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Egypt slams US human rights report - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Riot police stand guard outside the police academy, where the trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood is due to take place, on the outskirts of Cairo February 27, 2014. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Riot police stand guard outside the police academy, where the trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood is due to take place, on the outskirts of Cairo, on February 27, 2014. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Cairo has criticized a US Department of State report on human rights in Egypt which spoke of the use of “excessive force” by Egyptian authorities, the curtailing of civil rights, and restrictions on freedom of speech.

An Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Badr Abdelati, said on Saturday that the report was “not balanced and not objective, and [included] . . . many mistakes.”

Abdelati added that the report was an annual report on human rights issues around the world, “but we have our views on [it].”

He accused the US of appointing itself an advocate of human rights issues in the world without any legal standing.

“I can understand a report like this being issued by the United Nations or human rights organizations, but for the report to be issued by the US State Department reflects its clear desire to appoint itself judge, jury and advocate of human rights in the world,” he said.

“The report spoke about the ousting of an elected civilian government in Egypt, which is contradictory to the truth, because the reality is that tens of millions of Egyptians took to the streets on June 30 last year to demand their rights and call for early presidential elections,” he added.

Abdelati said the ignorance of such facts in the report represented a mistake, meaning the report “did not reflect the true reality of the issue.”

He said: “There is a great deal of double standards because if there were violations of human rights in Egypt and the world, then what about the violations of human rights in the US? These include spying on people and the continuing use of [the] Guantanamo [Bay detention camp].”

He added that the report “ignored terrorism and the violence to which the state, the army, the police and innocent citizens are subjected.”

Egyptian–US relations have been strained since the ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July 2013 and a decision by the US administration to suspend part of its military aid to Egypt.

Last month, Egypt’s army chief and defense minister, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, visited Russia, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reportedly to negotiate a 2 billion US dollar arms deal with Moscow.

During the visit, Sisi received Putin’s backing to run for the presidency. Reacting to the endorsement, US Department of State Spokesperson Marie Harf said it was not “up to the United States or to Mr. Putin to decide who should govern Egypt.”

The US report also condemned what it called “excessive force” used by security forces and the curtailing of civil rights, as well as social and government restrictions on the freedom of expression, freedom of press, repression and military trials of civilians.

It pointed to other human rights issues which included disappearances, harsh prison conditions, long periods of detention, as well as the restrictions on academic freedoms and the immunity of security forces, and the existence of “political prisoners.”

The report also criticized the anti-protest law passed in November 2013. It said “the language used was vague when talking about banned activities, and gave the interior minister the power to ban and cancel planned demonstrations.”

The report also accused Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, of “discrimination and mistreatment of prisoners as well as other violations.”

Egyptian politicians, meanwhile, criticized the report.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Safwat Girgis, head of the Egyptian Center for Human Rights, said: “Claims by the report that Egyptian authorities could not control the Interior Ministry with regards to torture and the ill treatment of prisoners and protesters were pure fabrication according to the testimony of credible and impartial international organizations.”

Girgis added that the report “was not impartial and was politically motivated.”

Meanwhile, spokeswoman for the Tamarod [Rebellion] Movement, Maha Abu Bakr, said the US position on torture in prisons was meaningless in light of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. She said Egypt does not expect the US to recognize its revolution and that Washington will not recognize the June 30 protests which called for an end to Mursi’s rule until the country’s political road map was completed and Egypt was stronger.

Abu Bakr said the US “attacked . . . and did not accept” the June 30 protests since they were not in its best interests.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Dr. Bahey Eldin Hassan, Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.