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 1999The 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.
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