UN Calls On Egyptian Authorities to Put an End to Serious Human Rights Violations [press release]

On 5 November 2014, Egypt’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. This process aims to assess the human rights record of each United Nations’ Member State by the Human Rights Council (HRC). Since its first review in February 2010, Egypt has undergone major political upheavals. However, despite the hopes raised by the revolution and the statements made by the Egyptian authorities on the respect of fundamental freedoms in the country, the human rights situation in Egypt remains more preoccupying than ever.

The presentation of the national report submitted by Egypt and the views expressed by the Egyptian official delegation during the examination contrast with the g concerns and criticisms voiced by the civil society and relayed by Alkarama since the July 2013 military coup.

During Egypt’s review, the authorities have pointed out, amongst others, to the progresses made by the new Constitution enacted in February 2014, but they failed to explain the absence of legislative measures for its effective implementation. On the question of torture, a practice that has become systematic in the country, the official representative spoke of it as “an exceptional phenomenon”, although Alkarama keeps on documenting numerous cases of abuses by the security forces. As for the repression of freedom of expression, which has becomes generalised and is now affecting all opponents of all political persuasions, the authorities continue to assert that no one has been imprisoned in Egypt for having expressed his opinions. It should be noted that several Egyptian NGOs chose not to attend the review to protest against the restrictions on their activities.

The authorities have recently adopted new laws gly contested by human rights defenders because of their repressive nature. In fact, this new legislation jeopardises all the revolutionary gains, including the freedoms of association, expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of the press. The pretext used by the Egyptian authorities to justify these measures is the fight against terrorism, which has been shaking Egypt for a year, and has notably led to the forced displacement of thousands of people in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt’s UPR could have been used as a real opportunity by the International Community, to oblige Egypt to face up to its responsibilities and to remind it of the essential values to respect in order to build a true democracy. It is important to note that Egypt’s draft UPR report adopted on 7 November does not reflect the full set of comments made by UN Member States to the Egyptian authorities, and fails to include important elements of the States’ declarations. In view of this point, we call the participating States to exercise to their right to make modifications so that the final report reflects their comments on Egypt’s internal situation.

The numerous States’ recommendations calling for legislative, institutional and practical changes on the human rights situation echoed the concerns of the Egyptian civil society, the last bastion of fundamental freedoms in a country plagued by an unprecedented repression. It is time for Egypt to take immediate action on the basis of the 300 recommendations that were addressed to it by its peers, including by decreeing a moratorium on the death penalty in view of its abolition, amending its legislation on torture through the ratification of the human rights instruments to which Egypt is not yet a party, reforming its judicial system to ensure its independence, stopping to try civilians in military courts, and putting an end to the legal restrictions placed on the freedoms of expression, of association and peaceful assembly, and of the press.

Human rights defenders and the International Community expect concrete measures – including the release of all political prisoners, human rights defenders and journalists – and ask that a genuine dialogue, inclusive of opposition representatives, be open before the next parliamentary elections, which have to be held in a climate of transparency, freedom and true democracy in order to allow the country to recover a respectable position in the community of nations.

The first of the measures that Alkarama is urging the Egyptian authorities to take is to cancel the cut-off date of 10 November for the associations’ registration with the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which risks ostracising numerous civil society organisations, which constitute an essential element of the protection of fundamental freedoms. We regret that such a measure has not been taken at this stage, and that numerous organisations have been forced to close their offices, for fear of submitting to this obligation.

Source : Alkarama Foundation