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article imageRights groups call for UN action on Egypt 'reprisals'

By AFP     Dec 12, 2018 in World

Rights groups on Wednesday called for a "robust" response to a UN expert's allegations that people she met during a visit to Egypt faced harassment, intimidation and other reprisals afterwards.

A statement signed by six organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged an "independent UN investigation" into the accusations.

Last week the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, said she was "shocked" at the treatment of communities she met during her official visit from September 24 to October 3.

According to Farha, several families from two communities she met were later subjected to "forced evictions" and had their furniture thrown in the streets, leaving them homeless.

Other people she had contact with were summoned by the police for interrogation, and one faced "arbitrary arrest and undisclosed detention", the UN said.

"Egypt has failed to adhere to the assurances provided to me that no person would be harassed, intimidated or subjected to reprisal for meeting or providing information to me or my delegation," Farha said.

Her statement triggered an angry response from Egypt which accused her of "fabricating lies".

The rights groups warned that failing to act in response to the alleged reprisals "will only encourage similar human rights violations in the future and risk undermining the accessibility and credibility of the UN experts and wider human rights system."

They called on the UN to "ensure an urgent and robust system-wide response" and said its Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should review "any ongoing cooperation" with the Egyptian government.

The Egyptian authorities have clamped down on dissent, particularly among supporters of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was toppled by the military in 2013 following mass protests against his rule.

The crackdown was later expanded to include liberal and leftist secular activists.

According to the UN, Farha's visit was the first to Egypt by an expert appointed by its Human Rights Council since 2011.

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