Amnesty International: Egypt’s NSA uses systemic violations to intimidate activists into silence

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On Wednesday, Amnesty International said that the National Security Agency in Egypt uses systemic violations against human rights and political activists. “Egypt’s feared National Security Agency is increasingly using a well-honed pattern of repeated summons, coercive questioning, arbitrary detention and torture – known informally as “monitoring” – against human rights and political activists to intimidate them into silence,” said Amnesty International.

In a report titled, “This will only end when you die’, Amnesty International added that the NSA, which is a ministry of interior police force that specialises in policing political cases, has escalated since 2019 its use of summons and coercive questioning, without prosecution warrants and in absence of defence lawyers. “The NSA officers conduct these measures without judicial orders or legal grounds in violation of international law and standards, as well as the Egyptian constitution and code of criminal procedures,” reads the report.

Amnesty’s report documented how the NSA used monitoring measures to intimidate 19 men and seven women between 2020 and 2021. Agency officers threatened the activists with imprisonment and torture against them and their families if they adhered to silence or equivocation during interrogations. “This new NSA tactic of persistent intimidation and harassment of activists, lawyers and NGO workers is one that is destroying lives,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director. Although the report asserted that it is impossible to survey the activities of this enormous agency, the organisations managed to gather information from six governorates, including Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Qaluibya, Dakahliya and Gharbiya, what suggests widespread use of such violations.

Egyptian expert in security studies, Ahmed Sayed, commented on the report, telling Egypt Watch that the NSA was known of such activities during the mandate of the overthrown president Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, and its violations were among the main causes behind the 25th of January Revolution. After the revolution, the agency withdrew from public and changed its name from the “State Security Agency” to the “National Security Agency.” Sayed explained that under Mubarak, and in spite of the absolute power of the agency, it was possible to complain about violations before the public prosecution and their activities were limited, “but under Sisi, it turned to be a beast above any oversight,” said Sayed. Moreover, the prosecution has turned into an organ of the agency to legalise its persecution of activists.