UN concerned over crackdown in Egypt’s ‘republic of dread’


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression today voiced his concerns regarding the state of freedom of expression in Egypt, a country where dozens of journalists have been arrested in the past years.

The rapporteur’s report coincides with renewed fears over the regime’s crackdown on civil society and human rights advocates, including calls for a debate in the European Parliament on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Egypt, notably the case of Giulio Regeni (right). Over the past few weeks, the escalating crackdown, including targeting of a number of prominent human rights defenders and organizations, has prompted some observers to suspect a second round of the notorious NGO trials under the previous Morsi regime.

Most recently, human rights lawyer Negad Al-Bourai (above) was charged with establishing an unlicensed entity for the purpose of inciting resistance to the authorities, practicing human rights and disseminating information that could jeopardize public security.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights has published an overview of travel bans against prominent Egyptian human rights leaders and requested an official visit from the Special Rapporteur.

Despite continued reports of torture, harrowing tales of abuse in detention, and haunting anecdotes of forced disappearances, Egyptian authorities seem wholly unwilling to contend with the human rights violations that have long plagued the country’s security sector, according to Dr. Nancy Okail, Executive Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), and Mai El-Sadany, the Dale and James J. Pinto Fellow at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Rather, authorities seem insistent to instead embark upon yet another wave of crackdown against civil society, taking measures to constrain the activities of the players who document, report, advocate, and litigate within the country’s anti-torture scene and even more broadly, the entire human rights movement, they write:

Prominent human rights defender and lawyer Negad El-Borai, who was interrogated on four recent occasions after writing and submitting a draft torture bill to the Presidency, has been charged with establishing an unlicensed entity, conducting human rights activities without a license, and deliberately spreading false information with the purpose of harming public order. Non-governmental organization and torture rehabilitation clinic El-Nadeem has been slammed with an administrative closure order based on a procedural issue which was resolved years ago—the closure is likely the result of the organization’s most recent reports highlighting the occurrence of hundreds of torture incidents last year.

When the government made an attempt to close the El Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, Amnesty International and the director of the centre saw it as an expansion of the government’s attempt to crackdown on dissent, and rightly so, writes analyst Hadassah Egbedi:

Aida Seif el-Dawla, one of the centre’s founders called the move a political decision from actors that were keen on the survival of el-Sisi’s regime, despite the oppression and torture that Egyptians live through daily. The thriving culture of impunity under el-Sisi, and a host of other issues has led media platforms like Huffington Post to describe his regime as a “republic of dread.”

The protests of last month show that Egyptians have had enough, and are ready to express their displeasure against the present administration, as they did with others before it. In 2013, Egyptians celebrated their victory against what many have termed Islamist fascism. They cheered Abdel-Fatah el-Sisi for taking control and saving them from losing their identity as a tolerant and diverse society, as opposed to an Islamist society. But today, in 2016 they are still trying to figure out ways to clamp down on military autocracy.

On the occasion of its recently-published World Report 2016, in a news release headlined “Egypt: Security Operations Inflame Rights Crisis,” Human Rights Watch summarized the “mounting torture and disappearances” during President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule, more than two years after the army removed former President Mohammed Morsi, Safiaa Mounir writes for Al-Monitor:

HRW is one of many groups documenting human rights violations under Sisi’s regime. Other groups include the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Amnesty International and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), to name just a few.

In the aftermath of the abortive Jasmine Revolution, as the authoritarian state reasserted itself, so did the most appalling tactics of repression, analyst Chris Toensing writes for the Middle East Research and Information Project. Police torture, in particular, has become more frequent and more severe. El-Nadeem Center director Aida Seif al-Dawla calls it “a beast that took a break and came back in full force to take revenge.”

Meanwhile, in an article for Carnegie’s Sada Journal, Mostafa Hashem says that divisions within the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are deepening, threatening the group’s survival.

A forthcoming meeting at the National Endowment for Democracy will discuss Legal Restrictions on Thought & Expression in Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand, and Bahrain

March 14, 2016
12:00 pm – 02:00 pm


Print Friendly, PDF & Email