UN: States must denounce Egypt’s disastrous human rights record

The international community must demand the immediate release of peaceful protesters, activists and human rights defenders in Egypt following a draconian crackdown that saw more than 3,800 people arrested, many of them randomly, in recent months, said Amnesty International, ahead of the country’s upcoming review session at the UN Human Rights Council on 13 November.

The organization is also calling on states to use Egypt’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session to demand that the authorities open an investigation into the rampant use of torture and other ill-treatment by security forces, as well the abhorrent conditions of detention, and to end their repressive use of arbitrary travel bans and judicial harassment to punish human rights activists.

“Egypt’s human rights review at the UN Human Rights Council this week is a golden opportunity for the international community to hold the Egyptian authorities to account for their dire human rights record,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

The review comes nearly two months after the Egyptian authorities carried out the largest wave of mass arrests since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power.

“Now more than ever, it is crucial for the world to publicly denounce the degradation of human rights in Egypt and demand the release of peaceful protesters who have been arbitrarily detained,” said Najia Bounaim.

Now more than ever, it is crucial for the world to publicly denounce the degradation of human rights in Egypt and demand the release of peaceful protesters who have been arbitrarily detained,
Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International

The review session also comes just days ahead of a key court session on 17 November to appeal against arbitrary travel bans imposed on NGO staff, including many of the leaders of Egypt’s independent human rights organizations. Among them are women’s rights campaigner and founder of Nazra for Feminist Studies, Mozn Hassan, Aida Seif el Dawla, founder of the renowned Nadeem centre for torture survivors and prominent human rights activists Gamal Eid, Hossam Bahgat and Mohamed Zaree.

At least 31 NGO staff members have faced travel bans and the authorities have frozen the assets of 10 individuals and seven NGOs as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the foreign funding of NGOs and their legitimate human rights work.

“It is vital that states use this opportunity to vehemently condemn the vicious crackdown by authorities against NGO workers and civil society in recent years. They must demand that Egypt lifts arbitrary travel bans, asset freezes and close the investigation once and for all,” said Najia Bounaim.

In June 2019, Amnesty International published a damning overview of human rights in Egypt since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power. The report, which was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, highlighted the authorities’ extreme restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, the widespread use of arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and unfair trials and appalling detention conditions, among other concerns.

Since it was published, the human rights situation in Egypt has deteriorated even further with the latest wave of mass arrests in September and October and an escalation in the use of brutal tactics, including torture, against human rights defenders. On 29 September, prominent activist Alaa AbdelFattah was blindfolded, beaten, kicked repeatedly and verbally abused after being arbitrarily detained as part of the authorities’ sweeping arrests. Days later, on 12 October, human rights defender Esraa Abdelfattah was abducted by security forces and later tortured by officers who beat her and attempted to strangle her.

The international community, and in particular allies of Egypt, have a duty to speak out in the face of the widespread crimes under international law and human rights violations.
Najia Bounaim

During its previous UPR session in 2014, Egypt accepted 237 of the 300 human rights recommendations made to the country by states. However, Amnesty International’s analysis indicates that the authorities, instead of implementing key reforms in line with these recommendations, have adopted even more repressive measures that further restricted basic rights and freedoms.

“Egypt’s failure to implement recommendations from its last UN review session makes clear that the authorities have little intention of improving their appalling human rights record,” said Najia Bounaim.

Several United Nations Special Procedures have publicly condemned the worsening human rights situation in Egypt, including arbitrary arrests, restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression, torture, reprisals for engagement with the UN Special Procedures and, most recently, the conditions of detention that may have led to the death of former president Mohamed Morsi in custody.

“The international community, and in particular allies of Egypt, have a duty to speak out in the face of the widespread crimes under international law and human rights violations. They must make it clear that Egypt’s continuing failure to address these gross abuses will have serious consequences for their diplomatic and business ties with the country.”