Rights groups call Egypt “police state”

At a seminar held Wednesday, a group of 16 independent human rights organizations released a report in which they described Egypt as a "police state," noting the ubiquitous role played by state security services in national affairs. According to the report, the government tends to justify frequent rights violations by playing up the dangers allegedly posed by local Islamist groups.

The report states that police torture in Egypt is "systematic" and is frequently employed to deter political and criminal prisoners. The report also criticizes the government for "interfering" in judicial affairs by granting undue authority to the executive branch of government and for regularly issuing "exceptional" laws allowing security services to override court verdicts.

The report goes on to state that recent amendments to the national constitution had made it harder for independent candidates to run in presidential elections and that the last parliamentary election in 2005 had witnessed widespread interference by security services, which resulted in the death of 13 citizens.

The report further states that a "system of impunity" had been established throughout the last three decades to protect government violations — a system that has been bolstered by the existence of Egypt’s longstanding emergency law, in place since 1981. These circumstances, the report notes, have served to weaken state judicial institutions and contribute to popular mistrust of the government.

The report also states that social justice remained "distorted" in Egypt, where poverty is on the rise, deepening the gap between rich and poor segments of society. It further notes that the government has continued to preempt international mechanisms for human rights oversight, often seeking the support of other governments known for committing frequent rights violations.

According to the report, Egypt’s deteriorating human rights record cannot be attributed to a lack of natural or human resources — as is often claimed by the government — but rather to government intransigence. The report goes on to accuse the state of practicing religious discrimination against Coptic Christians — who constitute between 8 and 10 percent of the national population — and other religious minorities, including Shias, Quranists and Baha’is.

The report further states that, despite earlier electoral promises by the president to abolish jail sentences for publication offenses, the government has yet to amend the relevant press laws and continues to persecute private satellite channels, block websites and arrest online bloggers that express their political views.

What’s more, the report notes, the government has continued to ban the establishment of independent trade unions by placing all labor unions under the direct control of the Manpower Ministry. The report concludes by stating that the government frequently resorts to violence to disperse peaceful demonstrations.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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