The National Council for Human Rights’ (NCHR) announced that 2,600 have died in different violent incidents from the period starting in 3 July 2013 to 31 December 2014.
The figure was reported in its assessment report released at a press conference Sunday on the situation of rights and freedoms in Egypt.
The conference was attended by the council’s most prominent and active figures, such as members George Ishak, Abdul Ghaffar Shukr, Nasser Amin and Sallah Sallam. The nearly 200-page report was divided into several chapters on different civil rights, political, economic and social freedoms, in addition to recommendations of the council.
It focused on the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime under Mohamed Morsi in 2012. NCHR president Mohamed Fayeq said it was important to examine events that took place before the selected time frame to give the situation context.
This comes at the same time that the NCHR observed violations by state security bodies against citizens’ human rights. Fayeq had earlier presented a report on the situation of human rights to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
The details of the division of the death toll, however, were unclear, as Fayeq said 700 of them were from the police and military; 550 were ‘civilians’; and nearly 1,250 were Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
Fayeq said attacks in North Sinai were the most noteworthy human rights’ violations of that period, along with the forceful dispersal of pro-Brotherhood sit-ins in the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Squares in August 2014.
However, throughout its 18 pages on the “Right to Life”, the report accounts only for violent protests that erupted under the Muslim Brotherhood, and terrorist attacks on the police and military. Even when mentioning clashes between protesters and security forces, the NCHR spoke of assaults on Brotherhood opponents and blamed the Brotherhood regime for human rights’ violations.
“The political leadership has a strong will to improve the situation of human rights, but the executive institutions don’t, and the bureaucracy does not help,” Fayeq said answering Daily News Egypt’s question regarding the NCHR’s assessment of the presidential meeting, and whether or not the situation would not change unless the highest institution of the country interfered.
He added that their report was also delivered to the government and the cabinet.
“Unfortunately, sometimes we refer to the presidency to get empowered to face other institutions,” Fayeq said.
Journalists at the press conference made several remarks suggesting that the NCHR was “gentle” in dealing with violations committed by state security. This opened up more debates regarding pre-trial detention, military courts, and physical torture of prisoners or detained citizens.
With regards to police brutality claims, the NCHR confirmed that people were dying inside places of detention, including police stations and prisons. It initially relied, however, on the Ministry of Interior’s figures, which said the number was 36 by November 2014.
On the other hand, Fayeq said those numbers, which contradicted a death toll ranging between 80 and 98, were mostly caused by inhumane, unhealthy detention conditions and congested cells, especially in police stations.
“We don’t have proof of physical torture leading to death, nor evidence to claim the opposite,” Fayeq said, adding that it is always the first suspicion when death occurs in places of detention. According to leading NCHR member Nasser Amin, the evaluation of human rights must take into consideration the surrounding environment.
“The constitution of 2014 actually made an important achievement [in terms of] human rights’, made some exceptions in terms of trials, and gave military trials authority to prosecute civilians, and our report pointed out that this exception must end, as it is the civilians’ right to have regular trials,” he said.
Several recommendations laid out in the NCHR’s report tackle pre-trial detention, the need to amend the Protest Law, religious minorities’ rights, and the NGOs law .
“When somebody who spent a significant amount of time in pre-trial detention then is not sentenced to prison by court, this means that they have been wrongfully jailed,” Fayeq said.
Fayeq said the solution to overcoming such issues are in legislations that would give the council more authority and make it more independent. An example would be that the council is not allowed to visit prisons through notifying the general prosecution authorities, and not through a Ministry of Interior authorisation.
The council visited Tora Prison last week and is expected to visit the prison of El-Qanater on Thursday, yet there have been no issued reports regarding the visit yet. When a delegation visited Abou Za’abal Prison last March and outlined violations, the Ministry of Interior denied the claims. There has been no further action since.