8 human rights organizations demand next president respect liberty
Both presidential candidates Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabbahi - YOUM7(Archive)
By NOURHAN MAGDI

CAIRO: Egypt’s next president must prioritize respect of human rights and liberty in order to in order to achieve political stability, eight human rights organizations said in a Thursday press release.

The next president must “immediately review the status of detainees and prisoners…this review will guarantee the unconditional release of all persons whose freedoms have been limited due to court sentences or in pretrial detention on charges related to the right to express one’s opinion, demonstrate, or peacefully protest,” read the release, distributed by The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

The statement also called for a prevention of authorities interfering or influencing investigations, and the adoption of social and economic developmental programs.

In his first national television address on May 3, presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi vowed to abolish the controversial protest law and pardon all political prisoners.

The opposing candidate Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said Wednesday in his interview with Al-Arabiya that the protest law was passed as a legal mechanism to end the “state of anarchy” that Egypt is going through, although he denied any oppression against people.

“With the documented cases we got about mid-night kidnapping by men in civil clothes, disappearance of the kidnapped without a trace and the confessions extracted under torture to refer people to trial are reminding us with the practices prevailed during the worst years of the ruling of the former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, when the authorities used same justifications of ‘fighting against terrorism’ to abuse all forms of peaceful protests,” read a release by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights issued May 22, that demanded Azouly prison, a military prison in Ismailia, to be investigated for use of torture.

Amnesty International issued a statement Thursday denouncing “ongoing torture” practiced at Azouly Prison which as it said “shows that behind the authorities’ rhetoric of the road map to democracy and upcoming elections lies ruthless repression.”

“Torture is absolutely prohibited under all circumstances and is a crime under international law. Prosecutors, courts and other Egyptian authorities must never use ‘confessions’ or statements extracted through torture or other ill-treatment in any proceedings. Imprisonment on such a basis constitutes arbitrary detention,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Amnesty’s  Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director.

Amr Rabei, 21, is a student accused of membership in Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, but whose family says he is a victim of forced disappearance in March. Rabei appreared in a court May 17 and now he is facing “fabricated charges” of joining a militant group, his mother Sanaa Beheiry told The Cairo Post in a May 8 interview; she also said she believed that her son had been tortured in Azouly prison.

Following the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution this year, a number of activists were detained or arrested, and in early February a number of human rights organizations claimed many detainees had been tortured inside Egyptian prisons. The Ministry of Interior rejected the allegations.

Thursday’s statement also called for the removal of “bureaucratic and security obstacles to the opening of an Egypt office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as security and bureaucratic obstacles impeding the opening of offices for various international human rights organizations that seek to operate in Egypt.”

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