Dear African Commission on Human Rights: Don’t provide cover for repressive Egyptian government

Joint letter to Chair of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights: Don’t provide political cover for brutal repression of Egyptian government (below letter sent to Chair Soyota Maiga, while ACHPHR meets in Banjul, Gambia)

Dear Chair Soyota Maiga,

We are writing to urge you to reject the bid to hold the upcoming African Commission on Human Rights and People's Rights (ACPHR) 64th ordinary session in Egypt. This decision, if taken could tantamount to ignoring the current violations taking place in the country. Egypt, under the rule of President Sisi, is in the throes of the most widespread and brutal crackdown on human rights committed by any Egyptian government in its modern history. Reflecting this reality, the United Nations (UN) human rights system, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Special Procedures, has become increasingly vocal and robust in its criticism of the human rights situation in the country. This includes  recent  statements that strongly denounce the recent issuance of mass death sentences for individuals who have participated in protests within the country –and a rare call by experts representing six thematic mandates of the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently respond” to the government’s “appalling” behaviour. The EU’s European External Action Service has made similar criticism.

The Egyptian government’s continuous disregard to constitutional law and international human rights obligations lead to a series of appalling human rights violations (see annex attached to this letter). The judiciary has largely failed to hold to account those responsible for grave violations of international and national law and, in many cases, the courts have served as an instrument of repression for the authorities. Egyptian NGOs have documented 1,520 cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt between July 2013 and August 2018. More than 60,000 political prisoners are currently detained in Egypt, in dreadful conditions. The Egyptian NGO Committee for Justice documented at least 129 cases of death in custody in 2017 alone. Moreover, The UN Committee Against Torture’s 2017 annual report concluded “torture is a systematic practice in Egypt” fed by security forces’ impunity and high-level State acquiescence, and may amount to crimes against humanity.
Amid a national milieu distinguished by endemic torture and enforced disappearance and impunity, Egypt is currently in the middle of the most sweeping and repressive crackdown on fundamental freedoms, including dissent and other political expression in its modern history. This systematic repression threatens to wipe out any form of independent journalism and civil society in the coming period and had sweeping effects on the enjoyment of all individuals to their right to freedoms of expression, association and reunion. Indeed, the Egyptian government’s rejection of fundamental democratic processes and human rights principles is represented by its recent presidential elections held in March this year, which were assessed by fourteen regional and international organizations as neither free nor fair. Leading Egyptian human rights organizations previously warned the elections had become a dangerous "charade” likely to “exacerbate violence, terrorism and instability" in the country. Now the authorities are widely expected to soon make concrete moves to amend Egypt’s Constitution to abolish presidential term limits and allow President Sisi to run for a third term in 2022.

In face of this, a free and effective participation of Egyptian and non-Egyptian civil society organizations during the ACHPR sessions is also put into question. Our organizations have serious doubts all conditions would be met to allow NGOs to access the ACHPR, according to its mandate and practices. The security and safety of human rights defenders participating in this session may also not be guaranteed. The ACHPR has a key role to play and should reinforce its engagement with Egyptian national authorities, in order to contribute to upholding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.

The ACPHR should not turn a blind eye to these atrocities. We fully support the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s recent denunciation of the injustice of the Egyptian court. We urge the ACHPR to follow the High Commissioner lead in denouncing these violations in Egypt instead of rewarding it with hosting the 64th ordinary session. The African Commission should not raise its flag over the gravestone of human rights in Egypt.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

We remain at your service should you require further information.

See Annex for more detailed information on the state of human rights and civic space in Egypt.

With Assurances of our Highest Consideration:

1    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS);    
2    Committee for Justice (CfJ)
3    Action for Community Transformation (ACT-NOW)
4    Adalah Center for Rights & Freedoms (ACRF)- Egypt
5    African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
6    Afrique arc-en-ciel
7    Afrique Arc-en-Ciel Togo
8    Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH)
9    Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights-Nedal- Egypt
10    Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia (AJPD) Angola
11    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
12    Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana – (ARCI)
13    Belady Island for Humanity
14    Border center for support and consulting- Egypt
15    Center for Civil Liberties-Ukraine
17    CNCD-11.11.11
18    Coalition of African Lesbians
19    Independent Commission for Human Rights in Western Sahara
20    Conectas Direitos Humanos
21    Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)
22    Defend Defenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
23    Dignity
24    Egyptian Front for Human Rights
25    EuroMed Rights
26    Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD)
27    Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)
28    Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum- Uganda
29    Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)
30    Human Rights Defenders Network- Sierra Leone
31    HuMENA for Human Rights and Sustainable Development
32    Initiative For Equal Right- Nigeria
33    Initiative for Equality and Non- Discrimination- Kenya
34    Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)
35    International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
36    International Commission of Jurist (ICJ)
37    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
38    International Institute for Child Protection
39    International Lawyers (Geneva)
40    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
41    Iranti-South Africa
42    Kenya Human Rights Commission 
43    Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation
44    Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH)
45    Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH)
46    Nadeem Center- Egypt
47    National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders-Uganda
48    National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders - Kenya (NCHRD-K)
49    National Human Rights Defenders Network Sierra Leone
50    National Human Rights Defenders Somalia/ Somaliland
51    Network for Solidarity, Empowerment and Transformation for All – NewSETA
52    Odhikar-Bangladesh
53    Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH)
54    Queer Youth Uganda
55    Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
56    Réseau Doustourna (Tunis)
57    Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
58    Synergia Initiatives for Human Rights
59    The Freedom Initiative
60    The Regional Center for Rights And liberties
61    Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
62    Uganda National NGO Forum
63    West African Human Rights Defenders ‘Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
64    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
65    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights