Organizing a UN conference on torture in Egypt raises the “irony” of human rights activists

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Criticized activists in the field of human rights Thursday the UN decision to hold the conference in Cairo for torture co-organized by a government organization.

Mohamed Zarei, director of Egypt’s program at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said that the state of torture cannot systematically host a conference on torture.

Egyptian authorities have repeatedly denied accusations that security forces were involved in torture.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is co-hosting the regional conference to define and criminalize torture with the Government’s National Council for Human Rights on 4 and 5 September. Some 80 representatives of governmental and non-governmental institutions from 19 Arab countries are expected to attend.

“It is a very common type of conference,” said Robert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Torture is widespread in Egypt,” Colville said in February. Neither the NCHR nor the officials of the State Information Service were available for comment.

“A crackdown on freedoms”

Human rights activists have accused President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of overseeing a crackdown on freedoms in Egypt since he came to power in 2014. In contrast, Sisi’s supporters see tough measures as essential to stabilizing the country while recovering from political chaos and facing economic challenges and jihadist attacks in Sinai.

The Egyptian authorities also affirm their commitment to the law and that any violations of rights are merely individual cases and the perpetrators are held to account. Cairo has long rejected reports by human rights groups that it lacks credibility and is politically motivated.

Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said the idea that Egypt would host such an event was a joke. He added that the most ironic is that this is done by the National Council for Human Rights, which always polishes the image of the government and “complicity in the human rights situation.”

The conference’s agenda indicates that Mohamed Fayek, president of the National Council for Human Rights, will deliver a welcome speech at the opening of the conference.

Execution in Egypt

In February, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern about trials that led to the execution of 15 people in Egypt in the same month and said it might be unfair. He said torture may have been used to extract confessions.

A Reuters report last month found that at least 179 people were executed in Egypt from 2014 to May 2019, compared to just 10 in the six years preceding that period.

In 2017, the authorities raided and closed al-Nadeem Center and documented allegations of human rights violations and the treatment of torture victims.

Zarea said Egypt should be boycotted as a venue, or the Egyptian regime, for hosting any forum or event related to human rights within Egypt.

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