independent Egyptian Rights NGOs: Eliminating Prospects of Peaceful Transfer of Power Risks Pushing Egypt to the Verge of a Precarious Transformation
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Geneva 21 March 2018
In a memo sent on Tuesday, March 13th, seven independent Egyptian rights organizations warned the UN Secretary-General of the alarming deterioration of the human rights situation and the risk of pushing Egypt to the verge of a precarious transformation. With the violent closure of all avenues of peaceful transfer of power through general elections and the substantial increase in human rights violations, all of Egypt’s obligations under international human rights conventions have been effectively suspended and guarantees for civil rights and liberties under Egypt’s own constitution are flagrantly disregarded in both statute and practice. If the current trajectory continues, Egypt will enter a dangerous phase that will perilously destabilize the state.
With the March 2018 presidential elections imminent, the Egyptian state has suppressed legitimate political parties and shut down all avenues for a peaceful change. Rather than being allowed to campaign for the presidency, all potential candidates have instead been subjected to imprisonment, retaliatory campaigns of intimidation, violence, or persecution. This has rendered the elections a charade that does not carry out its intended democratic function but is instead functioning as a renewal of fealty to the sitting president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. By rendering a peaceful transfer of power impossible, the Egyptian government is making a violent transfer or contestation of power more likely.
If the country is to avert the catastrophe to where it is now headed, the Egyptian government must immediately cease its assault on the rule of law, its escalating attacks on independent civil society and international media, and its suppression of legitimate political parties and elimination of prospects of a peaceful transfer of power. Egypt’s current crisis occurs within an unstable system where the rule of law has collapsed, primarily through the violation of Egypt’s constitution – in legislation and in practice; the politicization of the judiciary; and the subversion of the Public Prosecutor’s role from an advocate for the people to an advocate for the security apparatus. Within this collapsed system – death sentences, extrajudicial executions, systematic torture, and enforced disappearancehave become rampant while Egypt’s political prisoner population had swollen to around 60,000; the overwhelming majority imprisoned for peaceful activities and some detained without trial for years, including journalists, rights advocates, and academics.
The Egyptian government has also escalated its assault on independent civil society and international media. With Egyptian media effectively nationalized or placed under arbitrary security restrictions, the Egyptian government has set its sights on destroying the few remaining outlets providing relatively impartial and reliable information to the Egyptian public, with smear campaigns particularly targeting international media. Sites of independent rights organizations and news outlets are blocked, and social media is monitored while journalists and bloggers are routinely intimidated and persecuted.
The organizations emphasized that the principle of the peaceful transfer of power must be reinstated by implementing the electoral process anew, releasing all detained candidates and their aides and allowing those candidates, and every Egyptian citizen who so desires, to run for the presidency free of intimidation and persecution. If the current farcical electoral process continues and a peaceful transfer of power is precluded, Egypt will open itself to being overrun by religious extremism, terrorism, and political violence. The rights organizations urged the Secretary-General to devote his attention to this matter, insofar as it is part of the UN’s mandate to protect human rights and preserve international peace and security.