The undersigned human rights organizations are closely following the implications of the terrorist attack that left at least 16 Egyptian soldiers and officers dead in the Sinai Peninsula. The signatory organizations record their unequivocal condemnation of this criminal operation and stress that the response to growing terrorist activities in the Sinai and punishment of their perpetrators requires a drastic review of the failed counter-terrorism policies in Egypt, which have been used since the 1970s and particularly in Sinai since 2004. Such policies led to heightened risks of terrorism in Egypt, to such an extent that various terrorist groups now have plans to establish a separate Islamic emirate in the Sinai Peninsula.
The undersigned organizations note that the ongoing campaign launched in the wake of the recent terrorist attack in Sinai does not indicate that the rulers of the country, whether embodied in the presidency, the military, or the civilian security apparatuses, have learned the lessons from their failed policies This campaign is being reduced to armed and security deterrence under the banner of retaliation and reprisals while political, economic, religious and developmental factors which contributed to the creation of an environment conducive to terrorism are overlooked. These factors have contributed to the cancerous growth of the phenomenon of terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula.
The situation does not warrant retaliation for the victims of the terrorist attack while the causes that foster terrorism still persist! There is, however, a need to eradicate terrorism from its roots The flagrant human rights violations against the citizens of Sinai and the disgrace of customs prevailing in Bedouin communities also promote the malignant growth of terrorism in Sinai, particularly with the brutal security crackdown that started in 2004 following the first terrorist attack in the region and continued for several years in its wake.
Failure to address this problem this time around threatens not only to further expand terrorism in Sinai, but also to spread this pernicious peril to other areas of the country, especially in light of the major similarities between the religious discourses in Sinai and the rest of the country, including in the Constituent Assembly entrusted with drafting the national constitution. Some political parties tend to bury their heads in the sand by throwing the blame for the recent terrorist attack on third parties or the remnants of the Mubarak regime! A number of officials expressed their astonishment that the terrorist group attacked the Egyptian soldiers who were fasting in Ramadan at Iftar time, but no one was equally astounded by the fact that Muslim masses, also fasting in Ramadan, attacked and looted the homes of Copts in Dahshur only a few days earlier. The same religious discourse has prompted crimes in Sinai, Dahshur, and earlier in Atfih and in the district of Imbaba as well as in other cities, villages, and neighborhoods that witnessed sectarian violence. However, these crimes went unpunished; the culprits paid no price, just like the perpetrators of successive terrorist crimes in Sinai over the past year.
In this context, the undersigned organizations stress that the responsibility of political parties with a religious background should not be limited to condemnation of terrorist crimes; rather, they should refute the pillars of religious jurisprudence used to legitimize terrorist crimes. Unfortunately, these parties were reluctant to do so both before and even after the revolution. The undersigned organizations fear that the conduct and discourse of some religious parties seeking to build the foundations of the religious state in Egypt support and promote the discourse of extremism and thereby exacerbate the risks of terrorism.
The undersigned organizations also fear that the recent decisions of the president to pardon a number of persons convicted of similar terrorist offenses might have sent encouraging signals to terrorist groups. The president should have ordered the retrial of these individuals if their original trials were heavily contested so that the real perpetrators of these crimes could be held accountable, if indeed the pardoned individuals did not commit them. Similarly, the president should order independent and impartial investigations to hold accountable and punish the perpetrators of alleged crimes of torture, as such crimes entailed the extraction of forced confessions from these amnestied individuals.
The undersigned organizations emphasize that respect for the law and for regulations as well as for human rights standards constitutes a fundamental safeguard in the pursuit of terrorists or terrorist groups, for it only ensures protection for the rights of terror suspects but also aims to reveal the truth, track down the real parties involved in such crimes, and fairly punish them. This requires first and foremost a real break with the policies and practices used by the Mubarak regime in combating terrorism, rather than corroborating them and building on them.
Finally, the signatory organizations urge the government to reconsider its development plan for Sinai, including through budgetary allocations dedicated to enhancing this part of the country. Decree Law No. 14 of 2012 on the Integrated Development of the Sinai Peninsula should be modified so that the citizens of Sinai can be adequately represented on the board of directors of the National Agency for the Development of the Sinai Peninsula. New policies should be adopted in order to deal with Sinai not just as a security problem. Furthermore, the veto enjoyed by representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the Interior Ministry, and the General Intelligence Service on the decisions issued by this council should be abolished.
Warding off the risks of terrorism requires the adoption of an integrated package of policies that addresses its root causes. Most importantly, it requires the establishment of true development in Sinai, including the reinstitution of the values of citizenship, the securing of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights for the inhabitants of Sinai to ensure equity between them and the rest of the Egyptian population, and, finally, combating the discourse of religious fanaticism and extremism in Sinai and other parts of the country.
The undersigned organizations:
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Cairo Centre for the Development of Human Rights
- The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights
- Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
- Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies
- Center for Appropriate Communication for Development (ACT)
- Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
- Masriyon Against Religious Discrimination
- Arab Organization for Penal Reform
- Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Organizations
- The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
- The Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners
- The Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services
- The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
- Citizenship Human Rights Organization
- The New Woman Foundation
- The Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions
- Land Centre for Human Rights
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