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Amnesty: Egypt’s human rights crisis escalated in 2017

February 22, 2018 at 7:40 am

Amnesty International has condemned what it terms Egypt’s “human rights crisis”, in its annual World Report which found the crackdown on civil society escalated further in 2017.

The report, released today, laid bare Egypt’s human rights violations over the past year, including arbitrary arrests and detentions of hundreds, new legal restrictions imposed on NGOs and mass unfair trials which saw dozens sentenced to death.

Egypt’s human rights crisis continued unabated. The authorities used torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance against hundreds of people, and dozens were extrajudicially executed with impunity

the report stated.

The country’s new NGO law, that gives authorities the power to deny organisations’ registration and dismiss their registration, was particularly criticised as another move to suppress freedom of speech. Amnesty found that the Egyptian government blocked at least 434 websites since May, and arrested at least 240 political activists between April and September for online posts that were considered “insulting” to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

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The report also condemned the mass arrests of those suspected of being linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the systematic torture endured by the majority of detainees. Hundreds endured unfair trials, including 442 people who were sentenced in September for their participation in the Al-Fateh mosque protests in 2013. Many were also sentenced to death, with some 15 men being executed on 26 December after being convicted of killing nine military personnel in 2013.

Egyptian women hold placards during a demonstration protesting violence against women in Egypt on 22 December 2015 [Amr Sayed/Apaimages]

Egyptian women hold placards during a demonstration protesting violence against women in Egypt on 22 December 2015 [Amr Sayed/Apaimages]

The rights of women and girls in the country were also found to be inadequate, with many facing sexual and gender based violence. State officials were also found to have blamed the victim in some cases, with the Security Directorate in Al-Sharkia governorate issuing a statement after a female student was assaulted in March, mentioning that by “wearing a short dress” she had “caused the mob attack”.

The treatment of refugees and migrants also warranted criticism, as the country regularly deports Eritrean refugees and Ethiopian and Sudanese migrants who fear persecution in their own nations. The report also cited the rounding up of 200 students of the Uyghur ethnic minority and their deportation to China in violation of international law.

Read: Egypt court sentences 71 persons to 10 years in jail for ‘protesting without permission’

Minority religious communities, particularly Coptic Christians, have also faced state discrimination, the report added. Despite allegedly tackling Daesh cells in the Sinai region, Amnesty found that there was continued impunity for sectarian attacks against the Christian population, with insufficient measures taken to guarantee their security.

The Egyptian government has also arrested and tried dozens of workers for participating in trade union activities or exercising their right to strike, despite participating in peaceful forms of protest.

Egypt has repeatedly criticised the findings of many NGOs accusing them of being deliberately “misleading” on human rights abuses.

In September, the Egyptian government pledged to take action against Human Rights Watch after it released a damning report on state torture. The Egyptian Human Rights Committee denied the allegations, claiming that no political prisoners had ever reported incidents of torture. The foreign ministry also accused the NGO of bias, alleging it received support from the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has designated a terrorist organisation.

Two weeks later, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi told US officials in New York that human rights should not be judged from a Western perspective, arguing that Egypt had taken numerous measures to ensure the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens.

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