Egyptian President’s chairmanship must not undermine African Union’s commitment to human rights

Member states of the African Union must ensure that Egypt’s upcoming chairmanship does not undermine the continental body’s human rights mechanisms, said Amnesty International today. President Abdelfattah al-Sisi of Egypt will assume the position of the chairperson of the African Union on 10 February during its 32nd ordinary session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“During his time in power President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has demonstrated a shocking contempt for human rights. Under his leadership the country has undergone a catastrophic decline in rights and freedoms,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa Campaigns Director.

“There are real fears about the potential impact his chairmanship could have on the independence of regional human rights mechanisms and their future engagement with civil society.”

During his time in power President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has demonstrated a shocking contempt for human rights

Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director

Since 2015, Egypt has orchestrated a vicious and sustained political attack against the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the mechanism that aims to monitor African states’ human rights records. Dozens of cases alleging serious human rights violations have been lodged against Egypt at the ACHPR.

The Egyptian authorities have carried out mass killings of protestors, widespread enforced disappearances, and sentenced hundreds to death following unfair trials. The authorities have also orchestrated the worst crackdown on freedom of expression in the country’s recent history.

The Egyptian parliament is currently considering a number of proposed constitutional amendments that would expand the scope of military trials, undermine judicial independence and allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to potentially stay on as a president until 2034.  

“The African Union member states must ensure that Egypt, as political head of the organization for 2019, upholds the African Union’s values and principles, including respect for human and peoples’ rights”, said Najia Bounaim.

Amnesty International also called on Egypt to ratify key African Union human rights treaties including the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.