Amnesty International has published an open letter to Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in which they refute “grossly misrepresentative” accusations made by the ministry last week about the integrity of their work.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had called Amnesty International’s work as full of “lies”.
On Tuesday, the leading international human rights NGO released a report entitled “Generation Jail: Egypt’s youth go from protest to prison”, arguing that “mass arrests” have replaced “mass protests”. The report focuses on 14 cases of young people who were arbitrarily arrested and detained, and concludes that “the country has reverted fully to being a police state”.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Amnesty International’s report was full of “lies”, “lacks credibility”, and uses “unknown and undocumented sources” to make conclusions about Egypt’s affairs, whilst ignoring official numbers. The ministry said the report raises questions about the relationship between “terrorist groups and such organisations”.
Amnesty International’s response, penned by Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme, says that they are “deeply concerned by the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s statement that our work somehow supports armed groups and terrorism in Egypt and is further intended to ‘sabotage the interests of the Egyptian people’”.
The allegations are “completely unfounded and we noted that the Ministry has not offered any evidence at all to substantiate them”, “any perceived criticism of the Egyptian government and authorities necessarily amounts to “spreading lies” and ‘sabotage‘”.
The letter suggests that by dismissing the organisation’s work as ‘supporting terrorism’, the Egyptian authorities are sending the message that they are “unwilling or unable to differentiate between peaceful criticism of their policies and abuses by armed groups”.
The letter refutes specific allegations including that Amnesty International did not condemn the killing of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat last week, in defence of the judiciary. However, Amnesty International says they called the killing a “despicable, cowardly and cold-blooded act of murder”.
The ministry also accuses Amnesty International of not attempting to use official figures in their work. The letter, however, responds that it had tried on numerous occasions to obtain official figures of those detained from various government sources, but the “authorities have refused to provide these figures and refrained from commenting on the topic”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has frequently responded to reports by organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and even a recent US government report, claiming they do not properly cover the situation in Egypt. Amnesty International’s response, however, is more uncommon.
In similar criticisms on Saturday, the ministry also took aim at a recent Huffington Post opinion piece by Middle East Eye chief editor David Hearst. In the piece ‘Sisi is Pushing Egypt to the Brink’, Hearst writes scathingly of the Egyptian administration, saying: “Egypt is on a steep downward spiral of ever more ruthless repression which now includes Sri Lankan style “disappearances” and an increasingly active insurgency.”
But the ministry’s response seeks to say David Hearst is ignoring the level of terror that Egypt faces and his description of the death of Prosecutor Barakat “carries a tone of justifying the heinous crime”. The statement calls in to question the funding of the Huffington Post website, suggesting it has close Qatari, Al Jazeera, and Muslim Brotherhood links, and therefore the “article’s language, which is predominantly sympathetic with the terrorist Brotherhood, comes as no surprise”.