice in Egypt."

"The NCHR has repeatedly indicated that there are no torture cases in Egyptian prisons and detention centres," said Fayek, urging HRW to be more “professional in its reports on human rights in Egypt.”

"I urge HRW not to publish reports on Egypt without first verifying information and listening to all kinds of sources to ensure that its reports are more professional and precise," said Fayek.

Fayek said that he has sent a message to HRW to "shed light on points listed in its report."

"The NCHR pays periodical visits to Egyptian prisons in coordination with the interior ministry, and during these visits the NCHR receives complaints from prisoners so they can be addressed."

"The conclusion from these visits, as we have indicated in all our previous reports, is that torture is not a systematic practice in Egypt, and if we receive any complaints in this respect, we open investigation into them at once," said Fayek.

Fayek said that the NCHR's upcoming annual report will represent a comprehensive review of the human rights situation in Egypt in 2017.

"The report will document human rights conditions in Egypt in 2017 in an honest way, reporting all kinds of violations and how the government has responded to them," said Fayek.

Tarek Radwan, the deputy head of parliament's foreign relations committee, insisted that "HRW's reports are politicised and lack professionalism."

"If HRW decides to write a report on the human rights situation in Egypt, it should do this in a professional way; by receiving information from both independent and government sources," Radwan told Ahram Online.

"A professional report should publish accusations as well as the government's responses, but what we see is that HRW's reports are based on information from certain activists who are by no means independent or unbiased," said Radwan.

Radwan also complained that HRW's report “mixes human rights with politics.”

"When you read this report, you clearly notice that HRW takes a hostile attitude against the government in Egypt, and this makes it clear that its reports are politically motivated," said Radwan.

"HRW's use of terms like ‘the military coup in Egypt’ and its clear defence of the Muslim Brotherhood strip its reports of neutrality and objectivity."

Margaret Azer, a Coptic MP and a member of parliament’s human rights committee, told Ahram Online that "reading HRW's reports feels like watching Al-Jazeera channel."

"Both are politically motivated against Egypt, defend the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam, and receive money from Qatar," said Azer.

"If HRW has access to informed sources about the human rights situation in Egypt, why they did not publish a single report on the hundreds of policemen who were tortured and killed by terrorist organisations affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood."

Abed said that the meeting on Monday will discuss HRW's report point-by-point.

"We will review its claims on forced disappearance and torture," said Abed, adding that "99 percent of the complaints the committee received last year on forced disappearance were unfounded."

"The committee's investigation into these complaints showed that 99 percent [of the alleged victims] had joined different terrorist organisations inside and outside Egypt and had not disappeared as these complaints claimed," said Abed.

"The Muslim Brotherhood and HRW invented the expression ‘forced disappearance’ to give cover to [the Brotherhood’s] militants who left Egypt to join jihadist organisations like Daesh and Jabhat Al-Nusra in Libya, Syria and Iraq, or are in Egyptian prisons pending trial on terrorism charges."

Abed said the foreign ministry should seize Monday's meeting as an opportunity to move more aggressively against HRW.

"We will ask foreign ministry officials to file a complaint against HRW with the UN human rights council, which is revising Egypt's human rights situation objectively on a regular basis," said Abed.

"We also expect that the State Information Service will be more active in responding to HRW and Western media's systematic hostile campaigns and reports against Egypt." 

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