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Amnesty Report Slams Egypt's 'Human Rights Abuses,' Violence

  • Edward Yeranian

Demonstrators from various anti-military groups shout slogans during a protest against government military rules and against Egypt's Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, at Talaat Harab Square in downtown Cairo, Jan. 22, 2014.

Demonstrators from various anti-military groups shout slogans during a protest against government military rules and against Egypt's Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, at Talaat Harab Square in downtown Cairo, Jan. 22, 2014.

Amnesty International has issued a report criticizing what it calls human rights abuses, wide-scale repression and limits to freedom of expression and of assembly in Egypt. Some analysts, however, question the neutrality of the report,

The report by Amnesty International on human rights violations in Egypt uses strong language to condemn what its authors portray as repression of civil rights, including freedom of expression and assembly.

Diana Eltahawy, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International, said Egypt's security forces have arrested many activists since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July.

“[Arrests have] been in the thousands and they include members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they also include secular activists," said Eltahawy. "Some of the cases that Amnesty International has documented are cases of women and children who have been thrown in jail, simply for holding placards with slogans against the military. We also know that an estimated 1,400 people have died in political violence, many as a result of lethal and excessive use of force by the army and the police since the third of July.”

Arab analyst and commentator Adel Darwish said the Amnesty report, which is titled “Roadmap to Repression: No End in Sight to Human Rights Violations,” fails to use unbiased language.

“If you want to present a case from a legal point of view,” he said, “the language must be neutral, which is not the case.” Darwish also disputed the validity of casualty and arrest figures cited by Amnesty.

Interim President Adly Mansour, who heads Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, told security forces Thursday, in honor of National Police Day, that there now exists, since the January 2011 Revolution, a new relationship between police and the people:

He insisted that a “police state” will never come back and that the rule of law will prevail. He noted that the police have a role in promoting security, justice, freedom and the rights of the people, which includes stability in the country and fighting “blind terrorism.”

Militants have killed scores of police and army officers since the overthrow of Morsi and Islamic militants battle them for control of portions of the northern Sinai. Five policemen were killed by armed men wearing masks Thursday in the town of Beni Suef, south of Cairo.

Said Sadek, who teaches political sociology at the American University in Cairo said Amnesty International is looking at only one side of the picture in Egypt.

"They also do not understand the nature of the current historical moment," said Sadek. "Any country that goes through a transition is on the verge of a civil war. Remember Yugoslavia, look at Syria, look at what happened to Libya. So, it's not an easy situation. Now, the Egyptian government is fully mobilized to protect the state. It's borders are wide open. Infiltrators and smugglers come with arms and terrorists from Libya, from Gaza. You have bombs exploding here and there.”

Amnesty's Eltahawy argued that when “any protest at a university or otherwise turns violent, the security forces have to follow a number of rules and procedures,” which include “using force in a way that is proportionate, to achieve a legitimate objective.”

Sadek pointed out, though, that the U.S. passed the Patriot Act after 9/11 to protect national security. Egyptians, he said, “don't want their whole country to be destroyed like Syria, Iraq or Libya.”
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