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The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

In response to a statement issued by the Minister of Interior:

The defence of human rights is a national security priority

Cairo, 4 January 1999

The EOHR expresses deep concern about the statements made by the Minister
of Interior on Saturday, 2 January 1999, before the National Security
Committee of the People's Assembly. In his remarks, the Minister warned
whom he called "those who seek to push the country into a circle of tension
and danger by raising issues with no innocent intention" through what he
termed "exaggerations" of the human rights issue, and linked it to threats
to the national unity and security and the supreme interests of the
country! At the same time, the EOHR considers as positive his remarks about
"promoting trust between the police and the citizens" and that
"ill-treatment or bypassing legal procedures are no longer acceptable."

The EOHR believes that the warnings of the Minister of Interior, with the
flexible and vague accusations they imply, open the door to the spread of a
climate hostile to the human rights movement in Egypt. It also creates a
'not innocent' contradiction between the rights of citizens on the one hand
and the supreme interests of the country on the other, a country whose
government has ratified most international human rights standards, which
include rights and not exaggerations as otherwise described by the
Minister. The EOHR fears that there may be under way an organized campaign
to give human rights concepts negative meanings and implications in order
to empty them from their human content. It asserts that the government's
commitment to its international obligations regarding the protection of
human rights is one of the priorities in the protection of national
security and the state's supreme interests. It also believes that such
statements can only harm Egypt's regional and international standing, and
that they contradict statements and pledges made by the Egyptian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs at international events.

It must be noted that the Minister's statements came following a campaign
launched by some security circles against the EOHR, after the latter
disclosed incidents of torture of citizens in police stations and revealed,
with unquestionable evidence, that members of the police were responsible
for blatant violations of the rights of citizens. In this regard, the EOHR
would like to point out to the judicial rulings convicting policemen in
flagrant cases of torture. For instance, on 17 October 1998 the Alexandria
Criminal Court found a number of policemen guilty of torturing a citizen
and his wife to force him to confess a crime he had not committed, i.e.
killing his daughter although later she proved to be alive. Therefore, the
said court, according to the right granted to it by article 11 of the
Criminal Procedure Code, referred the policemen charged for acts torture to
the Public Prosecution so that they would be put on trial and, if found
guilty, "receive a punishment that would be a deterrent to them and to
other policemen who behave likewise in order that such tragic incidents may
no longer take place, and to guarantee the protection of people's freedom
and honor." It must also be noted that the civil judiciary in Alexandria
has also passed a sentence compelling the Ministry of Interior to pay a LE
10,000 compensation to a woman who was detained and tortured in the Bab
Shark police station, in Alexandria. It is worth mentioning that the
Minister of Interior brought a 

lawsuit in front of the same court demanding that the police officers
responsible pay the compensation. The EOHR believes that the Minister's
stance in this case constitutes a commendable precedent and a step towards
putting a stop to the irregularities committed by members of the police.

The EOHR calls upon the Ministry of Interior to cease its campaign against
human right organizations in Egypt, and to not involve them in local or
international political disputes by creating a fallacious contradiction
between the requirements of human rights and those of the national
security. It also calls upon all national forces, civil society
institutions, and human rights defenders to show solidarity for the future
of the human rights movement in the face of the escalation of threats. It
also appeals to the President of the Republic to intervene to stop all
practices that constitute a violation of human rights or a threat to
activists and human rights organizations in Egypt.

On the other hand, the EOHR takes into consideration the Minister of
Interior's remarks regarding the adoption of a policy of reinforcing the
trust between police and citizens. At the same time, it asserts that its
role is to monitor violations of the rights of citizens and to call on the
competent authorities to investigate them according to specific references,
namely the Constitution, the law and the international human rights
standards ratified by the Egyptian government. Therefore, the EOHR urges
the Ministry of Interior to make investigating into the complaints and
notifications it sends to the Ministry a focal point in the policy of
reinforcing the confidence between the police and the citizens.

Other EOHR Press Releases
EOHR || Human Rights in Egypt

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This document is published online by Derechos Human Rights. Derechos works against violations to human rights and humanitarian law all over the world.