Egypt rights watchdog criticizes torture and disappearances

The National Council for Human Rights, the country’s official rights watchdog, made the remarks in an annual report

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Egypt’s human rights council said on Sunday that the authorities’ human rights record had not improved, noting a string of enforced disappearances by the police and abuse of prisoners.

The National Council for Human Rights, the country’s official rights watchdog, made the remarks in an annual report.

“The human rights situation in the country has not changed in spite of the adoption of the new constitution two years ago,” the report said.

It added that the council had raised 266 cases of enforced disappearances with the interior ministry, of whom 27 were since revealed to have been released while 143 remained in pretrial detention.

The ministry responded that 44 of the missing people had not been arrested, and may have disappeared for other reasons, including to join militant groups, the council’s report said.

The cases were documented between April 2015 and the end of March this year.

“Human rights causes have not yet become a priority for the state,” it said.

Rights groups had accused Egypt of extensive abuses that spiked after the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, unleashing a bloody crackdown on his followers.

The report also criticized the state for failing to pass effective legislation to curb torture, although it acknowledged that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had tried to end the abuses.

Sisi has spoken out against police abuses and several policemen have been put on trial over the deaths of detainees.

The report noted that suspicions that security services had abducted Italian student Giulio Regeni, whose mutilated body was found on the side of a road, had been boosted by "the continuation of the phenomenon of torture" in Egypt.

The report did not shed any light on Regeni’s disappearance, which created a diplomatic rift between Egypt and Italy, a close ally. Police have denied involvement.

The council said it had received 296 complaints during 2015.

“Many of the complaints are related to abuses they are subject to in prisons and other detention facilities, most notably torture and other harsh and degrading treatment,” the council said.

The use of torture “continues to be widespread,” particularly in initial detention centers.

Meanwhile, pretrial detention has become “a punishment in itself.”

Initial detention centers are estimated to hold more than 300 percent of their capacity, the report said.

Detainees “take turns sleeping because of lack of space.”

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