Amnesty accuses Egypt of “unprecedented” repression, torture and executions six years after coup

Amnesty accuses Egypt of “unprecedented” repression, torture and executions six years after coup
Amnesty International has issued what it called “a damning overview” of the human rights situation in Egypt, detailing arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial executions, unfair trials, and political repression.
3 min read
03 July, 2019
Egyptian photojournalist Mohamed Shawkan at his trial in 2018 [Getty]

The human rights organization Amnesty International said on Wednesday that the Egyptian authorities have passed a series of laws designed to "legalize" unprecedented repression, six years after democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in a military coup on July 3 2013. Morsi died in an Egyptian courtroom on June 17 2019 after suffering years of medical neglect in prison.

The laws are part of an "escalating crackdown on freedom of expression, association, and assembly", Amnesty International said in a press release.

The human rights organization submitted what it called "a damning overview" of human rights in Egypt since the coup to the UN Human Rights Council, ahead of a regular review of Egypt’s human rights record by the council.

"Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power, the human rights situation in Egypt has experienced a catastrophic and unprecedented deterioration. Through a series of draconian laws and repressive tactics by its security forces, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has orchestrated a concerted campaign to bolster the state’s grip on power by further eroding judicial independence and imposing suffocating restrictions on the media, NGOs, trade unions, political parties, and independent groups and activists," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

Under the guise of fighting terrorism, the Sisi regime has arbitrarily arrested thousands of people, including hundreds of peaceful protesters and critics of the regime, while allowing security forces to carry out torture and extrajudicial executions, Amnesty said.

More than 1,891 death sentences have been passed since 2014, with at least 174 people executed, often following extremely unfair trials.

In 2018, Egypt passed repressive media and internet laws allowing authorities a free hand to censor print, broadcast, and web-based media. At least 513 websites, including The New Arab, other news websites and websites of human rights organizations, are blocked in the country.

A 2017 law dealing with NGOs gives authorities the power to deny registration and funding to NGOs and detain their staff for vaguely defined offences. Legislative amendments passed in 2017 allow arbitrary arrests and indefinite pre-trial detention, while undermining the right to a fair trial.

Amnesty said that since 2013, thousands of people have been held in pre-trial detention for long periods reaching five years in some cases, in “inhuman and cruel conditions” without adequate medical care or visits from their families. They include former presidential candidate Abdul Monem Aboul Fotouh who has been imprisoned since February 2018, after giving an interview to Al-Jazeera TV, and who recently suffered two heart attacks while in prison.

Some individuals have remained in detention for months, even after courts ordered their release.

158 people were arrested between December 2017 and January 2019 for criticizing the government or attending political events and protests. In May and June 2019, the Egyptian authorities arrested 10 people on political charges, including a former MP, opposition leaders, and journalists.

"The international community must stop being silent witnesses to the Egyptian authorities’ decimation of civil society, crushing of all signs of dissent and jailing of peaceful critics and opponents who face torture, enforced disappearances and cruel and inhuman prison conditions", Magdalena Mughrabi said.