Egypt announces probe into torture claims

Egypt’s judiciary said Thursday it had launched an inquiry after Human Rights Watch accused security services of widespread torture of detainees in a probable “crime against humanity”.

The New York-based rights group said in a September report that security services in the North African country used torture as a “systematic practice” against suspected opponents of the government.

The prosecutor’s office said Thursday that counsellor Nabil Sadik had ordered the appointment of a senior judicial official “to investigate the allegations mentioned” in the HRW report.

In a statement in English, it said the investigation, which began in late October, aimed to “rightfully stand on the truth and take the necessary legal measures”.

Since the army toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, rights groups have regularly denounced the regime of his successor President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over alleged abuses.

They have been particularly critical of a contentious law to regulate non-governmental organisations, which HRW and other groups in June said would “crush civil society”.

The head of the state information service, Diaa Rashwan, said Thursday the HRW report on torture was one of several “unprofessional reports based on impressions”.

Rashwan spoke at a conference on human rights where the government also launched a commission to create a “national strategy for human rights”.

Ahmed Ehab, assistant foreign minister for human rights, said Egypt needed to reach “the point of balance between the campaign against terrorism and human rights”.