Egyptian parliament's human rights committee begins 'surprise visits' to police stations

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 19 Sep 2017

The committee will begins visits to police station holding cells and prisons, particularly those where torture has been reported

File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)

A delegation of MPs affiliated with the Egyptian parliament's human rights committee began on Tuesday paying field visits to a number of police stations and prisons in Cairo and Giza.

Alaa Abed, the head of the committee, told reporters that the visits reflect the committee's role in supervising the performance of police officers and ensuring that human rights are fully observed in police stations and prison cells.

"The visits will in particular focus on police stations and prison cells where some torture cases were reported," said Abed.

The delegation includes Margaret Azer, Manal Maher, Abu Bakr Gharib, Hayam Halawa, Ahmed Youssef, and Abu Sobhi El-Dali.

Azer told Ahram Online that the parliamentary delegation began on Tuesday by visiting El-Warraq district police station in Greater Cairo.

"There were violent clashes between the residents of El-Warraq and policemen two months ago," said Azer.

“We want to make sure that citizens who were detained following these clashes receive good treatment."

Azer revealed that the committee's visits will also include orphanages.

"We got several reports from the media and independent lawyers that there was a lot of abuses in some orphanages and child care centres and we want to review conditions there," said Azer.

Abed indicated that the committee's visits to a number of police stations last year resulted in improving performance and imposing discipline.

"For example," said Abed, "following a visit to East Cairo's El-Ameriya police station last year, a police officer suspected of torturing a Christian citizen – Magdi Makeen – was referred to trial," said Abed, adding that "the committee also visited Fayoum prison in Upper Egypt after some torture cases were reported there."

Abed explained that the visits will continue on Wednesday and Thursday.

"I want to stress that these are ‘surprise visits’ because police stations do not have notice in advance," said Abed, adding that " this differs from visits to prison cells, which require that you must get prior permission from the interior ministry, in accordance with prison regulations in Egypt."

Abed said the first group of visits this week will focus on police stations in densely populated districts in four governorates: Cairo, Giza, Alexandria and Assuit.

"At the end of the visits we will prepare a report to be discussed by parliament in a plenary session and in line with Egypt's 2014 constitution which gives the committee and the National Council for Human Rights primary roles in observing respect for human rights in Egypt," said Abed.

Abed said in general the committee wants to send a message that "performance of police officers and respect of human rights are strictly observed by the Egyptian parliament, as well as independent human rights groups and civil society organisations."

Western visits

Abed revealed that the Committee will also make visits to a number of Western cities in the USA and Europe next October or November. "We plan to visit New York and Washington in the US, Geneva in Switzerland, and Brussels in Belgium to meet with a number of human rights organizations based in these cities," said Abed, explaining that "the visits aim to meet officials there to give them detailed response to a recent report in which the New York-based Human Rights Watch alleged that torture has become a systematic practice in Egypt."

According to Abed, the committee will hold meetings with the European Parliament's Human Rights Committee, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and human rights committees in parliaments in Italy, Germany and England.

"We have friendship associations with MPs in these countries and we will use them to expose facts about the human rights situation in Egypt," said Abed.

Abed said Egypt’s parliament has already filed a complaint against Human Rights Watch with the Geneva-based Inter-parliamentary Union. 

"In its politicised and flawed report, HRW alleged that parliament's human rights committee is being manipulated by security apparatuses in Egypt," said Abed, adding that "for this reason, we asked the Inter-Parliamentary Union to open an investigation into this allegation and to question HRW's officials who propagated this lie."

"We know who gives HRW this flawed information for political reasons," said Abed, adding that "HRW receives $250 million in funding every year, with most of this money coming from Qatar and Muslim Brotherhood offices in Turkey and some European capitals." 

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