Middle East

Egypt 'failing at every level' on human rights

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists gesture from the defendants cage as they receive sentences on 19 May 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Rights groups say the authorities are increasingly hostile to independent media and political opponents

Amnesty International has warned of a catastrophic decline in human rights in Egypt, a year after the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

The campaign group says at least 16,000 people have been detained in the last year alone as part of the government's bid to silence Mr Morsi's supporters.

Eighty of the detainees have died in custody, the report adds.

Security was tight for the anniversary of Mr Morsi's removal, with his supporters turning out to protest.

Egyptian police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who had gathered across the capital and the coastal city of Alexandria on Thursday, with reports of dozens of arrests.

The authorities have cracked down harshly on Islamists and other political opponents since former President Mohammed Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, was removed by the military in July 2013 following mass protests.

The group - which was banned in December 2013 - had called for a "day of anger" to mark the anniversary.

Torture in custody

In a report released on Thursday, Amnesty International says that 1,247 death sentences have been handed down this year, with at least 247 of these upheld.

It said Egypt was "failing at every level in terms of human rights," citing "harrowing incidents of torture and deaths in police custody".

"Egypt's notorious state security forces are back and operating at full capacity, employing the same methods of torture and other ill-treatment used during the darkest hours of the Mubarak era," says Amnesty's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Torture methods, the report says, include the use of electric shocks, rape and handcuffing detainees and suspending them from open doors.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption One man reacts to the sentencing of 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters last month

It cites one case involving a 23-year-old male student, who says he was tortured and raped during 47 days of detention.

"They cut my shirt, blindfolded me with it and handcuffed me from behind…they beat me with batons all over my body, particularly on the chest, back and face…Then they put two wires in my left and right little fingers and gave me electric shocks four or five times," he said.

Amnesty says Egypt's criminal system "has suffered huge setbacks over the past year with several politically-motivated verdicts".

The military-installed government has sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters through a series of speedy mass trials in the past year, drawing widespread criticism from human rights groups and the UN.

Those convicted include Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, who had his death sentence upheld in June.

Last month's sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists to at least seven years in jail on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood sparked widespread international outrage.