Egyptian security agents have abducted and tortured "at least several hundred people", some as young as 14, in an unprecedented spike in enforced disappearances aimed at silencing opponents, Amnesty International has asserted in a new report.
The report, based on 70 interviews with former detainees, families of detainees, lawyers and others, said enforced disappearances had spiked since the appointment of Interior Minister Magdi Abdel Ghaffar in early 2015, with an average of three or four people reported disappeared every day.
"Enforced disappearance has become a key instrument of state policy in Egypt. Anyone who dares to speak out is at risk, with counter-terrorism being used as an excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture people who challenge the authorities," Philip Luther, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said in a statement that accompanied the report published on Wednesday.
Amnesty said the nature of the enforced disappearances made it difficult to give a precise number, but that reports by Egyptian non-governmental organisations and rights groups indicated there had been "at least several hundred cases" since the beginning of 2015.
It counted cases where individuals were arrested by state agents and held for at least 48 hours without referral to the prosecution and where authorities denied they were in custody when asked by families.
The foreign ministry said in a statement that Amnesty reports on Egypt were biased, politically-motivated and aimed to harm its image. It declined to comment on specific accusations.
The report features the detailed cases of 17 people subjected to enforced disappearance, held incommunicado for periods ranging from several days to seven months without access to their lawyers or families.
Amnesty said many of those forcibly disappeared were held at Lazoughly, a compound run by Egypt's Homeland Security.
There, detainees are subjected to electric shocks, violence and sexual abuse to extract confessions, the report said, citing testimonies from at least seven named victims or their families.