Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Thursday that there was no final decision made yet regarding the reduction of US aid to Egypt, pointing out opposing opinions between the senate panel and the Foreign Committee at the House of Representatives.
FM spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zaid said the House of Representatives had approved a foreign assistance budget without reductions, while a senate panel had demanded its downsizing.
In April, human rights experts urged Congress to consider reducing aid to Egypt, given unsatisfactory records in freedoms. In mid-August, Reuters reported that Egypt will be denied an assistance worth $95.7m and another $195m would be delayed, also citing human rights issues.
Meanwhile, the ministry further dismissed Human Rights Watch’s (HRW)recent report on torture practices.
The ministry’s statement called HRW’s report “a new episode in a series of deliberate defamation by such organisation, whose politicised agenda and biases are well known and reflect the interests of the entities and countries sponsoring it.”
Abou Zaid expressed fury over HRW’s use of the term “military coup”, saying it undermined the people’s uprising of 30 June and the election of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. He further accused the organisation of failing to respect the values of freedom and human rights, which it advocates.
“This is in addition to its attempt to build a case on illusory grounds, like the deliberate mixing up of the torture file with the case of the Italian researcher (Giulio) Regeni, overstepping the ongoing investigations course,” he added.
The Regeni case is still under investigation but carried serious accusations to Egyptian security forces of torture.
The already-strained relations between the American NGO and the Egyptian government reached a new level on Thursday when the latter blocked access to HRW’s website in Egypt.
After the move, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth tweeted on Friday, “Egypt [is] so worried its citizens would read HRW report on its torture, it blocked [the] website.” Activists shared alternative links to access the report.
Mohamed Fayeq, president of the state-funded National Council for Human Rigghts (NCHR) said Thursday that the HRW ought to be more accurate in its reports, denying systematic tortures in prisons and detention places in Egypt and asserting they received no complaints regarding the matter.
NCHR members were still able to visit prisons in the aftermath of 2013, but their role has gradually been minimised with the Ministry of Interior standing in their way. This came despite that in a meeting with Al-Sisi in December 2015, Fayeq reviewed the NCHR’s keenness on raising awareness on human rights and freedom, stressing upon coordination with relevant authorities to verify complaints related to human rights violations, including visits by council members to prisons and police stations to observe the conditions there, activities that Al-Sisi supposedly encouraged.
HRW’s report outlined what it described as “systematic torture practices” in detention places based on interviews with 19 people, Egyptian media reports and local NGOs. The report claimed that the current police apparatus “brought back violent practices of the Mubarak era in addition to lack of accountability.”