International community must not overlook repression and attacks on civil society in Egypt

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Published on Wednesday, 02 July 2014 09:18

2 July 2014 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is urging the international community to isolate Egypt’s repressive regime as it escalates its campaign against democratic dissent and the rights of its people.

“The past few months have marked a concerted assault on fundamental freedoms by Egypt’s totalitarian state,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi heads an illegitimate regime that has no respect for international norms and basic human rights. When global leaders, regional and international institutions continue routine diplomatic engagements with Egypt’s regime, they make themselves complicit in the suppression of the rights of Egyptians.”  

On 23 June, three Al-Jazeera journalists were handed lengthy prison terms of 7-10 years through a sham trial on the basis of made up charges of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Earlier, this month on 11 June 2014, well respected activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others were convicted for holding illegal demonstrations and sentenced to 15 years in prison for protesting against the routine practice of using military courts to try civilians for political offences.

The draconian “Protest and Public Assembly law” which bans public protest without prior authorisation is being regularly used to clampdown on public expressions of dissent by civil society activists. A common tactic of the authorities is to maliciously accuse them of fomenting violence as a prelude to their judicial harassment.

Human rights defender Mahienour Elmasry is currently serving a two year jail term at Damanhour prison after her sentence was upheld on 20 May 2014 for organising an unauthorised protest on 2 December 2013. She was also fined EGP 50000 (approximately US$ 7000).  Most recently, activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif were arrested on 21 June 2014 alongside 21 others for holding a demonstration against the Protest and Public Assembly law and for calling for the release of all protesters in detention under the law.

Egyptian authorities continue to evade accountability for the deaths of over 1400 demonstrators since the ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. Egyptian security forces have sexually assaulted hundreds of female protesters and have arbitrarily detained thousands as a tactic to quell protests. Civil society groups have a faced a multi-pronged attack in the country as highlighted by CIVICUS in its submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

CIVICUS urges the international community to cease diplomatic engagement with the Egyptian state until it restores basic democratic rights to the Egyptian people. At a minimum the following conditions should be met: (i) imprisoned civil society activists should be immediately released, (ii) draconian legislation such as the protest law should be repealed, (iii) law enforcement officials responsible for human rights violations should be held accountable, and (iv) efforts should be initiated to organise a free and fair election under international supervision.

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