Egypt’s mass incarceration of peaceful activists…is the worst counter-terrorism strategy: US official

Tom Malinowski, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, has criticized Egypt’s counter-terrorism strategy, describing it as “the worst ever invented.”

In a forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Tom Malinowski said “But we learned a long time ago that promoting human rights and preventing terrorism are not competing interests. Arguably the worst counter-terrorism strategy ever invented is Egypt’s mass incarceration of thousands of peaceful activists and opposition supporters right alongside the most hardcore terrorists.”

He added, “A recently released Egyptian activist told us that “there are arguments that go on all day [in those prisons] between the ISIL model and the Muslim Brotherhood model – and the ISIL guys are winning the argument.” Let’s remember: The terrorists’ core argument to frustrated young men in the Middle East is: “If you think you can get change through elections or protests, you’re a fool; you will be jailed, tortured and crushed; we who use violence, on the other hand, are strong and will be victorious.”

“We need to cooperate with countries in the region, including Egypt, to share information about terrorist groups and plots so that we can stop attacks before they happen,” he added.

In addition, he pointed to the necessity for a political reform that gives all legitimate stakeholders in the Middle East a voice in their governance, including peaceful Islamist parties.

Since the military coup 2013 led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi against Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian authorities launched massive crackdown against political opposition, human right activists, and journalists.

According to international organizations’ estimates, Egyptian authorities are detaining about 40,000 of its opponents suffering poor conditions adding that hundreds have died in detentions as a result of torture and medical negligence.

In addition, torture in Egyptian prisons has become a likely crime against humanity, as described by Human Rights Monitor last July.

In its report, Human Rights Monitor pointed to Egypt’s continuous violations of human rights, adding that murder, torture, rape and corpse mutilation practices have become usual acts in Egypt.

In this context, the rights organization has called on the international community to urgently take an action to save the lives of thousands of detainees. It also called for pressurizing the Egyptian government to adhere to the rules of detainees’ treatment.