WORLD

Egypt blocks website of high-profile rights watchdog

EGYPT BLOCKS WEBSITE OF HIGH-PROFILE RIGHTS WATCHDOG

The Egyptian authorities on Thursday blocked access to the website of Human Rights Watch (HRW), according to the New York-based rights group.

In a statement, HRW noted that the move came one day after it had released a report documenting what it described as the "systemic" use of torture against opponents of the Egyptian regime.

"Egyptian authorities keep insisting that any incidents of torture are isolated crimes [perpetrated] by bad officers acting alone, but the HRW report proves otherwise," the group asserted.

"Rather than address routine abuses in Egypt, the authorities have blocked access to a report that documents what many Egyptians and others living there already know," it added.

On Thursday, Egyptian media and human rights activists complained that they were unable to access the HRW website.

Egyptian officials, for their part, have yet to comment on the issue.

On Wednesday, the HRW issued a a 44-page report accusing the Egyptian police of engaging in the "systemic" use of torture against political detainees.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has described the report as the "politicization and propagation of rumors".

According to HRW, its report is based on interviews conducted with 19 former detainees -- and the family of a 20th detainee -- who say they were tortured while in police custody during the period from 2014 to 2016.

Based on these testimonies, the HRW concluded that Egyptian police and officers of Egypt's National Security Agency (formerly the State Security Agency) regularly resort to torture to force perceived dissidents to "confess", divulge information, or simply to punish them.

In its report, HRW calls on the UN to investigate Egyptian security officials accused of engaging in torture.

Egyptian officials frequently accused HRW, along with other high-profile rights groups, of "politicization".

In a statement released earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid accused HRW of pursuing a "politicized" and "biased" agenda.

Since May, Egypt has blocked dozens of websites affiliated with local and international media and rights organizations.

In mid-August, the authorities blocked the Qantara website, which is run by Germany's Deutsche Welle radio station and supported by the German Foreign Ministry.

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