Global and local human rights organisations have raised concerns over reports of human rights violation in Egypt.
Egyptian authorities, under the guise of fighting terrorism, have shown utter disregard for the rule of law, according to a 2019 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had urged parliament to approve a nationwide state of emergency (SOE) after the 2017 terrorist attack on Coptic churches.
The president, since April 2017, has maintained a nationwide SOE that gives security forces unchecked powers.
Security forces, according to the HRW report, use torture and enforced disappearances systematically against dissidents from all backgrounds.
Local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reported police arrested more than 4,000 individuals after small protests erupted in several cities over accusations of corruption against the president.
Rights organisations claimed that, in some instances, detainees were tortured or subjected to other abuses before police and prosecutors subsequently released more than 2,500 of those detained.
Due to Egypt’s ‘fight against terrorism’, civil society organisations (CSOs) operating in the country have had their work cut out for them. President al-Sisi has since approved a law that maintains most of the drastic restrictions imposed on NGOs.
‘Despite several government promises to lift restrictions, the law merely removes prison penalties but maintains severe restrictions that make it impossible for NGOs to work freely and independently’, HRW said in the report.
Amnesty International, in December 2020, condemned the ‘chilling escalation’ of a crackdown on civil society in the North African country.
The human rights organisation was reacting to reports by human rights groups in Egypt that dozens of activists had been targeted with arrests, travel bans and asset freezes.
It was learnt that Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Director of Criminal Justice, Karim Ennarah, was arrested on 18 November while on vacation in the Red Sea resort of Dahab and taken to an undisclosed location.
Ennarah was arrested three days after security forces detained EIPR Administrative Director Mohamed Basheer in Cairo.
A local NGO that tracks torture cases, according to the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, had documented an average of 40 to 50 instances of torture per month.
However, Egyptian government officials have since dismissed reports of systematic torture in the country.
In another report, Amnesty International accused Egypt of subjecting prisoners of conscience and others held for political reasons to inhumane conditions.
The human rights organisation made the allegations in a report, What do I care if you die Negligence and denial of health care in the Egyptian prisons.
The report documented how prison authorities allegedly failed to protect prisoners from the Covid-19 pandemic and regularly discriminate against prisoners from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Furthermore, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged authorities in Egypt to comply with international law by releasing all detained journalists.
RSF made the call after the country released only two of five journalists a Cairo court had agreed to release.
The court agreed in principle on 3 November to release Sayed Abdellah and Mohamed Ibrahim, a blogger also known as Mohamed Oxygen, and Haitham Hasan Mahgoub.
Similarly, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in January 2021, urged the Egyptian authorities to release journalist Amer Abdel Moneim.
Moneim, a freelance columnist who contributes to Al-Jazeera, was arrested last December by security operatives in Cairo, according to Al-Jazeera, and charged with ‘spreading fake news’ and ‘participating in terrorist activities’.
Also, the United Nations independent human rights experts have asked authorities in Egypt to remove two activists, Ramy Shaath and Zyad El-Elaimy, from a ‘terrorist’ list.
The UN also called on the authorities in the Maghreb nation to stop systemic use of terrorism powers.
El-Elaimy is a human rights lawyer, former MP and one of the leaders of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.
Shaath, on the other hand, is a Palestinian-Egyptian activist and the coordinator in Egypt of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel.
He is the son of Nabil Shaath, a close advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Shaath and El-Elaimy were arrested in 2019 and their names added to the list last April for allegedly collaborating with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
But the UN human rights experts said they were concerned that the activists were added to the list ‘without evidence’ and in their absence.
‘We are deeply concerned about the impact on the rights of Mr Shaath and Mr El-Elaimy following this listing last year, including fair process, right to freedom of assembly and association, and the negative impact on their family life, their right to work and their right to participate in public affairs’, they said in a statement.
‘Such absence of process is profoundly regrettable and raises concern that the authorities are targeting human rights defenders and civil society actors’, their statement continued.
An appeal to remove them from the list was heard on 09 February this year and the decision is due on 10 March, 2021.
‘The continued misuse of counter-terrorism powers is not consistent with the State’s international law obligations and undermines broader international efforts to prevent terrorism by misusing such powers domestically’, they said.
The experts called on the government of Egypt to ensure measures to protect national security and comply with international law that protect the work or safety of human rights defenders.
Source: UN News
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