EGYPT: THE HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS UNDER THE PRESIDENCY OF AL-SISI
Amnesty International Italy, Human Rights Watch and DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture, in cooperation with the Committee for Justice (CFJ) and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), published three new reports in September 2021 documenting the continued violations of fundamental rights in Egypt, including violations of the rights to life and to be free from torture, and the rights of freedom of thought, expression, assembly and association.
“The Egyptian authorities are bent on crushing any form of opposition or criticism with absolute disregard for their obligations under the Egyptian constitution and international law”. Said Hussein Baoumi, Egypt Researcher, Amnesty International. “Reversing the human rights crisis in the country requires, above all, the political will to bring an end to the vicious crackdown and a coordinated effort by the international community to establish pathways for holding those responsible for abuses accountable, including through supporting the establishment of a UN monitoring and reporting mechanism on the human rights situation in Egypt.”
Rome, 13 October – Amnesty International Italy, Human Rights Watch and DIGNITY, in cooperation with the two Egyptian NGOs the Committee for Justice (CFJ) and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), in light of the newly published reports gathered today to present a series of recommendations to the international community and to the Egyptian national authorities to put an end to human rights violations in Egypt.
The above mentioned organizations provided an overview of the systematic human rights abuses that have shaped Egypt under the presidency of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi over the past eight years. Thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, lawyers, activists, dissidents and researchers, including Patrick Zaki, have been and/or continue to be arbitrarily detained in the North African state on the basis of drakonian laws and are often kept in inhumane conditions that expose them to serious risks for their physical and psychological well being.
According to Amnesty International’s report “This will only end when you die”, published on September 16, 2021, the work of the Egyptian National Security Agency (NSA), which deals with cases of threats to national security, dissemination of false news, incitement to illegal demonstrations and terrorism-related crimes, has led to the establishment of a “system of terror” that seeks to silence all those involved in defending human rights. The report collects the testimonies of 26 activists who between 2020 and 2021 were exposed to threats, continous summons, coercive interrogations, as well as illegal precautionary measures (such as illicit pre-trial detantion or arbitrary detention) issued by the Supreme State Security Prosecutor or enforced directly by the NSA. The Egyptian authorities abuse their powers, denying human rights and fundamental freedoms in a climate of almost total impunity. Added to this is the complete impossibility of accessing legal remedies aimed at countering arbitrary measures and requesting compensation, thus leaving the victims without justice and violating key human rights obligations in front of the international community.
According to the DIGNITY report “Torture in Egypt: Systemic and Systematic”, written in cooperation with the ECRF and CFJ, the use of torture in Egypt is not only a systematic practice inflicted by law enforcement agencies, but it is practiced with impunity due to the widespread negligence and complicity of prosecutorial and judicial authorities. The report highlights the need to define individual criminal responsibility not only for the individual perpetrators of torture and for superiors who are ordering torture, but also for those members of the Egyptian criminal justice
system who contribute to a system of repression centered on the use of torture, for instance by admitting evidence in court which has been extracted under torture. In this respect, the report analyzes cases handled by the Egyptian criminal system since 2013 and indicates the Egyptian prosecutors, the judges and prison system’s directors as directly responsible. With their institutional actions they create the necessary conditions for torture to persist as a pervasive practice, reaching is a systemic level. “The systematic use of torture in Egypt pushes us to define the direct responsibility of a large number of actors within the Egyptian criminal justice sector,” said Giorgio Caracciolo, MENA Manager for DIGNITY.
“In order to end impunity for systemic toruture in Egypt, it is necessary that individual criminal responsibility does not stop with those who torture or order it, but also extends to those who make it possible”.
The Human Rights Watch report “‘Security Forces Dealt with Them’: Suspicious Killings and Extrajudicial Executions by Egyptian Security Forces” covers a pattern of suspicious killings and probable extrajudicial executions by Egyptian Interior Ministry forces of people who at the moment of their deaths apparently posed no life-threatening danger to security forces or others, and so amounted to deliberate and unlawful killings. Between January 2015 and December 2020, according to statements from the Interior Ministry, security forces killed at least 755 alleged “militants” or “terrorists” in 143 alleged shootouts or gun battles. The testimonies collected by the organization have shown that the victims did not represent an imminent threat to the security forces or to any other person, and in many cases they were already detained by the same security forces. “The Egyptian government continues to benefit from almost total impunity and unconditioanal support from the international community in spite of the grave violations documented over the recent years,” said Claudio Francavilla, EU Advocate for Human Rights Watch. “Italy, The European Union and other international partners supporting Egypt must take urgent measures to counter the systematic repression in the country and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
In light of the widespread violence and systematic repression perpetrated by Egypt’s security apparatus and its complete disregard for its human rights obligations, we call upon the international community, including Italy, other European states and the European Union, to inequivocably condemn the on-going repression and to contribute to ensuring justice for the victims and prevention of further violtations. In this regard, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and DIGNITY have urged the international community via the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a special mechanism to monitor Egypt’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, and to undertake a series of bilateral initiatives directly with Egypt.