The undersigned organizations question whether the political will exists to stop the ongoing deterioration of Egypt’s human rights record, although Egypt accepted 224 recommendations and partially accepted 23 additional recommendations. It rejected 53 of the some 300 recommendations submitted by 121 states to improve the status of human rights. The recommendations were made in November 2014 during the second Universal Periodic Review of Egypt’s rights record before the UN. The undersigned organizations declare that the Egyptian government’s acceptance of these recommendations on March 20 is meaningless without actual practices on the ground that prove there is a political will to protect human rights and their defenders.
UN member states gave the Egyptian government an unprecedented 319 recommendations, nearly double the number received by the Mubarak government in 2010.
The recommendations from the November session focused on a set of rights that have been systematically violated over the last four years, first and foremost the right to peaceful assembly and the right to association. Egypt received 38 recommendations in connection with these issues, compared to only four in the previous UPR in 2010. They ranged from recommendations to respect the right of peaceful demonstration and assembly in general, provide an appropriate environment to protect human rights defenders and rights organizations, and release persons detained in cases for exercising their rights. A substantial number of the recommendations urged Egypt to reconsider the protest law (Law 107/2013) and the associations law (Law 84/2002) to bring them into compliance with international standards.
On this occasion, the undersigned organizations offer a review of the state of human rights in Egypt in connection with these rights since November 2014, the date of the first UPR session, to March 2015.
In terms of actual practice, over the past few months, human rights saw clear violations that are irreconcilable with Egypt’s stated understanding and acceptance of the international recommendations. On November 30, only days after the first round of the UPR, demonstrations erupted in Abd al-Meneim Riyad Square in central Cairo to protest the acquittal of Mubarak on charges of killing and injuring demonstrators in 2011. Police engaged these demonstrations with their regular violence. Two demonstrators were killed and nine injured according to the Health Ministry, while security forces arrested 100 protestors.
In November and December 2014, rights organizations documented the arrest of 39 students, some at home, in connection with demonstrations or other campus activities.
On January 24, 2015, 50 members of the Popular Socialist Alliance organized a peaceful march with flowers and posters commemorating the uprising of January 25, 2011. Security forces attacked the march and dispersed it with excessive force, as a result of which human rights defender and party member Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was killed. Participants in the march and witnesses to the incident were charged with taking part in a demonstration that disturbed public security. Recently the public prosecutor charged an officer who took part in the dispersal of the protest with lethal assault (involuntary manslaughter/unintended killing). The undersigned organizations consider the charges facing the officer inadequate; part of a tactic to pave the way for his release on bail or a lenient suspended sentence.
On February 8, 2015, security forces failed to secure the entrance of a few thousand fans of the Zamalek Club coming to watch their team play in the Egyptian league. As a result of police forces’ violent conduct with the crowd, including the use of tear gas and shotgun fire, more than 22 people were killed, among them a 14-year-old boy.
Regarding the right of association and human rights defenders, the government continued its various means of harassment. Human rights organizations and their staff continue to face threats of closure and harm. As a result, several organizations moved part of their activities abroad, while others reduced their activities and staff.
A month after the UPR session in November, four staff members with the Egyptian Democracy Academy, among them a women human rights defender, were banned from travel in connection with the foreign funding case of 2011. They were also alleged to have “circumvented the associations law and established a company that engages in the purposes of associations.” In February 2015, activist Ahmed Douma and 228 others, among them eight human rights defenders, received prison sentences of up to life imprisonment and were collectively fined LE17 million in connection with a demonstration in December 2011.
In a related context, in December 2014, an appellate court sentenced human rights defenders Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, as well as 21 others, to two years in prison on charges of taking part in a peaceful demonstration near the Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in June 2013, organized to condemn the imprisonment of other activists under the repressive protest law.
In the November session, Egypt also received 58 recommendations related to women’s rights, compared to 25 in 2010. States urged Egypt to encourage women’s political participation, counter all forms of discrimination, and combat sexual violence. These issues have seen no tangible improvement in these months, with the exception of a few cosmetic measures.
The Egyptian government announced a national strategy to combat violence against women following the first session of the UPR. Lacking transparency, the announcement lacked any details, and no feminist rights organizations were involved in drafting the strategy.
In addition, despite the efforts of feminist groups to amend Articles 267, 268, and 269 of the Egyptian penal code, these provisions remain unchanged. The state has also failed to prosecute those involved in assaults on women. Despite the numerous incidents of mass sexual assaults since November 2012, which at times involved gang rape, only seven people, on June 8, 2014, have been held accountable for these crimes.
The undersigned organizations regret that there is still no effective communication with rights groups on improving the status of human rights, including discussions of the UPR recommendations. Several members of the Forum of Egyptian Independent Rights Organizations invited the government to discuss the first UPR session and the recommendations submitted to Egypt, but these invitations went unanswered.
The oral intervention presented this morning by the CIHRS on behalf of Egyptian human rights organizations can be viewed here
The written intervention on the state of human rights in Egypt during the past four months, presnted earlier this month by CIHRS to the UN Human Rights Council, can be viewed here
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Andalus institute for tolerance and anti-violence studies
- Arab Network for Human Rights Information
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- Center for Appropriate Communication Techniques
- Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
- Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
- Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination
- El-Nadeem Centre for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture
- Nazra for Feminist Studies
- The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
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