President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi takes office in Egypt in the midst of a human rights crisis as dire as in any period in the country’s modern history, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. The new president should make addressing Egypt’s dismal human rights record a top priority.
In the period since the July 3, 2013 ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian security forces have used excessive force on numerous occasions, leading to the worst incident of mass unlawful killings in Egypt’s recent history. Judicial authorities have handed down unprecedented large-scale death sentences and security forces have carried out mass arrests and torture that harken back to the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
“Instead of addressing the urgent need for reform, Egyptian authorities have spent the last year engaging in repression on a scale unprecedented in Egypt’s modern history,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. “Now that President al-Sisi has formally taken the reins of power, he should put an end to these rampant abuses.”
In addition to the violence and mass arrests, the authorities have imposed extensive restrictions on freedom of association, expression, and assembly, which dramatically reverse gains made following the January 25, 2011 uprising. In addition, there have been violations of refugee rights and discrimination against women, with rampant impunity across the board for serious human rights abuses.
The new president should order the release of anyone held solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly; amend or drop the restrictive 2013 public assembly law; and order security forces to halt use of firearms against demonstrators, unless strictly necessary to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury. In addition, his administration should ensure that credible criminal investigations are carried out into the police and army killings of more than 1,400 demonstrators over the past 12 months and the mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees.
“Egypt’s allies should impress upon Egypt that the world will not accept foot-dragging or purely cosmetic changes,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If Egypt doesn’t carry out credible investigations into the illegal killings and torture, the mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council should be used to pursue an international investigation.”