Human rights allegations

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 30 Apr 2024

The US State Department’s 2023 human rights report makes unsubstantiated claims about human rights in Egypt, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

Moshira Khattab

 

The State Department’s reporting of human rights in Egypt reflects the double standards of the current US administration, claimed Tarek Radwan, head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

“This administration has released its report while turning a blind eye to Israel’s seven-month-long genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” he said, noting that the US administration had repeatedly used its Security Council veto to block resolutions demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas.

Radwan also noted that the report appeared days before the eruption of pro-Palestine student protests on US university campuses and the ensuing images, watched by millions around the world, of American police using brutal force to disperse and arrest protesters.

The “ludicrous and comic” report, said Radwan, is based on unsubstantiated claims and false information provided by NGOs with malicious agendas who fail to provide evidence for their allegations. The report completely ignores the state’s new strategy on human rights and makes no mention of major achievements enhancing religious freedoms or initiatives that have improved the lives of citizens, particularly in the areas of healthcare and social services.

Painting a “bleak picture”, the report claims that there were no significant changes in the human rights situation in Egypt in 2023, said Radwan, and ignores the fact that up to 1,500 political activists have been released from prison following recommendation from the National Dialogue. Radwan also questioned how it happened that, though representatives from the American embassy attended National Dialogue sessions, none of its reform recommendations made it into the report.

Radwan also objected to the report’s use of the word prisons, pointing out that Egypt had changed the term to rehabilitation and reform centres.

The report, mandated annually by Congress and put together by US embassy staff, was released on 22 April. It documents human rights in nearly 200 countries receiving US assistance and all United Nations member states.

The report claims that in 2023 Egypt saw significant human rights violations, including reports of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, harsh and life-threatening conditions in correctional facilities and arbitrary arrests and detention.

National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) President Moushira Khattab said in a TV interview that “NCHR is reviewing the US State Department’s 2023 report on the Human Rights situation in Egypt and aims to issue a detailed report in response.” She noted that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently welcomed progress on human rights in Egypt, particularly the pardoning of jailed activists.

While conceding that “we have challenges ahead,” Khattab deplored the report’s many mistakes. The report claims that “in 2023, Egypt saw significant human rights violations, including enforced disappearance.”

“While the NCHR received several complaints about forced disappearance after serious and thorough investigation we found most of the complaints were unsubstantiated or false,” she said.

The NCHR has 11 offices across Egypt where citizens can report human rights violations.

The report also cited domestic rights groups alleging that the authorities regularly used pretrial detention and preventive detention against individuals involved in human rights advocacy or who criticized government policy.

Radwan notes that in 2023 President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi regularly exercised his constitutional power to pardon pretrial detainees, and that the House of Representatives is expected to discuss legislative amendments reducing the period of pretrial detention following recommendations from the National Dialogue.

In March, a parliamentary-judicial committee approved a draft of the new Code of Criminal Procedures, adding and amending key provisions including a ceiling on pretrial detention and more stringent regulations on the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes.

MP Alaa Abed, former chair of parliament’s Human Rights Committee, said the US State Department’s 2023 report once again reflected misinformation disseminated by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, especially when it came to pretrial detention, forced disappearance and the treatment of so-called political prisoners.

He believes US reports on human rights in general reflect a radical liberal viewpoint that “only leads to chaos and disruption because it ignores national security considerations”.

The goal of US State Department reports on human rights is clear, he says: it is to give America a pretext to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, particularly those critical of American foreign policy and its blanket support of Israel.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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