The United States State Department released its global report on 2015 human rights practices on Wednesday.
Coinciding with its release, US secretary of state John Kerry held a press conference to address the report’s findings. Kerry stated: “the norms referred to in this report are not something that we make up. These are universal standards of human rights that have been adopted by most nations in the world, and even some nations that have agreed to them but violate them,” during a press briefing following the report release.
“The point that we make over and over again is that respecting human rights is not just a moral obligation. It is an opportunity to harness the full energy of a country’s population in building a cohesive and prosperous society,” he added.
According to Kerry, not every conversation on human rights bears fruit, but every government has the ability to improve.
“In the past year, I have travelled to a host of countries where our backing for human rights and democratic principles is a focus of our diplomacy,” he said. “It includes Egypt, where I emphasised the importance of distinguishing between violent and nonviolent dissent.”
The report addresses a wide array of human rights concerns in Egypt, with the most significant abuses including excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties.
The report collates data from media interviews, including those published Muslim Brotherhood affiliated media sources, in addition to international watchdogs. The aggregated data dates back to mid-2013, following the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood regime.
“The government inconsistently punished or prosecuted officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government,” the report states. “In most cases either the government did not comprehensively investigate human rights abuses, or investigations resulted in acquittals, contributing to an environment of impunity.”
The report detailed different forms of human rights abuses in Egypt. In terms of excessive use of force, it said there has been several cases of unlawful killings and torture, use of military courts to try civilians, and trials involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis.
There have been 267 cases of extrajudicial killing by Egyptian security forces in 2015, according to a report released in January by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR).
Two months after the body of Italian doctoral candidate Giulio Regeni was found beside the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Highway, the Ministry of Interior announced it killed five members of a gang purporting they were responsible for Regeni’s death. The ministry stated it found Regeni’s belongings at the home of one of the killed men.
Other human rights problems included: enforced disappearances, deteriorating prison conditions, harassment of civil society organizations, limits on religious freedom, and government corruption.
Since the 25 January Revolution, the Egyptian government has persecuted NGOs. The restrictions, however, became more significant over the past month as several human rights defenders in Egypt were summoned for investigation over accusations of receiving foreign funds.
The report also highlights attacks by militant groups on government, civilian, and security persons and intuitions throughout the country, which it said caused arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life.