Sisi’s Egypt: International community should pressure Egypt to immediately cease new wave of repression

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

Paris, Friday 27 September 2019.

With demonstrations set to take place today in Egypt, FIDH and CIHRS fear that demonstrators may face intensified repression and be confronted with lethal force by the authorities, in the wake of a largely silent if not indifferent reaction from the international community to earlier violent interventions by the Egyptian security forces. We reiterate the collective warning of Egyptian human rights groups[1]  that further bloodshed and chaos in the country is likely in the absence of any form of accountability on the Egyptian government from the international community.

On the evening of September 20, protests erupted throughout Egypt despite a six-year ban on demonstrations;[2] in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and El-Mahalla. The protests were sparked by allegations of corruption from private military contractor Mohamed Ali, who denounced cases of  corruption involving President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and high-ranking army officials, in viral videos seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers across the country. On the evening of September 21, protesters gathered again in different cities and were met by police officers firing live ammunition and rubber bullets, according to witnesses. Since then, repression has continued to worsen.

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights states that more than 2000 people, including minors, have been arrested across 20 provinces,[3] and that demonstrators have been beaten and tear-gassed. Hundreds of them have been forcibly disappeared by security forces and have not yet appeared before a court.

In an apparent attempt to deter further demonstrations through fear and intimidation, Egyptian authorities have arrested or disappeared many citizens active in Egypt’s public life, including at least five media workers, ten peaceful opposition party representatives from across the spectrum, lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders.  Prominent among those arrested are human rights defender Mahienour el-Massry[4], former head of the liberal Dostour party Khaled Dawoud, and political science professors Hazem Hosny and Hassan Nafea.

The escalating political violence emerged alongside President Sisi’s visit to New York to  attend the UN General Assembly. Given US President Donald Trump’s characterization of Sisi as his “favorite dictator,” it comes as no surprise that he was quoted saying “Egypt has a great leader. He’s highly respected.”

Many world leaders have thus far failed to voice public criticism or denounce the recent spate of state violence against demonstrators in Egypt, including French Foreign Minister Le Drian, who paid a courtesy visit to Egypt a week ago.

We strongly condemn the enforced disappearances, mass arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment of peaceful protesters and human rights defenders, and we urgently call on the international community to strongly condemn  the situation, and urge the Egyptian authorities to:

  • Cease the systematic practices of arbitrary arrests and excessively long pretrial detentions, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or humiliating treatment;
  • Immediately and unconditionally free all persons, including human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, and professors, currently detained in Egypt for having exercised their constitutionally-protected rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association;
  • Put an end to the campaign of criminalisation of all forms of dissent, and of harassment intimidation, and prosecution of any person critical of the government or perceived as such.
  • Immediately investigate the alleged acts of corruption by the president, his family and the military establishment, and release a transparent summary of the investigation to the national and international public.

[2] Egypt effectively banned protests under a law passed following the 2013 military ouster of the late Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.

Photo: Reuters

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