Amnesty International says it has seen an “unprecedented spike” in enforced disappearances in Egypt since early 2015, with the government seeking to quash dissent.
The UK-based rights body said Wednesday that the Egyptian government has been increasingly relying on a “sinister” campaign of abductions and torture to silence political dissidents.
“Enforced disappearance has become a key instrument of state policy in Egypt. Anyone who dares to speak out is at risk,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.
Amnesty said the crackdown had seen an average of three to four people being spirited away by security forces each day since early last year, adding they were never seen or heard of again after their houses were raided.
It said most of those who disappeared were supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, and included children as young as 14 and students, political activists, and protesters.
Battling terrorism was “being used as an excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture people who challenge the authorities,” Luther was quoted as saying in the report.
Amnesty can reveal “collusion between national security forces and judicial authorities” in favor of running the campaign, the key researcher said.
The report by Amnesty also mentioned the case of Giulio Regeni, an Italian student who was found dead in Cairo in February. Signs of torture could be seen on his body.
“The terrible injuries sustained by Giulio Regeni are similar to those suffered by numerous people interrogated by the Egyptian security forces — his case is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Felix Jakens, another official with Amnesty.
“We fear Regeni was abducted by state agents and tortured to death, and until we get a thorough independent investigation into his death, those suspicions are only going to grow.”
The Egyptian government has been engaged in a crackdown on the opposition since democratically-elected President Morsi was ousted in a military coup led by then-head of the armed forces and current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013.
Sisi has been accused of leading the suppression of Morsi’s supporters. Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed in clashes with security forces since the coup.
Rights groups say the army’s crackdown has led to the deaths of over 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.
The Amnesty report said the security forces would kidnap children as a means of terrifying opponents. It documented 17 cases, including those of five children, who had disappeared for periods of “between several days to seven months.”