CAIRO: Reputable rights organization Amnesty International criticized the Egyptian government in a press conference on Wednesday, stressing that the recent controversial amendments to the constitution and the planned new anti-terrorism law severely undermine human rights conditions in the country.
“The Egyptian authorities are committing systematic human rights abuses in the name of national security. The new constitutional amendments and proposed anti-terrorism law aim at curbing human rights and will perpetuate abuses, stressed Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty’s Middle East Division.
Although no draft of the anti-terrorism law has yet been made public, Amnesty officials emphasized that the Egyptian authorities previously said that they “are looking at similar legislations in a number of countries, including the US Patriot Act.
“It would be a gross error for Egypt to model its new anti-terrorism law on the US Patriot Act. This act is reviled by many in the USA as a fundamental attack on long cherished freedoms because of the cavalier manner in which it sacrificed human rights and the rule of law in the name of security, said Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty USA.
Attended by a large number of members from both local and international mass media, Wednesday’s press conference marked the launch of Amnesty’s new report titled “Systematic Abuses in the Name of Security , which highlights the impact on human rights in Egypt of the government s counter terrorism measures, the 26-year-long state of emergency and the fear that current constitutional amendments will weaken the state of human rights in the country.
The report is based on interviews with victims of abuse, government officials and human rights activists. It comprises a wide range of human rights issues, including arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention without trial, and torture allegedly carried out by the state security police.
“Thousands of Egyptians have been locked up in the name of security and were held incommunicado for weeks, months, or even years. Many have been held despite court orders demanding their release while others have been sentenced after grossly unfair trials, Sahraoui said.
“The Egyptian government has a duty to protect its people and combat terrorism, but it must abide by basic human rights standards and its obligations under international law, which it often fails to do, Sahraoui continued.
The organization also denounced the increased crackdown on Egyptian activists and bloggers at recent demonstrations and protests.
“Freedom of expression and union are basic citizen rights that the government should protect. We are very concerned about the enhanced erosion of freedom of expression in Egypt, Sahraoui said.
Furthermore, Goering strongly criticized Egypt’s role in the US-led global “war on terror serving as a major hub for rendition of Egyptian terror suspects from both the US and Europe.
“There have been hundreds of unlawful transfers of terrorist suspects to Egypt from all over the world. Many of the detainees have been subjected to torture and abuse. The fate of some of these victims remains unknown. Their identities have never been disclosed, nor why they are being held and where, Goering stated.
Former ghost detainee Abu Omar, key figure in one of the most famous cases of extraordinary renditions, was present at the conference and nodded continuously as Goering urged the Egyptian authorities to “come clean and immediately disclose the number, names, nationalities, and current whereabouts of all terrorism suspects extradited or subjected to rendition.
“No problem with state security coming here today, Alexandria-based cleric Abu Omar told The Daily Star Egypt, as he was surrounded by photographers.
The report contains six key recommendations for the Egyptian government to undertake in an effort to ameliorate Egypt’s human rights conditions, including putting an end to secret detention and launching proper investigations into cases involving torture and abuse.
According to Amnesty, representatives from the organization will conduct meetings with the Egyptian authorities this week to provide the government with their recommendations for the new draft law.
A copy of the report is accessible at www.amnesty.org