Egypt Watch

Growing international momentum to advocate for human rights in Egypt

In conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, when Egyptians hit the streets demanding freedom, democracy and a life of dignity, international momentum is growing to advocate for human rights in Egypt and to stand against the violations committed by al-Sisi’s regime. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor has condemned the arrest of human rights’ defenders and bloggers in Egypt, the long-term pretrial detention, accusations that they are members of a terrorist organisation, and the continuous practices of terrifying and criminalising them and their families.

Two democratic representatives Don Beyer and Tom Malinowski announced the formation of a parliamentary caucus entitled “Egypt’s Human Rights” to “rebalance” the relationship between the American government and Egypt considering the violations of human rights.    

Freedom for human right’s defenders and journalists

Mary Lawlor has expressed her deep concern about “the seemingly unrelenting efforts of the Egyptian authorities to silence dissent and shrink civic space in the country, despite repeated calls from UN mechanisms and the international community.” Lawlor urged the immediate release of all the human rights’ defenders, journalists and civil society actors and their families, as she said, “The use of prolonged pretrial detention and misuse of anti-terrorism and national security laws to criminalise the work of civil society actors must end.” Lawlor mentioned the case of Mohamed Ibrahem Redwan, who was arrested in 2018 for the charges of “being a member in a terrorist organisation” and “the misuse of social media” as revenge for his posts and videos which addressed human right issues.

Lawlor added that, despite the conditioned decision issued by the Cairo Criminal Court in November 2020 to release Redwan, the authorities added him to a new case on charges of joining a terrorist organisation and kept him in detention. Lawlor shed light on the case of the researcher and post-graduate student Patrick Zaki, who was arrested in February 2020. “Pre-trial detention should only be used as the exception to the rule, rather than the default approach,” emphasised Lawlor. According Lawlor’s statement it’s not limited to the inappropriate targeting of those human rights defenders, journalists or other civil society actors because of their legitimate and peaceful defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms, it goes beyond this, as they are accused of being members of terrorist organisations and are portrayed as a national security threat under vague legal provisions.

US parliamentary caucus refuses violations of human rights in Egypt

Two democratic representatives, Don Beyer and Tom Malinowski, announced the formation of a parliamentary caucus entitled “Egypt’s Human Rights” marking the 10th anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. “The Egyptian people’s hopes for self-determination, freedom, and social justice inspired the world in 2011. Unprecedented repression and grave human rights violations have not extinguished those hopes,” Beyer said. “Egypt remains a key ally, but its human rights record remains a major concern, and we must stand up to demand better of our closest allies.” Malinowski stated that American interests have not been served by a policy of unconditional support for the Egyptian military, while downplaying the military-led government’s human rights abuses, corruption, and mistreatment of American citizens. He added: “The Egypt Human Rights Caucus will reflect and help shape the growing consensus in congress that we need to rebalance our relationship with this important country.” Both members of congress previously served in the US State Department and have been supporters and advocates for human rights in Egypt. They hope the caucus will be built on a bipartisan basis membership in the coming weeks.

The human rights community welcomed the establishment of the caucus, Human Rights Watch stated: “The formation of the Egypt Human Rights Caucus speaks to the urgency of the human rights situation in Egypt and is a welcome development. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is presiding over one of Egypt’s worst human rights situations in decades, and members of congress, and this new caucus have a vital role to play to encourage the prioritisation of human rights.” The Freedom Initiative stated: “We are grateful that congress is signaling that respect for human rights must be a priority for the US relationship with Egypt. We’re optimistic that it can play a role in recalibrating US-Egypt bilateral relations to prioritise accountability and respect for basic human rights.”