Egypt withholding identity papers from dissidents abroad: HRW

Egypt withholding identity papers from dissidents abroad: HRW
Opposition figures living abroad have no recourse to challenge decisions that deprive them of their citizenship.
2 min read
Many political figures have fled Egypt to safety in recent years, only to lose their right to travel documents in the process [Getty images]

Egyptian authorities have been systematically refusing to provide or renew identity documents to dissidents, journalists and activists abroad in a crackdown on opposition that extends beyond Egypt's borders, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The U.S.-based group said it had interviewed 26 Egyptians living in countries including Turkey, Germany, Malaysia and Qatar last year, and had reviewed documents relating to nine of them.

Egypt's state press centre and foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"By arbitrarily depriving its citizens abroad from obtaining valid passports and other identity documents, the Egyptian authorities are violating both the constitution and international human rights law," HRW said.

In Turkey, home to a large number of Egyptian opposition figures, Egypt's consulate requires applicants for almost all services to fill out unofficial forms with private details including the reasons they left Egypt and links to social media accounts, HRW said.

Those interviewed said it was "nearly impossible" to challenge refusals to provide documents, it added.

Egyptian authorities have conducted a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power after leading the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Rights groups say tens of thousands, including Islamists and liberals, have been arrested and that the state has also targeted dissidents who moved abroad and in some cases their relatives still in Egypt.

Sisi and his supporters say the crackdown was needed to stabilise Egypt, denying that charges against dissidents are politically motivated and asserting that the judiciary acts independently.

Earlier this month, a state security court handed lengthy prison sentences to more than 20 people including rights defenders on terrorism-related charges, in a mass trial denounced by activists as unjust.

U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Turk said last week that the sentences had been issued "in proceedings on questionable terrorism-related charges which also raised fair trial concerns".

Reporting by Reuters