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Rights groups: UN must act against Egypt’s harassment of its citizens

December 13, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Egyptian police arrest a child in Cairo, Egypt, 2 June 2017 [Tareq al-Gabas/Apaimages]

A group of six international rights groups called for a “robust” response to Egyptian authorities’ harassment of citizens who met with the UN special rapporteur and gave her details about life in the country, Arab48 com reported yesterday.

In a statement, the rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, requested an independent investigation be launched into claims made by UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Leilani Farha, who said she was “shocked” that the people she met in Egypt between 24 September and 3 October to get information for a UN report were harassed and intimidated.

According to Farha, several families from two communities she met were later subjected to “forced evictions” and had their furniture thrown in the street, leaving them homeless, AFP reported.

She also said that other people she had met were interrogated by the police and one of them faced “arbitrary arrest and detention at an undisclosed location”.

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The UN rapporteur added: “Egypt has failed to adhere to the assurances provided to me that no person would be harassed, intimidated or subjected to reprisal for meeting or providing information to me or my delegation.”

In response to her charges, AFP said, the Egyptian authorities accused her of “fabricating lies”.

However, the rights groups said in their statement that failing to act in response to the alleged reprisals “will only encourage similar human rights violations in the future and risk undermining the accessibility and credibility of the UN experts and wider human rights system.”

The UN should “ensure an urgent and robust system-wide response”, the rights groups said, adding that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should review “any ongoing cooperation” with Cairo.

Farah and her team carried out the first official international fact-finding committee since the 2013 coup which ousted the Egypt’s first democratically elected President, Mohammed Morsi. The rights groups said that she was not allowed to visit areas where people regularly subjected to harassment and forced evictions.