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Egypt's allies express serious concerns over human rights violations

November 5, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Ahmed Bedier, an eyewitness at Rabaa and President of United Voices for America, lost his brother to the massacre in August 2013. When he went to pick up Amir’s body for burial rights the death certificate said that he had died from natural causes.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, following the UN Universal Periodic Review of Egypt this morning, Ahmed explains that it is not possible to pick up a body without a death certificate.

With the help of lawyers, his family finally obtained a certificate that said he had been shot in the neck. Amir paid with his life for pursuing democracy, yet not one person has been brought to justice for the events of that day.

Watching the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt at the UN this morning, says Ahmed, was like watching nations who are living in a world of fantasy and a world of reality. “It’s a great injustice to those that were killed and paid with their own lives to cover up what happened.”

“People say we’re on the path to democracy? If there is a democratic state in Egypt the people who killed in Rabaa will be brought to justice.”

Rodney Dixon QC told the conference that there is a drastic need for proper laws to be adopted and implemented. Torture, disappearances and the culture of impunity need to be brought to an end and those responsible brought to justice.

Lawyers speaking at the press conference are exploring the way legal avenues can be pursued. “It sends a clear signal that impunity will not prevail,” says Dixon.

The first legal avenue is the African Union, for example appealing against death penalties that have been handed out and the lack of a proper judicial process.

Dixon said that none of the demands have been met by Egypt.

Taking Egypt to the ICC would have shown that the court does have teeth. They have currently said there is not a case. Also, there has to be justification for initiatives to ban or restrict people associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Barrister Toby Cadman said it was encouraging to hear the US, the UK, Germany and Sweden express serious concern over human rights in Egypt and it was encouraging to hear certain states mention what happened in Rabaa at the UPR session this morning.

But in addition to this, Cadman agreed with Dixon in that there needs to be a fact-finding mission to look at the death sentences which have been issued and the judicial processes that led to these death sentences.

Hearings last little more than 30 minutes, as seen with the trial of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt. There are approximately 40,000 people currently in detention, many of them without charge. There is widespread torture and rape of men and women.

Through Egypt’s trade partners, pressure must be put on Egypt to ensure accountability. “If we are concerned by human rights violations then the international community has to consider whether the only way to bring about change is through sanctions,” said Cadman.

We are lawyers, not politicians, but it is only through pursuing legal channels that the political climate can change, he added.

Dr Amr Darrag, member of the executive board of the FJP, said that many in the current regime refer to human rights violations committed under Morsi as if this somehow justifies what’s happening. “I’m just trying to nullify the consistent arguments used by the current regime to justify what they are doing now.”

Darrag said that the FJP know what it’s like to be put in jail for years and years without justification and how it feels for their loved ones to be tortured.

We have always been accused of not being inclusive, says Darrag, but we were part of a wide coalition. The maximum number of FJP ministers was not more than 26%. They say that civil society was not free under Morsi, yet there was a right for anybody to establish an NGO. Morsi also released prisoners who were sentenced to long sentences through military courts.

One of the first decisions taken by President Morsi was that he took back power from the military, which was the start of the real fight between the military and the constitutional government. Some SCAF leaders said they didn’t undertake a coup and in fact it was Morsi who was trying to change Egyptian society.

Looking forward, Maha Azzam of Egyptians for Democracy said that the entire regime in Egypt today needs to be held accountable. Systematic abuse in Egypt continue until this day. Azzam said there needs to be travel bans on those accused of torture and who have been responsible in the chain of command.

Azzam also reiterated that there seems to be no evidence of a link between terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood. “Terrorism is being used as an overall argument to justify the continuing violations against protestors in Egypt.”

Report by MEMO’s Amelia Smith from Geneva.