Egypt has dismissed a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that described torture of political prisoners in the country as amounting to “a crime against humanity”, and has called for an investigation into HRW’s funding.
According to Al-Ahram Online, Alaa Abed, the head of the human rights committee, on Monday alleged that “all institutions that are allowed to inspect the human rights situation in Egyptian prisons, did not report any torture practices.”
Diaa Rashwan, head of the State Information Service, also called for an investigation into the sponsors of the global NGO.
“We should also uncover the sources of funding provided to HRW and other Western human rights organisations because this is very important to understand how they politicise their reports.”
The 63-page report, released by the New York based organisation last week found that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government has allowed widespread arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance and abuse of detainees, in what they term “an assembly line of torture”.
Ninteen former detainees, who were interviewed as part of the investigation, detailed their experiences of abuse, which included beatings, rape, genital electrocutions and fingernail extractions.
HRW has called on the UN and the Egyptian government to prosecute security officers and military officials accused of committing torture.
Abed denied the experiences reported in the study, claiming that members of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood party have never reported allegations of torture. He pointed instead to political motivations for the release of the study now.
“The politicised report on Egypt comes at a very crucial moment when the country has made many economic successes and begun to recover its influential role in the Arab region as an attempt to sow divisions and bring chaos to the country again.”
Dahlia Ziada, a human rights activist, argued that it was highly likely that HRW received funding from the Muslim Brotherhood or Qatar, whom Egypt is currently boycotting.
Following the revelations, Egypt blocked the HRW website for 48 hours and the study was widely denounced in the Egyptian press.
The report was released just two weeks after the US revealed that it would be its cutting annual aid to Egypt due to their poor human rights record. Despite this move, on Monday Al-Sisi met with the chief of US Central Command, General Joseph Votel, in Cairo to discuss plans to combat terrorism and consolidate the countries’ bilateral relationship.
Al-Sisi particularly emphasised the importance of continued military cooperation between the US and Egypt, and praised the joint military exercise “Bright Star” that will take place this month, the first such exercise to take place since 2009.
Continued cooperation has raised doubts as to the severity with which the US is approaching the on-going human rights violations in Egypt.
Human rights campaigners have long documented Egypt’s increasing disregard for human rights and the rule of law since the military coup of 2013. There are some 60,000 political prisoners in the country, and the government also persecutes human rights activists and their organisations are subject to severe limitations.
Mohamed Fayek, head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), insists that all Western allegations of torture are unfounded.
“There was torture and abuses in the past, but now I assure that there is no torture in Egyptian prisons. NCHR is now in constant contact with the interior ministry to make sure that police officers observe human rights and that there is no torture at all in Egyptian prisons.”