On April 14, the U.S. State Department published its annual country reports on human rights practices, which track how foreign governments meet their human rights obligations enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights charters.
Under U.S. law, the State Department must submit human rights reports to Congress on all countries receiving U.S. assistance and all U.N. member states.
The U.S. report showed that the authorities or their agents committed arbitrary or illegal killings that occurred while making arrests or detaining people
It monitored cases of torture to death and other accounts confirming killings in prisons and detention centers by security forces, amid lack of accountability
International and local human rights groups have confirmed the continuing large numbers of enforced disappearances, claiming that the authorities have used this tactic to intimidate critics
For example, Hamdi, a photojournalist, was arrested on January 4th, where he disappeared forcibly until January 17th, appearing on the State Security Prosecution.
Police and prison guards resorted to torture to extract information from detainees, including minors. Reported methods included beatings, electric shocks, psychological abuse and sexual assault.
The total number of prisoners reached more than 119,000 in an estimated 78 prisons, and human rights groups and international observers confirmed that the government had arrested or imprisoned between 20,000 and 60,000 individuals for political reasons as prisoners accused of political or security affairs were subjected to verbal or physical abuse and disciplinary solitary confinement.
There have been repeated reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. Hundreds of arrests have failed to comply with due process laws, local activists and rights groups say. For example, the authorities did not charge detainees with crimes or refer them to the public prosecutor's office and prevented them from contacting their lawyers and families.
The U.S. State Department noted the case of the detainee's mother, Abdul Rahman al-Sheikh, his father and sister on April 27, and that the detainee's mother remained in solitary confinement without visits or medical care for some medical problems.
The State Department said the government has not provided figures on the total number of pretrial detainees, and sometimes re-arrests detainees on charges brought against them in new cases to extend their detention to a maximum of more than two years.
The State Department says individual courts lack impartiality, are politically motivated, and state security has exceeded court orders to release detainees by arresting them again in a new case.
The authorities regularly turned to military courts to try civilians and public access to information on military trials was limited. It was hard to monitor military trials.
Stephen McNairy, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, said there are many steps Washington can take on Egypt’s human rights issue.
In press statements, he added that the U.S. administration conducts diplomatic dialogues and contacts with Egyptian officials on a regular basis, noting that these reports are a key and important ground for raising these issues throughout the year through diplomatic channels.
"We hope that this will go beyond raising these cases and these issues, and that the states will put pressure on Egypt to improve the human rights file and release the detainees," he said.
"We saw how the Administration froze $130 million in military assistance to Egypt because Cairo was not complying with the State Department's human rights requirements," he said. “So there are pressure tools that the administration can use with Egypt."
McNairy said the publication of specific names in the annual report is a positive step, as we have seen in the past the naming of certain people who had priority in the discussion with the Egyptian side, which led to their recent release. However, we have seen other cases in which detainees have remained in prison despite being highlighted.
Mustafa Azab, a lawyer with the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said Egyptian authorities are paying attention to reports from the U.S. State Department, especially when naming specific detainees, as they have released several names that Washington has demanded their release, such as Aya Hijazi, Mohammed Sultan and others.
He said the Egyptian authorities are dealing more flexibly with the names the State Department calls them, saying the report is promising that Al Jazeera journalists detained in Sisi’s prisons will be directly on the list of soon-to-be released.
He said it is seriously possible for Washington to discuss the issue of Al Jazeera journalists with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukri, who is visiting Washington, D.C., through Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
State Department Unveils US 2021 Human Rights Report https://t.co/x3V8E7EgNp "abuses in Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Egypt and other authoritarian nations" - and heavy criticism of Saudi Arabia
The Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said that the U.S. State’s report documenting systematic and widespread human rights violations, including unlawful, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, and arbitrary detention by Middle Eastern governments, should lead to a complete suspension of U.S. military assistance to these countries in accordance with U.S. law.
"The United States will continue to support those around the world who are struggling for human dignity and freedom," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of DAWN.
John Hirsch, program director at DAWN, said that "we're talking about unlawful, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and life-threatening prison conditions.”
“Congress should remember these conclusions from the State Department when the Egyptian government requests another $1.3 billion in military support from U.S. taxpayers," he added in press statements.
Al-Estiklal interviewed a number of university students to ask them about their opinion on the U.S. report.
One of the students at Cairo University said that there is a culture of fear among activists and youth in general, prohibiting anyone to talk about human rights violations in Egypt.
“Even in the university everyone is afraid. Years ago, just after the coup, students were killed by security forces inside our campus, the armed forces invaded the university and unleashed a wave of arbitrary arrests, everyone was in shock and it was a turning point,” she said to Al-Estiklal.
“Now, no one dares to challenge the status quo, security personnel are everywhere in the university, and no one is safe, it’s as if we are in a large military camp,” she concluded.
Another student at Matrouh university confirmed the details of the report, noting that Matrouh governorate, for example, is gradually turning into an army-based barracks where every citizen is a soldier and must obey the regime without questioning.
“I come from a tribe that’s strongly present in Matrouh gouvernante, we had influence, sheikhs, and strong ties with the people and organizations, but one day all of that was raided by the police forces.”
“We had our self-defense weapons ceased, police hunted down our sheikhs and members of the tribe, we were detained and tortured, and now we are all silent, weak and vulnerable to any repressive action of any kind.”
“We’re not safe in our homes, threatened on a daily basis with arbitrary detention or ceasing our money, Sisi’s regime is brutal and it does not want disturbance or the slightest potential threat of any kind,” he concluded his opinions to Al-Estiklal.