nesty International report of 2021 said: The authorities continued to punish any public or perceived dissent, and severely repressed the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and association. Tens of journalists were detained arbitrarily solely in relation to their work or critical views. The authorities continued to severely restrict human rights organizations’ and political parties’ freedom of association. Security forces used unlawful force to disperse rare protests, and arbitrarily detained hundreds of protesters and bystanders pending investigations into “terrorism” and protest-related charges. Thousands of people remained in prolonged pre-trial detention, including human rights defenders, journalists, politicians, lawyers and social media influencers. Conditions of detention remained cruel and inhuman and prisoners were denied adequate health care, which led or contributed to at least 35 deaths in prisons or shortly after release. Fair trial guarantees were routinely flouted. Death sentences were handed down and executions were carried out.
Egypt should act to unshackle freedoms
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt should establish a moratorium on executions immediately and end a crackdown on freedom of association, independent groups, and peaceful dissent, 63 organizations including Human Rights Watch said on June 1.
The groups issued the following public statement recommending a series of actions Egypt should take to make tangible improvements in the human rights situation in Egypt and to ensure that Egypt complies with its international obligations:
We the undersigned 63 organizations call on the Egyptian authorities, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to take immediate action to end the Egyptian authorities’ wholesale crackdown on independent organizations and peaceful dissent.
More than 30 countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a joint statement on 12 March 2021 expressing their deep alarm over “the trajectory of human rights in Egypt and share[d] the concerns expressed by the [UN] High Commissioner for Human Rights and [UN] Special Procedure mandate holders.”
Our organizations have been calling for the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism on Egypt at the Human Rights Council and will continue to do so until there is meaningful and sustained improvement in the country’s human rights situation.
We remain greatly concerned over the arbitrary arrest, detention, and other judicial harassment of human rights defenders. Those held unjustly include NGOs directors Mohamed al-Baqer and Ezzat Ghoniem, human rights researchers Patrick George Zaki and Ibrahim Ezz el-Din, and lawyers Mahienour al-Massry, Haytham Mohamdeen, and Hoda Abdelmoniem. The founder and director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) Bahey Eldin Hassan was handed down an outrageous 15-years imprisonment sentence in absentia. Other attacks against human rights defenders include travel bans, asset freezes, additions to the “terrorists list” in arbitrary proceedings, protracted criminal investigations under case No. 173 of 2011, and reprisals for their engagement with UN mechanisms. We share concerns by seven Special Procedures mandate holders – United Nations experts – about Law No. 149/2019 on Non-Governmental Organizations, as it fails to meet Egypt’s international obligations to ensure the right to freedom of association.
We also have serious concerns over the overly broad definition of terrorism in Law No. 94 of 2015 on counterterrorism and in the Penal Code that contravenes international standards and allows for the criminalization of acts falling within the scope of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as the misuse of “terrorism circuits” of criminal courts and the Supreme State Security Prosecution to target human rights defenders and other peaceful critics in order to silence dissent. We are also deeply concerned over the crackdown on independent journalists and media, as hundreds of websites remain blocked and at least 28 journalists remain behind bars for simply doing their work or expressing critical views, including Esraa Abdelfatah and Ismail Iskandarani.
Since 2014, hundreds have been sentenced to death and dozens executed after trials that rely on torture-tainted “confessions.” Thousands of others are being held in prolonged pretrial detention without the opportunity to meaningfully challenge the lawfulness of their detention, sometimes for periods exceeding the two-year maximum permissible under Egyptian law. Even when prosecutors and judges order their release, the National Security Agency (NSA), with prosecutors’ complicity, routinely accuse them of similar charges in new cases to keep them detained indefinitely without trial, in the practice known as ”rotation.”
Egypt receives rare western rebuke for human rights violations
In March 2021, 31 western nations signed a scathing condemnation of Egypt’s record of human rights abuses under rule of President Field Marshal, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, “a partner of the west and an enthusiastic customer of its weapons,” as described by Independent of UK.
The statement, issued during the ongoing session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, urged Egypt to halt repression of human rights and civil society activists, dissidents, lawyers, critics and LGBTI individuals, many of them persecuted under the blanket excuse of fighting terrorism.
Among those signing the statement were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy. These western states are key economic and military partners of Field Marshal Sisi’s Cairo regime, which came to power eight years ago after toppling the country’s first freely elected president, the Independent pointed out.
“We remain deeply concerned about the trajectory of human rights in Egypt,” said a statement issued by Kirsti Kauppi, the Finnish ambassador to the human rights council. “We urge Egypt to guarantee space for civil society – including human rights defenders – to work without fear of intimidation, harassment, arrest, detention or any other form of reprisal.”
According to the Independent, Egypt has for years deftly deflected international concerns by focusing attention on its counter-terrorism and security challenges, and unlike Iran, Russia, or China has escaped harsh western scrutiny for its human rights violations, which include disappearing political dissidents, torturing detainees, and holding prisoners of conscience in dank, overcrowded prisons for months without access to legal recourse. Former US President Donald Trump famously referred to Mr Sisi as “my favorite dictator” and overlooked all but persecution of American nationals.
In recent months, the Egyptian authorities appear to have grown more confident internationally, recently resuming diplomatic relations with rivals Qatar and Turkey. Both countries supported the presidency of the Mohamed Morsi, whom Sisi shoved from power and jailed following weeks of popular protests, the Independent said.Finland, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic,
Finland’s envoy Kirsti Kauppi, read the statement on behalf of the following countries:Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America.
Tellingly, the statement by Ms Kauppi gave a nod to the increasing ‘security’ partnership between Field Marshal Sisi and the west. “We recognize Egypt’s role in supporting regional stability, managing migration, fighting against terrorism, and recall the need to counter terrorism in full respect of international human rights law,” she said.
37 Egyptians sentenced to death after unfair trial
On March 2, 2020, an Egyptian court sentenced 37 people to death on terrorism-related charges. Responding to today’s death sentences of 37 defendants by the Cairo Criminal Court, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“There is no doubt that those sentenced to death today have been convicted of serious crimes, including deadly attacks. However, the death penalty can never deliver justice, all the more so when it has been issued after a trial in which dozens of defendants say they were subjected to enforced disappearance and torture.
“We are calling on the Egyptian authorities to retry the defendants in proceedings that comply with international human rights law and fair trial standards, without recourse to the death penalty.”
The 37 defendants are among 208 defendants convicted of carrying out 54 militant attacks between 2013 and 2014. These included killing high-ranking police officers and bombing a security directorate office in the city of Daqhaliya, as well as an assassination attempt on the former Egyptian interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, in 2013.
The court also sentenced 61 defendants to life sentences and 88 others to prison terms ranging from five to 15 years. The remaining 22 individuals died during the course of the trial.
Amnesty International has serious concerns about the fairness of the trial. According to a report issued by the Egyptian Front for Human Rights in 2019, many of the defendants who were detained said they were subjected to enforced disappearance and torture: 70 defendants told prosecutors that they were subjected to enforced disappearance for periods up to five months, during which 62 of them said they were tortured by being beaten, subjected to electric shocks to the genitals or suspended for prolonged periods while handcuffed and naked.
Disclaimer: Field Marshal el-Sisi’s Egypt two years after President Morsi’s death in Cairo Court cage by Abdus Sattar Ghazali - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view