Today, on this International Human Rights Day, thousands of detainees including political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and academics will spend the day in an overcrowded cell alongside other innocent detainees who, like them, have committed no crime but to peacefully practising their political, civil, economic, social and Human Rights.
In Egypt, as the crackdown on dissent escalades, the degradation of human rights continues. Last September, mass arrests, censorship and enforced disappearances were used by the regime to silence protests against an economic situation deteriorating further every day. More recently, we witnessed another escalation in the campaign orchestrated by the Egyptian authorities to eradicate the human rights movement in Egypt. Ongoing for years, this campaign has led to the exile, freezing of assets, travel bans, enforced disappearance, torture and prolonged arbitrary detention of a large number of defenders and of their family members. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has publicly acknowledged the alarming nature of the current situation described as ” a broader pattern of intimidating organisations defending human rights and of the use of counter-terrorism and national security legislation to silence dissent (…) having a profound chilling effect on an already weakened Egyptian civil society“.
Over the past months, the pressure exerted by the Egyptian Government has involved increased efforts to delegitimise human rights under the cover of countering terrorism, whether nationally or at the UN level. The deliberate misuse by the Government of vaguely defined terrorism charges to intimidate, retaliate against and imprison any critical voices and stigmatise HRDs as terrorists is of grave concern.
The announcement last month by the Egyptian media of the ratification by the Government of the bylaws of the 2019 restrictive NGOs law is another upscale in the government’s plans to control civil society and silence independent human rights organizations.
In light of these worrying developments, the Forum reiterates its call for urgent reforms that should be prioritized in addressing the unprecedented human rights situation in Egypt:
- Ending the criminalization of protests and releasing all those detained under its mandate
- Ending military trials for civilians and presenting all those who were tried to civil courts
- Halting all death sentences that have been passed since July 2013, and retrying detainees in accordance with international standards
- Ending temporary detentions as a punishment and releasing all those who have exceeded the legal limit
- The immediate release of all prisoners who have been detained under the guise of the freedom of press, civil disobedience, case 173 and all former political candidates
- Improving the conditions of detention in Egyptian prisons including by providing better medical care and attention, and ending abusive practices such as solitary confinement.
- Allowing the Red Cross to assess the status of prisons and giving other NGOs and humans rights bodies access to prisons
On the occasion of this international Human Rights Day, the Egyptian Human Rights Forum also reiterates its call for the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ramy Shaath, Zyad el Elaimy, Mohamed al-Baqer, Mahienour al Massry, Esraa Abdel Fattah, Solafa Magdy, Hossam al-Sayyad, Mahmoud Hussein, Patrick Zaki, Ibrahim Ezz el-Din and thousands of others wrongfully and arbitrarily detained.