Mohamed Zaria, human rights lawyer and chairman of the Arab Penal Reform Organization, said that Egyptians have suffered almost 60 years of human rights violations. He added that the climate is currently hostile to the work of independent human rights organisations, especially through the oppressive Law 84/2002.
He added that the state and regime believe in sacrificing human rights for stability. The current situation is a repetition of the 1990s in terms of terrorists, detainment, and random arrest, because the state senses a risk and has let security forces loose.
What is your evaluation of the current human rights situation in Egypt?
We have suffered for approximately 60 years from a heavy legacy in the record of human rights violations. The environment is hostile to the work of independent human rights organisations, especially in light of the oppressive Law 84/2002, in addition to recent government action with regard to civil society organisations, especially rights organisations.
While we’re discussing the NGO law, what is the difference between this law and the Boraie draft?
Despite it being similar to all laws pertaining to the work of civil society organisations, the Boraie draft law encompasses two main points, the first being transparency so that the state can know what takes place within the organisation, where funding comes from, and where it is spent. The second point is related to the administrative body that may dissolve the organisation. In the 2002 law, the Ministry of Social Solidarity could dissolve the organisation or any civil institution, but this point was taken into account in the 2013 draft law and put this power in the hands of the judiciary.
How will the NGO law issue be solved?
The issue is not in the law. Is there a law that allows police officers to hit citizens or grants forensic practitioners the right to produce conflicting reports? The problem is with the political will of the state.
What is your opinion on the Interior’s treatment of citizens recently, especially following the spread of torture videos?
The state and regime in Egypt always sacrifices human rights for stability, and the current situation is a repetition of what happened in the ‘90s in terms of terrorism, detention, and random arrest, because the state senses a risk and has let security forces loose.
What are the types of violations that are inflicted on detainees?
We can categorise the violations that are inflicted on detainees in places. The first includes excesses committed against opponents of the regime, and in the majority of these cases, the perpetrator is protected. The second includes crimes of rape or torture, and the Ministry of Interior is not negligent with those who have perpetrated these crimes, quickly taking the perpetrator to court. This is because they have gone beyond the strategy of the ministry or political conflict.
Do you feel there is a difference between the Interior’s dealings following 25 January and now?
The Interior treated citizens well in the wake of 25 January and citizens’ rights were not violated. Those working within the police force were tried through a sovereign decision and everyone felt that the accountability and trials could drag on if he was proved guilty, but at the same time, after releasing most from imprisonment and in light of the continuing terrorist operations and crimes, security arrests and human rights violations have begun to rise again.
How can torture in Egypt be ended?
Torture cannot be ended completely, but we want to arrive at a minimum by issuing brochures to employees of the Ministry of Interior to familiarize them with human rights violations, enact institutional reform within the police and forensics and the independence of the judiciary, and raise awareness among citizens. There must be a political will to end human rights violations and respect citizens, and the Interior was not the original instigator of torture. What is happening is simply a continuation of the old status quo, and the President and Prime Minister are always responsible for torture, while the Minister of the Interior is responsible for following along.