Egypt: Two years after the revolution, the protection of basic citizens’ rights remains non-existent

Press release
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On the occasion of the second anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, our organisations express their serious concern over the situation of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Egypt. Our organisations call upon the Egyptian authorities to urgently take measures to guarantee the full exercise of human rights to all citizens and to re-open dialogue with the aim of making democratic transition a reality.

Rather than celebrating the anniversary of its revolution, Egypt is facing great political divisions, aggravated by moves from the ruling party to control the State institutions and restrict basic civil liberties. In this alarming context, Egyptian and international NGOs have previously made concrete proposals to address human rights’ abuses in practice and policies [1] that have yet to be taken into account.

On 25 December, a new constitution was adopted, following a rushed referendum in a context of major political and social division and after the withdrawal of almost all non-Islamist members from the constitutional assembly, in protest against their recommendations being ignored by the Constituent Assembly. This new Constitution does not protect fundamental rights and does not comply with Egypt’s international human rights obligations [2]. It fails to prohibit military trials for civilians, to guarantee the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, social justice, and transparency.

Our organisations denounce the increasing violence against peaceful demonstrators perpetrated by unidentified groups and the failure of security forces to provide protection. Violations against peaceful demonstrators have generally remained unpunished. We regret that members of some political parties have used violence mutually over the last six months. It has been reported that the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have allegedly repeatedly mobilised their supporters to attack and intimidate critics of President Morsi. The violence committed against a group of peaceful protesters at Al Ittihadya Palace last December, left eleven dead and over 750 people injured [3]. Islamist groups also targeted media institutions, liberal political parties and the judiciary. Furthermore, the Public Prosecution has yet again failed to investigate the Muslim Brotherhood’s involvement in these recent attacks.

Our organisations are increasingly worried about the situation of freedom of expression in the country. The harassment, interrogation and physical violence against journalists and media professionals has significantly increased; constituting a new trend that Egypt did not witness in earlier times. The Presidency has filed complaints against at least 20 opposition media professionals under the accusation of “insulting the President” [4].

Egyptian associations are still facing major difficulties to work freely in light of the increasing limitations and controls exercised by the administration in particular on their foreign funding. Since 2012, a reform of the Associations Law is being discussed, threatening to evolve into a legal framework very far from international standards of freedom of association ratified by Egypt.

Additionally, the new composition of the National Human Rights Council has raised controversy as it includes individuals who are not known for their commitment to human rights. This jeopardizes the role of the Council to monitor, evaluate and advocate for human rights in Egypt.

Gender-based violence including sexual assault on female protesters by security forces continues amidst a climate of impunity. Egyptian women are facing major setbacks in the public political life as the Shoura Council recently rejected proposals to the Parliamentary Elections Law – to be issued shortly – of “placing female candidates on the first half of electoral lists”, allowing a better representation of women at the parliamentary elections.

Main concerns remain over the independence of the judiciary, particularly at the interference of the Executive in the appointment of the new General Prosecutor which comes in violation of the law. Our organisations are dismayed by the latest crackdown on the Supreme Constitutional Court. In November 2012, the Court was brutally besieged by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies for four weeks, preventing its judges from accessing the Court which was scheduled to rule on the constitutionality of the Constituent Assembly and the Higher Chamber of Parliament (Shoura Council). As a retaliatory measure against the Court, the new Constitution removed 6 of its members and a new law is expected to weaken its future role.

Furthermore, perpetrators of human rights violations continue to walk free in a climate of impunity. Trials of police officers accused of killing of protesters have mostly led to acquittals, and there has been no independent and impartial investigation into the human rights violations committed during the transitional period. A fact-finding commission established by President Morsy has recently delivered its report on the violent episodes since February 2011 and until June 2012. The report has yet to be made public, or used by the Public Prosecution in the on- going legal proceedings.

Our organisations call upon the Egyptian Authorities to:

  • Immediately call for an inclusive dialogue which includes all segments of the society and political tendencies in order to draw a consensual policy.
  • Develop a public national plan for human rights reform in Egypt, including measures to combat impunity for human rights and gender based abuses, with active participation of independent civil society, particularly human rights organisations.
  • Facilitate the establishment of a democratic legislative and constitutional framework which respects human rights, gender equality, fights all forms of discrimination on any grounds and recognizes international conventions which prevail over domestic legislation, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
  • Immediately guarantee the right of civil society organisations to act without government interference and to legally access foreign funding.
    Start a genuine transitional justice process taking into account violations before and during the revolution.
  • Support thorough and impartial investigations on alleged assaults against peaceful demonstrators.
  • Ensure women’s political participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
  • Drop all charges against journalists and media professionals and fully guarantee the right to freedom of expression.
  • Ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of death penalty; the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or degrading Treatment; the Rome Statute establishing the international Criminal Court; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

On the other hand, EU-Egypt relations have resumed following the first meeting of an EU-Egypt task force last November, which did not provide the expected space to civil society and human rights priorities.

Our organisations call upon the EU, US and other international partners of the Egyptian government, to demonstrate their genuine commitment to promote human rights, democracy and gender equality with Egypt. Our organisations urge the EU to:

  • Fully abide by its declared change of policy with its Southern Mediterranean neighbours after the Arab Spring and urgently translate its commitments regarding democracy, rule of law, respect of human rights and gender equality into concrete actions.
  • Strongly urge the Egyptian authority to curb human rights abuses and comply with international human rights standards.
  • Make clear to the Egyptian government that the EU’s level of political, financial and technical engagement will depend on the level of progress with regard to democratization, human rights and gender equality; and be based on an objective and accurate assessment of the situation on the ground.

To read the report of FIDH member organisation, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) entitled "Two Years after the Egyptian Revolution” click here.

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