Statement on the reality of human rights in Egypt

“Egypt has made important national achievements in the field of human rights over the past years at the legislative, executive and institutional levels.” Those words were an excerpt from the opening of the document issued by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in the name of (the National Strategy for Human Rights), which is supposed to chart a path to improve the human condition in Egypt during the next five years.

The launch of the strategy came in conjunction with the political activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s distress after his health and psychological condition deteriorated while incarcerated. In a  statement he made during the session to renew his imprisonment he unveiled his ill-treatment in prison which prompted him to think about ending his life. During that session, his prison time was renewed for 45 days and returned to the same prison which administration is hostile to him. He was sent back along with his colleague  , human rights lawyer Muhammad al-Baqir, and dozens of other detainees who remain in pretrial detention, who represent a small number of the thousands of detainees on political grounds in Egypt, varying from the convicted, the remanded and the forcibly abductezd, in a number that some estimate to reach 60,000.

The strategy, which was filled with expressions such as (promoting – encouraging – expanding – proposing – working on) but genuinly devoid of real mechanisms for implementation, which makes it closer to a vision or declaration of principles, especially in Egypt, where the state of emergency has been imposed since April 2017.

The announcement of the aforementioned strategy also coincided with the referral of Patrick George Zaki, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, to trial before the Emergency Court, on charges of “spreading false news at home and abroad,” for an opinion article he published two years ago, and the continuation of the trial of prominent human rights lawyer Ziad El Elaimy and his colleagues in the “Detainees of Hope” case. Their only fault was to attempt to form an electoral coalition to contest the legislative elections, only to end up in prison and listed – by a court ruling – on the terrorist lists along with dozens of politicians, including the son of former Palestinian Foreign Minister Rami Shaath.

Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Rami Shaath.

In fact, the legal framework of the strategy is still not clear, especially with the existence of a full chapter of rights and freedoms in the Egyptian constitution that contained many good texts. But, it was defective since the consecrated provisions were referral texts where all implementation mechanisms are referred to the laws expected to be issued by Parliament. However, most of those constitutional entitlements were not implemented. It was not clarified to what extent is the strategy binding or who are working on it. It was only announced that it was issued by a committee consisting of 25 public figures and experts, which means that no resort to either the People’s Assembly or the Shura Council, which are the legal and logical bodies entrusted with the status of Public policies, was sought. So was it a proposal by the executive authority, or is it an imposed perception?

It is noteworthy that the administration of US President Joe Biden had decided to suspend the amount of 130 million dollars in US military aid to Egypt, subject to steps being taken to improve human rights conditions, while at the same time it agreed to give Egypt 170 million dollars in aid, from a tranche of 300 million dollars for the Finance year2020.

President Sisi called the year 2022 “the year of civil society” and the promises that the name bears to improve conditions, especially after 8 years of killing civil society and public freedoms, whether by chasing human rights and civil institutions and their workers, or by limiting public work and the partisan sphere, or by closing all public areas and nationalizing media and the lack of any means for freedom of thought and expression. Of course, this is mentioned in addition to the deterioration in economic and social rights, especially after the Covid 19 crisis and the subsequent collapse of the labor market, as well as the forced displacement campaigns accompanying the so-called “slum development” as well as the successive violations of the rights of refugees in Egypt.

It should be noted that the crisis in Egypt throughout its modern history was never the development of legal texts or policies and projects, but rather the lack of a real desire by officials to take real steps for reform and always looking at rights and freedoms as a burden on a state that sometimes even describes those who claim it as treason .

We welcome, necessarily, any real steps to improve the human rights situation in Egypt, whether in terms of civil liberties or economic and social rights, and we hope that this comes as an expression of a real desire for development and not just a bad mask to polish the image of the ruling regime before the world.

Any real reform of the human rights situation cannot be devoid of transitional justice steps and the judicial and non-judicial mechanisms it includes, starting from truth-telling, frankness, fact-finding, through judicial accountability, reparation and institutional reform, all the way to comprehensive national reconciliation, provided that any methodology chosen should be in line with international legal standards and obligations.

We also appreciate all the efforts of individuals who are committed to trying to change the system of one vision and one opinion, and all of those who are sure that there is no path to democracy without putting forward many visions and viewpoints, and there is no way to change without fighting various battles, even if this carries the risks of being prosecuted, detained  and defamed by the current regime.

The sognatory organizations call on the Egyptian authorities to respond quickly to the following demands:

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