Egypt: international community must take a stand and demand an end to human rights violations

  • More than 2000 people arrested after peaceful protests
  • Widespread arrests include people not related to the protests but perceived by the authorities to have taken part in any demonstrations dating back to 2011
  • Global civil society alliance condemns the harsh repression of protests in Egypt and calls for international pressure

The ongoing crackdown on people in Egypt, large scale arrests and heightened security in Cairo and other major cities signal another low moment for human rights in Egypt, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today. The Egyptian authorities have arrested more than 2000 people in a massive sweep that followed peaceful protests calling for an end to widespread corruption and condemning the actions of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. On 26 September 2019, the Egyptian authorities deployed hundreds of military personnel across the country to pre-empt any planned anti-government protest, intimidate the population and force many to self-censor to avoid reprisals from the state. Many of those who have been arrested include representatives of civil society, academics, former politicians and others.  

The recent crackdown and militarisation of cities across the country began during a rare protest on the weekend of 20 September when protesters expressed concerns over the government of President Sisi and condemned high levels of corruption. In response, security forces physically assaulted some protesters and used tear gas to disperse others, arrested thousands and detained them in different locations. The protests have been followed by a widespread crackdown on human rights defenders, members of the political opposition, activists and journalists—many of whom had not taken part in the protests at all and were instead arrested in raids on their homes. The Egyptian authorities embarked on a punitive campaign by using this protest to arrest many including those perceived to have been connected to protests in 2011.

Many of those arrested have been ordered into pretrial detention and informed that they were under investigation for using social media to spread false news, aiding a terrorist group to achieve its objectives and for participating in unauthorised protests. Others remain forcibly disappeared today. Among those arrested is human rights defender and lawyer Mahienour el-Masry who was detained on 22 September 2019 as she exited the headquarters of the State Security Prosecution in Cairo where she represented some of the detained protesters. She was then interrogated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) on false allegations of spreading false news and aiding a terrorist group to achieve its objectives.

More than five journalists have been arrested for sharing information and videos about the protests and the violent response by the police online. Families of those speaking from abroad to condemn the Sisi government have faced harassment and intimidation; for example, in the wake of videos recorded by Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim in which he criticised Sisi, Ghonim’s dentist brother Hazem was arrested and ordered into pretrial detention in retaliation.

To pre-empt any further protests, some government officials threatened to decisively confront any attempts to “destabilise Egypt” and riot police, plain clothes security officials and other security personnel were deployed in major cities across Egypt.

Over the last few years, President Sisi’s government has promulgated and amended laws that restrict the activities of civil society organisations and their ability to access funding, detained scores of human rights defenders and journalists and imposed travel bans on many. In its March 2019 submission to the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS and partners found that Egypt had not implemented any of the recommendations related to civic space. Instead, civic space in Egypt continues to deteriorate exponentially.

Many civil society organisations have been forced to close down amidst this systemic crackdown on fundamental freedoms as the government has also imposed some of the worst restrictions on internet freedoms.

“Amidst the ongoing human rights violations in Egypt exemplified by the forceful dispersal of peaceful protests and arrests of nearly 2,000 people, Egypt’s international partners and the United Nations Secretary General should call on him to put an end to all forms of restrictions on fundamental rights in Egypt,” said Dr. Nancy Okail, Executive Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

CIVICUS calls on the international community to exert pressure on President Sisi to call on his security forces to immediately release all those detained in relation to the recent protests, respect the rights of Egyptians to assemble and express themselves in a peaceful manner.

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Egypt is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a participatory platform that rates and measures the state of civic freedoms in 196 countries. Earlier this month, CIVICUS and 15 human rights organisations wrote a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council with a call to use the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt to address the unprecedented levels of repression.

For more information, please contact:

Masana Ndinga-Kanga

MENA Advocacy Lead, CIVICUS

Email: :

 

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