Although the report has chosen an excellent political title, but not a professional one.
HUMAN RIGHTS | EGYPT
By Ahmed Tanikhy
Before presenting the Egypt’s view on the latest report of Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Egypt, we stress the following facts regarding Egypt and the human rights profile in general:
(1) Egypt was one of the 48 countries that agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, while 8 states abstained from voting and 2 States did not vote.
(2) Egypt is among the top states in ratifying the 18 international human rights conventions, ratifying 10 of them, equal in this with Japan, and surpassing Israel (9 ratifications), the United States of America and Malaysia (5 ratifications each).
(3) Egypt has actively participated, since the establishment of the United Nations, in all its human rights bodies, whether those based on the Charter of the United Nations or those based on the ten core international human rights treaties.
(4) Egypt participated in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) since it was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006, and was subjected to it in 2010 and 2014 .In the last review in 2014, there were 300 recommendations made by Member States on the human rights situation in Egypt: Egypt rejected only 23 of them, declared the awareness of 29 other recommendations, and approved 248 recommendations; 224 of which were fully supported and 24 others were partially supported. In the next year, 2018, the UN mechanism will review Egypt's implementation of these recommendations.
(5) Egypt's government and society are committed to the constitution of the country, which the people agreed to in January 2014, and which is considered the most advanced in the history of Egyptian constitutions concerning human rights and freedoms. The Constitution assigns about a quarter of one of its 247 articles to affirm the basic human rights in the fields of private and public freedoms, politics, assemblying and economy.This included the criminalization of torture and discrimination, the destruction of human dignity and the violation of private life, as well as an affirmation of all freedoms of expression, publication, creativity, belief, movement, property, labor, strike and the rule of law.
(6) During the last years, Egypt has witnessed unprecedented changes in its long history; two revolutions took place on 25 January 2011 and on 30 June 2013. The two revolutions led to the overthrow, for the first time in this history, of two Presidents and their systems. The two presidents were subjected to trial and imprisonment by the will of the people and not by coups of palaces, like few events that look similar in this long history. This means that Egypt is now in the process of rebuilding the modern state with all its components reached by the developed nations. It is a difficult stage, which many nations experienced, during which all things and conditions were not complete and perfect. Besides, there were some negative aspects and obstacles that existed for a while before being swept away.
About the Report
The previous approach is an integral and fundamental part of the general and detailed observations on the last report issued last week by Human Rights Watch on Egypt, which are divided into the following:
Title and Topic: A Biased Political Position, Not Human Rights
The well-known traditions of respectable human rights organizations' reports have been established to cover either a period of time (annual, semi-annual, quarterly or monthly) or to specialize in a particular subject over a reasonable period of time. Although the report has attempted to give the impression that it tackles the subject “The allegations of torture in Egypt”, it has chosen an excellent political title but not a professional one; i.e. "under the rule of El-Sisi". This political title is meant to defame President El-Sisi's rule. This is confirmed by the fact that the date of the report does not match any date of the president's ruling. The conclusion of his term is still after nine months and the president has not started a new term yet to have a report by HRW on the ended period.
This deliberate distortion to the image of the rule in Egypt is stemmed from being biased to the Brotherhood’s allegations to the events that took place on June 30 and July 3, 2013; that the Army had toppled the former president Mohamed Morsi, deliberately ignoring the popular revolution of the millions of Egyptians rejecting the authoritarian religious rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. Such biased political judgments and accusations did neither come in the end or even in the middle of the Report, but rather in the first two paragraphs of the first page.
The first paragraph had described the regime of President El-Sisi which is leading the country since July 2013 as being “Authoritarian” since the very first minute. According to the second paragraph, and far from any professional standards to the Human Rights reports, it mentions that “El-Sisi tried to reach political stability no matter what the price is”; formulated in a manner that could only be found in statements of opposition political powers.
- Methodology: Breaking down Human Rights Traditions… Brotherhood is the only Source
The report mentioned in its very first lines that it had been methodically prepared… however, there are several professional observations, salient of which are:
- The report mentioned that just one single researcher from the Organization had conducted all the meetings with the allegedly tortured victims; thus contradicting the methodological principles of preparing such kind of critical reports which necessitates that such visits should be paid by a working team and not a single person, thus ensuring the accuracy of the information on the one hand, and avoiding any possible partiality from any single researcher on the other hand.
- Within the framework of preparing this report, the Organization did not refer to any subsequent stages of verification to certify the data collected by the single researcher in his alleged meetings; thus contradicting the established rules of the professional methodology of such reports.
- The report did not indicate that the single researcher had recorded or documented his alleged meetings with the 19 persons by any means, or that such persons had signed on their words or had presented any written approval on using their words in this Report.
- The report did not identify the locations of the alleged meetings; whether such meetings had been held in private or public places, in opened or closed areas, or whether they had been held in the form of collective or individual meetings. It is systematically known in this respect that the place of the meeting and the number of attendees could have a strong influence on the mentioned information, i.e., if such a place is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, then the meeting will be directed in a pro- Muslim Brotherhood political track and hostile to the current Egyptian political regime.
- What is even more obscure in this report, is that its only researcher was able, on his own, and with seemingly miraculous abilities, to reach those 19 persons across sparsely populated areas of Egypt and within a limited period of time, without referring to the kind of assistance he received in order to reach them that easily in a country with a population of around 93 million citizens. It is also clear from the data mentioned in the report that all the 19 persons are members of, or report to, the Muslim Brotherhood. Thereupon, the researcher had definitely reached them with the help of the Brotherhood Group themselves, thus explaining the blatant political partiality against the regime in Egypt.
- The only researcher had considered that the information he had garnered from the alleged victims are undeniable facts, neglecting to document the alleged injured cases, whether by photos, medical certificates or official minutes. On the contrary, the Organisation had published a 1.46 minute video of drawings on what was imagined to be torture in Egypt. In contradiction to the traditions of the respectable organizations in cases of alleged injuries from tortures, especially that kind of torture that cannot be concealed such as the removal of nails, the report did not mention that a specialized doctor had accompanied the researcher to view such cases, or that they had visited a hospital or a specialised clinic in this respect.
On page 14 of the Arabic version and in many other places in the report, its writers assured deceptively that “Among hundreds of claims against elements and officers of Interior Ministry since July 2013, the public prosecution officially investigated only 40.
Only seven were judged and six of them included 13 police officers, when the criminal courts found them guilty, the report didn’t point that the Court of Appeal upheld these sentences until the preparation of this report. Until now, there is no court in Egypt’s modern history issuing any final judgment of conviction about an element or officer belonging to the National Security. The real information in this concern during such period, is that the Court of Cassation which is the Egyptian judicial system, upheld completely the imprisonment of two police officers, and two non- commissioned police officers for 3 years in torturing case and other two non- commissioned police officers for 10 years in another case as well as a police officer for 5 years in a different case.
Moreover, the criminal courts issued various judgments of conviction and imprisonment for about 60 police officers, non-commissioned police officers and police conscripts. All these cases are still under consideration of the Court of Appeal, Court of Cassation and retrial.
Some 45 of the police officers from different ranks stood before the courts and prosecution investigations until now.
These numbers of condemned and accused police officers in torturing cases or violation of human rights, from the big number of Interior Ministry, estimated at 40,000 police officers and about 300,000 non-commissioned police officers and police conscripts are disregarding.
On page 22 of the Arabic version, the report mentioned the case of “Omar Al-Shoykh” who was arrested on March 24, 2014, this time; President El-Sisi has not assumed his office yet. So, this confirms the political target of the organization that aims to accuse and distort his regime.
On page 31 the Arabic version, the report mentioned “Khaled” case from Alexandria. Surprisingly, the military prosecution which the organization claimed it affiliated to the Armed Forces, the President’s military and military rule, released him after the alleged torture. So, it is supposed to be more cruel towards the accused persons but it did not happen.
In all the 19 cases mentioned in the report, its writers, purposely, didn’t completely point to the accusations of the claimed tortured persons in order to gain sympathy with them.
Highlighting the seriousness of accusations and facts don’t mean our acceptance of torture or abusing any accused person, but to review all the facts before the reader.
The accusations are varied among killing, bombing, burning and assassination.
Final General Remarks
In addition to what was mentioned before, there is a number of final and general remarks about the report, salient of which are:
- The first general remark about what was mentioned in the report and about the claimed torture in prisons for the Muslim Brotherhood prisoners and other terrorist groups, is related to what happened during the rule of the former president Hosni Mubarak, when the accusedes and Lawyers nearly in all the terrorist cases raised torture in the trial sessions and demanded to conduct legal medical examination on prisoners. The courts took into consideration these claims several times and disregarded confessions before the trial just as in the Major Jihad Organization case in 1981, where 301 were accused. Considering hundreds of cases, where the Brotherhood were judged post-June 30 Revolution in 2013, security torture was not mentioned except for five Brotherhood leaders in two cases and the court responded and referred them to legal medical examination, where investigation was not finished. This result assured the inaccuracy of the Brotherhood torture claims and this report. However, if this claimed report was true, it would give the chance for the Brotherhood to nullify their trials on one hand, and political condemnation and international defamation for the ruling regime from the other hand, which was not happened.
- The report referred to two cases only from those who claimed torture in the trial and they were from Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL). This is not out of the context (ISIL) members cases are mostly, who claimed torture in trials four times, which are similar to what the peer violent groups carried out in Mubarak's era as mentioned before. Here is a contradiction in the report about the accusedes accounts talks about the claimed torture before the persecution that refused to approve it and also they did not mention it before the court which opened its doors for media and public opinion.
- Finally, if we suppose the truth of the all contents of the report about claimed torture cases, so a year and seven months of investigations and researches of the major international organization with its capabilities and experience, about torture in El-SiSi's era according to the report's title about 3 years and 3 months of his presidential term until now, produced only 19 cases. If anyone proved true, it shall be categorically rejected. If we take into consideration the number of prisoners claimed by the organization which estimated at tens of thousands, so the weakness of the ration of the claimed torture was highlighted. However, the numbers, ratios and periods assured that there is no systematic torture in Egypt except for rare individual cases. However, it is a few cases, but the law must be enforced.
The report in its majority of the biased passive statements about the human rights in Egypt depends on almost one source; that is “The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedom”. It is a political organization affiliated to the Brotherhood and acted under the cover of human rights. It was established in 2014 and is considered the Egyptian branch of what is called “The International Coordination to Support Rights and Freedoms”, that was established in Doha on October 2013 upon a decision taken by what is called the international conference “The World Amid A Coup Against the will and Free Choices of the People”, held in Istanbul on September25-26, 2013. The mediawoman at the Brothers channel “Misr 25” and their Rasd Network Marwa Abu Zeid was the spokesperson for the Coordination, when it was established.
- Concerning violations mentioned by the human rights reports, it goes without saying that impartial terms to scrutinize the accounts should be used until they prove true, like the word “claimed” or “alleged” …etc. This report, which is politically biased against the Egyptian regime didn’t contain any of these words, rather it presented all accusations as confirmed and proved facts.
- The report’s methodology insisted on negligence of all valuable reports, released by major human rights organizations, which totally and partially contradict its allegations. For example, the reports released by the National Council for Human Rights, Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, concerning the allegations of torture or compulsory disappearance or killing without legal reasons or others.
- Finally and amidst this biased report against the Egyptian authorities, those who prepared it throughout one year and seven months, during which they completed it since the beginning of the claimed meetings, have not sought getting acquainted with the vision of the official Egyptian authorities in regards to the reports of those, who claimed torture. Moreover, they didn’t mention that they asked an interview with any Egyptian official and this request might be turned own. However, to avoid being blamed, they published two messages, sent to the Egyptian Prosecutor General and Interior Minister on May 23, 2017, and didn’t state any detail on the cases mentioned in the report for reply, but it was a general summary of all alleged torture accounts.
Information: Fabrication and Concealment
The report contained a large number of fallacies and misleading information, apparently intended to convey the political message which its title bore, namely, the accusation and condemnation of the Egyptian regime led by President El-Sisi against the systematic violation of human rights.
The report, in order to achieve the same target, also deliberately ignored the reference to the type of static information whose publication will corrupt its political objective. Salient of these types of information are the following:
- The report deliberately ignores completely all acts of terrorism and killings in Egypt that have occurred in a systematic way since 2013 by the Brotherhood's terrorist groups and other violent organizations, so that alleged cases of torture appear isolated from the general context. This does not mean that the existence of such a state of terrorism can justify, in our view, even one case of torture, but the reference to it and its victims who have lost their lives, which is the first human right, is the duty of any respectable report on these rights. The report, also, ignored the number of martyrs of Egyptian civilians due to the terrorist operations since January 2013 until the present has exceeded 700 martyrs, while the wounded reached three times this number, in addition to the several hundreds of martyrs and casualties of the army, besides the number of police martyrs that reached about 1000 and the wounded that reached about 20 thousand, and six judges, headed by the Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat.
- On page12 of the Arabic version, the report mentioned Itihadeya events that took place on the 5th of December 2012 near Itihadeya Palace, when armed groups of the Muslim Brotherhood attacked and detained a number of peaceful protesters, who opposed to former President Mohamed Morsi. The report deliberately did not mention the term torture despite the availability of dozens of videos of this torture and the issuance of judicial rulings condemning the perpetrators of the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, the report of this organization, which claims its concern for freedom of the press and the protection of journalists, has completely ignored mentioning the fall of the most prominent press martyr Husseini Abu Deif by the Muslim Brotherhood in these events, while he was on duty as a press photographer, however the report pointed out that there were 8 supporters of Morsi were killed on the day.
- On page 14 of the Arabic version as well as many other contexts, the report asserts in a completely false way that "among the hundreds of allegations raised against members and officers of the Ministry of Interior since July 2013, the Prosecutor General has investigated officially only 40 cases, of which only seven were sentenced and that in six of these cases, 13 police officers were involved.
The writer is the head of media and communication at the Republic of Egypt Embassy in Kampala Uganda