U.S. State Department criticises human rights situation in Egypt

Thursday 14-04-2016 03:26 PM

U.S. State Department logo - Photo from official Facebook page

CAIR0, Apr. 14 (Aswat Masriya) – The U.S. State Department crticised Egypt's human rights record in its 2015 Human Rights Practices report released Wednesday, highlighting restrictions on academic freedom and civil society as well as the impunity for security forces.

US officials visited Egypt twice in the past two weeks as Congress members met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and other senior figures to discuss shared interests.

"The most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties," the report read.

The State Department elaborated that "unlawful killings and torture" were among the facets of the excessive use of force by security forces. While the due process problems included the "excessive use" of pre-trial detention, civilians being tried in military courts and mass trials conducted without adequate evidence.

Meanwhile, the report affirmed the legitimacy of the parliamentary elections that took place in Egypt last October through December. It cited domestic and international observers who have concluded that government authorities administered the parliamentary elections professionally and in accordance with the country’s laws.

The election of the parliament marked the final step in Egypt's transitional roadmap put in place following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013. 

The report also recounted other human rights problems including "disappearances; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests…limits on religious freedom," and official corruption.

Likewise, the World Report 2016 issued by Human Rights Watch in January said Egyptian police officers were "responsible for dozens of enforced disappearances, often targeting political activists." 

The Egyptian interior ministry has denied, on a number of occasions, the existence of any cases of enforced disappearance or torture. However in mid-January, the ministry disclosed the whereabouts of over 100 people who were allegedly forcibly disappeared in response to an inquiry by the National Council for Human Rights. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern last month over what he described as the deteriorating condition of human rights in Egypt following its decision to reopen investigation into the NGO foreign funding case.

The case dates back to 2011 when Egyptian authorities raided several NGOs and launched an investigation into allegations of receiving foreign funds. Forty-three Egyptians and foreigners were convicted in the case in 2013. At the time Kerry described the case as being "politically motivated".

The State Department report mentioned that until November, Egypt's Ministry of Social Solidarity closed 545 NGOs mostly for their alleged connection with the now banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

The Brotherhood was banned by court order in September 2013 and a committee was established to manage its funds. 

The court ruling permits the banning of the activities of any association that is affiliated with the Brotherhood, founded by Brotherhood funds or that receives any form of support from the Brotherhood.

Egypt also listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in December 2013 and insists it is behind the wave of militancy which has targeted security personnel since July 2013.

Egypt has generally seen a significant rise in militant activities since the ouster of then-President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013, following mass protests against his rule. North Sinai is the epicenter of this insurgency, with an ISIS-affiliated group known as "Sinai Province" operating in the area.

President Sisi previously asserted the importance of striking a balance between national security considerations and rights and freedoms.

Egypt is the second largest receipient of U.S. foreign aid since the signing of the peace treaty with Israel in 1979. However, following Mursi's ouster, the U.S. partially suspended its annual military aid, which is worth $1.3 billion.

The U.S. resumed its aid to Egypt in March 2015.

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