In meetings with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and EU Human Rights Envoy Stavros Lambrinidis; Mohamed Zaree, CIHRS Egypt Programme director emphasized that respect for human rights and justice is the only way to contain terrorism and promote long-term stability in Egypt. The Egyptian government’s security-based approach has resulted in the deterioration of conditions in the Sinai region, leading to escalating secretion violence against the Coptic Christians of Al-Arish. Rather than embarking upon a just, rights-based approach to curb violence, the government has intensified its offensive against civil society, with harsh penalties levied for defending fundamental civil rights, such as the right to freedom of expression.
Zaree’s meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on February 25, 2017 coincided with an Egyptian appellate court hearing on the prison sentence handed down to the head of the Journalists Syndicate and two members of the syndicate board—a first in the syndicate’s history. Zaree noted the closure of the Nadeem Center on February 9th as well as the issuance of travel bans for 17 rights advocates as further evidence of governmental reprisals intended to obstruct human rights advocacy. The assets of several rights organizations and centers have been frozen, compelling them to suspend their activities.
Just a few days prior to his meeting with Johnson, Zaree met with the EU Human Rights Envoy Stavros Lambrinidis, on February 20, during his official visit to Egypt. Zaree, along with other Egyptian rights advocates, addressed case no. 137/2011, known as the Foreign Funding Case. Several rights groups and their directors have had their assets frozen and travel bans issued against them as a result of the case’s prosecution. Zaree is among the human rights defenders banned from travel.
The government’s relentless persecution of human rights defenders undermines its ability to address Egypt’s intensifying security challenges, with vulnerable minority populations increasingly targeted by terrorist groups such as Daesh (ISIS). The government’s security-based approach has only led to more violence by fueling residents’ growing popular embrace of terrorist groups in response to the state’s violence in Sinai. A new approach respecting fundamental human rights and justice is essential to curbing the country’s descent into further bloodshed and instability; and would represent a genuine step towards protecting all Egyptians, especially vulnerable minority citizens such as the Coptic Christians of Al-Arish.
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