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Egypt: Handcuff the Human Rights

Egypt: Handcuff the Human Rights

By Barrister Solaiman Tushar

It is a very serious matter to make demonstrations or protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi or his government in Egypt. Since the summer of 2013, following the military coup led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the ruling regime in Egypt has managed to handcuff the human rights, public space, and surround it with restrictions.

Interim President Adly Mansor issued a law, namely "Organising the right to public meetings, processions, and peaceful demonstrations on 24 November 2013. Article 10 of the law gives the security services absolute power to cancel or postpone the demonstration, change the location, and modify the activity path based on "serious information or evidence" regarding the existence of threats against security and peace which the security services themselves provide .

The "Organising the right to public meetings, processions, and peaceful demonstrations" provides a range of financial penalties and prison sentences for those who violate its rulings. Violations are defined, on the one hand, concerning the involvement of citizens in the disturbance of public safety and public order, in the blockage of roads and means of transportation, or the attack on lives and public and private property.

On the other side, the law uses ill-defined terms to cast a wide web to prevent citizens from peaceful demonstrations by criminalising their involvement in disrupting production sites, obstructing the people, preventing them from the exercise of their rights and businesses, or preventing public institutions from fulfilling their mandate. Between 2013 and 2016, hundreds of Egyptians were arrested and taken to police custody following their participation, or attempted participation, in peaceful demonstrations.

In April 2022, the local and international human rights organizations called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to halt the executions from mass death sentences issued against 16 persons in July 2021 in Case 303/2018, known in the media as "the 2015 bombing of the police bus in Beheira." The trial took place in a special court authorized during the country's 2017-21 state of emergency, which did not permit any appeal.

It is claimed that the defendants did not have a fair trial before the emergency court and demanded a retrial in ordinary courts. In June 20222, Amnesty International called to repeal death sentences following a verdict in the "Helwan Brigades" case, which the organization characterized as a "torture-tainted grossly unfair mass trial" for more than 200 defendants. Egypt already ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Under Article 3 of the UDHR "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.". Article 8 of the UDHR confirms that "Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law." Article 10 of the UDHA states that "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him".

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi created an era that does not confirm the right to life, the right to get fair justice, the right to freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and so on.

Presently, human rights violation is a common phenomenon that includes, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners or detainees; transnational repression against individuals in another country; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses , unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents, and by terrorist groups; enforced disappearance by state security; torture and cases of cruel, in a conflict, including reportedly enforced disappearances, abductions, physical abuses, and unlawful or widespread civilian deaths or harm; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and the enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression; serious restrictions on internet freedom; gender-based violence and a lack of investigation and accountability for such crimes; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and significant restrictions on workers' freedom of association, substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; restrictions on freedom of movement; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government restrictions on domestic and international human rights organizations.

In August 2022, the Campaign to Stop Enforced Disappearances reported that 2,300 of the 3,000 cases submitted to the Presidential Pardon Commission (PPC) for pardon or release involved enforced disappearances. In 2012, Mohammed Morsi became Egypt's first democratically elected president. However, on 03 July 2013, Egypt's military removed the country's first democratically-elected President Mohammed Morsi from power and set up an interim government. El-Sissi is still in power. Security forces then cracked down on Brotherhood supporters, killing hundreds in street protests and arresting thousands of others. Top Brotherhood leaders were sentenced to death in mass trials.

The situation for ordinary Egyptians is worse than ever. The economy is in crisis, saddled with foreign debt, surging inflation, and a currency that has depreciated by nearly half. An estimated third of Egypt's 105 million people live in poverty, and the most populous Arab nation is currently selling off or leasing government-owned assets, like Telecom Egypt, public transport, or ports, to finance its foreign debt obligations.

At the same time, El-Sissi has tightened his grip on power. Independent journalists and anti-government activists have been harassed or arrested.

Egypt's clampdown on political dissent increasingly includes family members of activists living abroad. The government has also admitted to leveraging the release of individual political prisoners for financial aid. Human rights organizations estimate that the number of political prisoners in Egypt ranges between 65,000 to 70,000. Last year, in Cairo alone around 2,500 dissidents were detained and taken to the Supreme State Security Prosecution for merely exercising their human rights.

President Sisi and the security apparatus dominate the policymaking process. The parliament has neither a significant role in forming and debating laws, nor the ability to provide a meaningful check on executive power. Laws originating in Sisis cabinet receive parliamentary approval without meaningful contestation or deliberation.

The 2019 constitutional amendments further consolidated Sisis authority and increased the militarys constitutional role in civilian governance and already considerable independence from civilian oversight. The amendments allow the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to permanently control the appointment of the defense minister, who is also the commander in chief.

The writer is a, Barrister Solaiman Tushar is an Advocate of Bangladesh Supreme Court & Specialist on International Human Rights

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