Egypt: Impunity for sexual violence must end

Press release
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17 July 2014 -Yesterday’s verdict of the South Cairo Criminal Court convicting 5 men to life imprisonment, and two men to 20 years imprisonment on charges of indecent assault with force, use of force and thuggery, theft, kidnapping and detention on June, 8 2014 in Tahrir Square, constitutes a positive step towards ending impunity for such crimes. However, FIDH stresses that there are hundreds of other cases of mass sexual assault and rape that have gone unpunished. No-one has been held to account for the 250 documented cases of mass sexual assault and rape in the vicinity of Tahrir Square between November 2012 and January 2014. In particular, the Prosecution has not opened investigations into the case of seven women who filed a complaint in March 2013. FIDH notes that the verdict issued yesterday in the four cases [1] of sexual assault and rape on June 8th is a first instance degree and could be appealed.

“The new Egyptian authorities must intensify their efforts to counter the constant message of impunity by ensuring that all incidents of sexual violence are duly investigated, prosecuted and punished” declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

FIDH has repeatedly called for a wide-ranging and comprehensive approach to tackling the epidemic of violence against women in Egypt. Although some steps have been taken, they remain woefully insufficient and lack transparency. In the past weeks, media reports have suggested that a national strategy to combat violence against women has been adopted by several ministries, in cooperation with the National Council for Women. FIDH deeply regrets that this strategy has not been made public, and women’s rights groups and civil society organisations have not been consulted.

“Putting the issue of violence against women on the government agenda is a positive first-step, but it cannot be done behind closed doors. The authorities must be transparent and effectively involve civil society in the process” declared Mozn Hassan, Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies.

FIDH urges the Egyptian authorities to publicize the national strategy in full and immediately consult with women’s rights groups and civil society organisations in the design and implementation of all activities.

FIDH urges the Egyptian authorities to conduct independent and effective investigations into all crimes of sexual violence that have taken place since February 2011, in order to hold those responsible accountable. In particular, the authorities should establish a sub-committee under the Fact Finding Commission (FFC) established by Presidential Decree no. 698/2013 and subsequently restructured by Presidential Decree no. 4/2014, to investigate incidents of sexual violence on and around 30 June 2013 in Tahrir square.

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