From January to late May, a range of think tanks and international organizations published detailed reports and papers regarding human rights violations in Egypt committed by the Egyptian government and its security apparatus since the military coup in July 2013. Violations include suppressing opposing candidates from elections, sexual assault from security forces, to torture and extrajudicial killings.
A total of 19 reports and papers were published from January to late May of this year from think tanks and research centres including: Carnegie Endowment, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Freedom House, POMED, Amnesty International, International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Study, Egyptian Institute for Studies, and the Jamestown Federation. Amongst these, Human Rights Watch has published the most on the human rights crisis in Egypt.
There is wide-ranging consensus that there have been acts of human rights abuses in Egypt under General Sisi’s government and the security establishment. It is documented that there has been a systemic use of torture by members of the Egyptian police and National Security Forces (NSF). Since the toppling of former president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013, the Egyptian authorities have rounded up tens of thousands of individuals. Also, Egyptian prison authorities are responsible for committing inhuman treatment in many cases. This is due to individuals being held in prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement, or placed in cells with inhumane conditions or subjected to collective punishment (1). Human Rights Watch states that “enforced disappearances, mistreatment in prisons, widespread torture, and probable extrajudicial killings notably increased after March 2015, when Interior Minister Magdy Abd al-Ghaffar was appointed” (2). Prisoners are subjected to overcrowding, lack of nutritious food, proper bedding, almost no hygiene and water and sanitation standards, and poor ventilation and lighting (3). Researchers have also highlighted that, in addition to the violations listed above, after the 2018 re-election that saw General Sisi win another term, a deep crackdown has taken place on dissent. All this suggests that General Sisi is aiming to transform Egypt from an authoritarian system that limits independent political space into a totalitarian one that wants to eliminate it entirely (4). This is highlighted by peaceful activists being arrested in the Dawn Raids in which Egyptian police and National Security forces have carried out a wave of arrests of critics of President Sisi in since early May 2018 while the charged against them appear to be solely based on their social media posts and peaceful activism (5).
This extends further to former President Morsi. The Detention Review Panel (DRP) finds that the allegations made by Morsi, directly in his own words, in his statement to the Court in November 2017, and the allegations made by his son Abdullah Morsi, appear to be consistent with the allegations recorded by the United Nations, the United States State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, news reports and other human rights organisations about the treatment of prisoners in Egypt (6).
Moreover, the term “enforced disappearance” has become commonplace amongst the people of Egypt. Both supporters and opponents of the regime have been subjected to enforced disappearance. In addition, Egypt has been identified as a top rankings state (internationally) with respect to enforced disappearance which did not reach such levels even during the rule of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (7).
From a military perspective, the Egyptian government campaign against an affiliate of the Islamic State in North Sinai has left up to 420,000 residents in four northeastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid since February 9, 2018. Also, the military campaign has included imposing severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in almost all of the governorate. According to HRW, if the current level of movement restrictions continues, it will inevitably lead to a wider humanitarian crisis in an already economically marginalized area that continues to suffer from ongoing military operations and home demolitions (8).
Since the military takeover in July 2013 and resumed control by the army and the police, there has been an increase in sexual violence perpetrated by the security forces in Egypt. Documented cases peaked during the protests which led to the army retaking control of the country between 28 June and 7 July 2013. In this period, Egyptian women’s rights NGOs recorded 186 sexual attacks. Egyptian authorities have failed to take action to prevent torture and other forms of sexual violence. They have violated obligations to effectively investigate, prosecute and sanction perpetrators and to provide redress and reparation to survivors (9).
Egypt’s deteriorating situation is not contained in the public sphere but are also evident in the economy. Human Rights Watch reports that, in the case of Northern Sinai where the Egyptian army is fighting against an Islamic State affiliate, the crisis is most serious in the Eastern cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed where road closures are stricter, security restrictions have long existed, and private markets have near-completely run out of goods. Moreover, the army restrictions have also badly interrupted economic activities and sources of income for most residents (10). On elections and political rights American Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster called the 2018 presidential elections “neither free nor democratic” and “this election is a charade” as it was occurring against a backdrop of massive human rights abuses and an active campaign against local and foreign media (11).
- https://www.me-policy.org/2018/04/11/egypt-al-sisi-should-end-rights-abuses/ ; and https://www.me-policy.org/2018/03/06/the-prevalence-of-torture-in-egypt/
- https://www.me-policy.org/2018/03/28/drp-report-on-morsi-detention-conditions/ ; and https://www.me-policy.org/2018/01/04/egypt-freedom-in-the-world-2018/
- https://www.me-policy.org/2018/04/27/egypt-looming-humanitarian-crisis-in-sinai-relief-urgently-needed-after-2-months-of-army-restrictions-on-food/ ; https://www.me-policy.org/2018/05/25/egypt-army-intensifies-sinai-home-demolitions/ ; and https://www.me-policy.org/2018/05/25/islamic-state-after-syria-a-dangerous-new-stronghold-in-the-sinai/
- https://www.me-policy.org/2018/05/16/exposing-state-hypocrisy-sexual-violence-by-security-forces-in-egypt/ ; https://www.me-policy.org/2018/05/04/a-new-hope-for-ngos-in-egypt/ ; and https://www.me-policy.org/2018/02/12/in-the-name-of-the-people-death-penalty-in-egypt-2017/
- https://www.me-policy.org/2018/04/27/egypt-looming-humanitarian-crisis-in-sinai-relief-urgently-needed-after-2-months-of-army-restrictions-on-food/ ; https://www.me-policy.org/2018/03/21/raising-the-stakes-implications-of-a-second-sisi-term/