Despite the launch of a national human rights strategy a year ago, Egyptian authorities have shown no real will to recognize, let alone address, the country’s deep-rooted human rights crisis. Instead, in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), they have continued to suppress freedoms and commit crimes under international law, Amnesty International said today.
In a new report ‘Disconnected from reality’: Egypt’s national human rights strategy covers up human rights crisis, Amnesty International presents a detailed analysis of the strategy in the light of the human rights situation on the ground and how the authorities used it as a propaganda tool to cover up the increasing repression of any form of dissent ahead of COP27 in November 2022.
“The Egyptian authorities created the National Human Rights Strategy as a glossy cover-up for their relentless human rights abuses because they believe they are deceiving the world ahead of COP27. But the grim reality of their notorious human rights record cannot be reversed by a publicity stunt,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
“The international community must not be fooled by Egypt’s attempts to hide the depth of the human rights crisis in the country. Instead, she must press the Egyptian authorities, publicly and privately, to take meaningful steps to end the cycle of abuse and impunity, beginning with the release of the thousands of critics and opponents who are arbitrarily detained in Egyptian prisons to defend their rights Loosening access to civil society and allowing peaceful protests.”
Amnesty International’s new report is based on comprehensive documentation of patterns of human rights abuses committed in Egypt since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power, as well as information gathered from multiple sources since the launch of the National Human Rights Strategy (NHRS). became. including victims, witnesses, human rights defenders and lawyers. The organization also reviewed official documents, audiovisual evidence and reports from UN bodies, among other things. The findings and recommendations were communicated to the Egyptian authorities on September 7, 2022.
A misleading image
Since the establishment of the NHRS, the Egyptian authorities have repeatedly referred to it in public and private meetings with other governments to demonstrate their commitment to human rights. Drafted by the government without consulting independent human rights organizations or public engagement, the five-year strategy painted a deeply misleading picture of the human rights crisis in Egypt. It absolves the authorities of any responsibility, blaming security threats, economic challenges and Egyptian citizens themselves for “failing to understand” and exercise their rights.
The strategy praises the constitutional and legal framework while ignoring the authorities’ enactment and application of a range of repressive laws that effectively criminalize or severely restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. These laws further undermined due process guarantees and impunity for security and military forces.
The strategy also ignores the authorities’ dismal record of cracking down on dissidents since July 2013, with thousands still being arbitrarily detained or unjustly prosecuted. In the last two years alone, dozens have died in prison after being deliberately denied medical attention and being held in cruel and inhuman conditions.
In a positive but very limited move, dozens of political prisoners and others held for political reasons have been released in recent months. However, the authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest scores of other critics and opponents, while many of those released are banned from traveling.
Since 2013, authorities have also censored hundreds of websites, raided and shut down independent media outlets, and arrested dozens of journalists for expressing critical views or simply doing their job.
The NHRS commends the state’s commitment to “the principles of equality and non-discrimination” and lists some initiatives by official bodies. Amnesty International has found that the authorities continue to subject men, women and children to human rights abuses because of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.
“No strategy will protect our right to freedom of expression or achieve peaceful human coexistence unless it liberates all people who, because of their opinions, because of the ideas they have expressed, and because they had a different narrative than that.” imposed by the state, were imprisoned. ‘ prominent human rights activist Mona Seif told Amnesty International. Her brother, Alaa Abdelfattah, was arbitrarily detained for most of Egyptian President Abel Fattah al-Sisi’s reign.
The NHRS exaggerates the government’s self-proclaimed achievements on socio-economic rights, which stand in sharp contrast not only to the authorities’ failure to progressively realize those rights, but also to their relentless attacks on those who express their socio-economic grievances, including workers, medical professionals and residents of informal settlements.
Overall, the NHRS also exaggerates the constitutional and legal guarantees, but does not explain why these are inconsistent with Egypt’s international obligations or how they are largely disregarded in practice. It completely overlooks patterns of ongoing or past human rights abuses and ignores the role of security forces, prosecutors and judges in perpetrating or facilitating human rights abuses.
Amnesty International welcomes some of the NHRS’ modest recommendations, presented as “target results”, including reviewing capital punishment for crimes and alternatives to pre-trial detention, and introducing comprehensive legislation to combat violence against women. Overall, however, its “target results” are insufficient to address the magnitude of the human rights and impunity crisis in the country. Any meaningful promotion of human rights in Egypt must begin with the authorities releasing thousands of people arbitrarily detained for peacefully exercising their human rights. All politically motivated criminal investigations into human rights defenders must be dropped, and all travel bans, asset freezes and other restrictions lifted. Criminal investigations into crimes under international law and other serious violations of human rights by security forces must be launched in order to bring those responsible to justice. These include unlawful killings of hundreds of protesters and extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances.
“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi must recognize the scale of the human rights crisis for which his government is responsible and take concrete action to resolve it. Given the depth of the human rights and impunity crisis and the lack of political will to reverse course, the international community must support efforts to establish a human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council,” said Agnès Callamard.
Egypt is expected to host the UN climate change conference COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in November. Environmental and human rights groups have raised concerns about the restriction of protests to “designated areas” and the ability of Egyptian civil society to participate meaningfully without fear of reprisals.