The U.N. has postponed a conference in Cairo on torture that was to take place in September following criticism from rights groups that say torture is rampant in Egypt.
"We are well aware of the growing unease in some parts of the nongovernmental organization [NGO] community with the choice of location," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Tuesday. "As a result we have decided to postpone the conference and reopen the process of consultation with all relevant actors," Colville added.
The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was to co-host the regional conference on defining and criminalizing torture with the government's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) on Sept. 4-5. Rights activists were outraged by the U.N. decision to hold the conference in Egypt and say that President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has presided over the worst crackdown on freedoms in Egypt's modern history.
The shocking death of Egypt's first and only democratic president, Mohammed Morsi, in an Egyptian courtroom has cast a spotlight on the dire conditions faced by political prisoners in the country. According to the Arab Organization for Human Rights, over 700 Egyptian prisoners have died as a result of medical negligence since 2011.
In 2013, then-Defense Minister el-Sissi led a bloody military coup, ousting Morsi. Since then, a harsh crackdown on dissidents, not only from the Muslim Brotherhood but anyone who opposed el-Sissi, has commenced. A recent constitutional referendum last month paved the way for el-Sissi to remain in power until 2030.
Despite the country's struggle for economic improvement, human rights violations have become alarming. Human rights groups and NGOs have said conditions in detention centers, including medical and nutritional supplies, are insufficient. Likewise, an article by Maged Mandour published by Sada, an online platform of Carnegie International, said that Egyptian security forces deliberately deprive the detainees of food so they will die of starvation.
"In 2015, for example, the Nadeem Center documented 81 cases of death in detention centers due to medical negligence – separate from the 137 they listed as having been directly killed inside detention centers. This number remained consistent in 2016, at 80 cases. Before that, there were 170 documented cases of death due to medical negligence starting from July 2013 until May 2015. The trend has continued, with seven detainees dying from medical negligence in January 2019 alone," the article read.