The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), a state-affiliated rights organization, released its 11th annual report on Sunday indicating that torture within prisons is one of the most common rights violations committed in Egypt over the past year.
In a press conference on the report, NCHR head Mohamed Fayek stated that the organization had identified at least three detainee deaths resulting from torture in prison, the state-owned Al-Ahram reported Sunday. It also determined that 20 prison deaths in the last year were the result of poor health conditions within prisons.
These figures are much lower than those reported by other rights organizations, including the Al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence. In January, Al-Nadeem reported that 137 people were killed by security forces while in prison and that 358 detainees suffered from medical negligence.
The NCHR recommended that amendments be made to laws regarding torture to comply with the UN Convention on Torture. It also called for the formation of a national body to prevent torture.
In today’s press conference, Fayek also highlighted forced disappearances as another major rights violations committed in the past year, calling the phenomenon “a crime against humanity.”
In April, an Italian newspaper reported that over 500 people have been forcibly disappeared in the past year in Egypt, with 396 people remaining unaccounted for. The paper’s figures were based on data from both Al-Nadeem and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF).
The NCHR reported that they had identified the whereabouts of 276 people who have been forcibly disappeared in Egypt.
Fayek also criticized the way that Egypt has implemented laws criminalizing blasphemy over the past year, citing cases such as that of jailed poet Fatima Naoot, who was sentenced to three years in prison for criticizing an Islamic practice in a Facebook post. Blasphemy laws are often used to violate freedom of expression, and the line between the two must be made clearer, he stated.
Egypt’s government faced “terrorism, widespread local disturbances and foreign pressures” over the last year, the report did note in its introduction, alongside other social and economic challenges.