Leading human rights organisations list urgent steps to stop violations

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Five Egyptian human rights organisations have declared a list of seven urgent and necessary demands to stop the unprecedented degradation of human rights that Egypt has witnessed over the last years. Last Tuesday, a joint statement was released by the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights, Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Association for Freedom and Expression, Al-Nadeem Centre against Violence and Torture and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

According to the statement, the declared seven steps are as follows:

  1. Free political prisoners of all backgrounds imprisoned or detained in the thousands, from all the political currents, for their peaceful actions.
  2. Halt endless and open detentions and stop imprisoned circulation in indefinite pretrial custody by launching multiple cases against them for the purpose of keeping them detained.
  3. End the state of emergency in force since 2017 in violation of the constitution that authorities have exploited to suspend all due process rights. 
  4. Stop all executions in political and criminal cases until their review by a presidential pardon board.
  5. Stop criminal prosecutions of human rights activists and close case no. 173 of 2011 targeting civil society organisations. 
  6. Withdraw the Draft Personal Status Law and launch a national dialogue on new fair family law with equal rights for women.
  7. Reverse the blocking of websites that exceeded 600 blocked websites imposed illegally in the absence of a court order.

The organisations stated that these steps represent the minimum measures that are all available to be implemented immediately and before tomorrow morning, once a political decision to accept them is issued. Adding that whether or not these first seven steps are implemented is the real test of the reality of any official pledges that have been circulating recently about reforms or breakthroughs concerning human rights.

The organisations called on all civil society institutions, parties, unions, individuals, and Egyptian communities abroad, as well as regional and international bodies, to adopt these seven steps as minimum demands that must be implemented immediately, provided that they should be followed by procedures, reforms and other steps that are irreplaceable to stop the systematic violations of the rights of Egyptians. The initiative is a fresh start for human rights reform and improving the condition of freedoms in Egypt, but the crucial question is; Will the Egyptian regime respond?

A glance over the past few days

The above mentioned comes in conjunction with the announcement made by the Shehab Centre for Human Rights, an Egyptian civil society organisation, that an Egyptian citizen died in prison due to medical negligence.

Last Tuesday, the centre announced receiving the news of the death of the citizen Ehan Younes Al-Abd Mohamed Al-Kashef, in Wadi El-Natrun Prison. The centre emphasised its condemnation of medical negligence against him and held the Ministry of Interior responsible for his death and demanded the release of all the detainees to avoid the risks of the pandemic.

It should be mentioned that Ehab is the second person who died in official custody in less than one weak from the beginning of May. On 2 May, Hassan Salem died in Al-Azhar Hospital in New Damietta after suffering a serious health crisis in the high-security prison in Gamasa because of deliberate medical ignorance. Salem is the 17th case since the beginning of 2021. It should be mentioned that about 79 cases of medical ignorance inside prisons and detention places in Egypt were recorded over 2020, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

Over the past seven years, about 774 detained died inside different detention places, including 73 in 2013, 166 in 2014, 185 in 2015, 121 in 2016, 80 in 2017, 36 in 2018, 40 in 2019. While the total estimated number of political prisoners in Egypt is about 60,000 prisoners and pretrial detainees.

In the same context, the human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said that he filed a lawsuit before the Administrative Court to enable political prisoners to receive the coronavirus vaccination. Aly mentioned that he filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hesham Fouad, Ahmed Doma, Alaa Abdelfattah, Abdelmenem Abul Fotouh, Hossam Mones, Ramy Shaat and Ziyad Al Ulimy against the Prime Minister, Minister of Health, Minister of Interior and The Minister deputy for prisons department.

In their lawsuit, the prisoners expressed their desire to register their names, and the names of others who were detained in Egyptian prisons, as part of the national campaign for vaccination against the corona pandemic. Last week, the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights issued a warning to the Minister of Interior, as it demanded to enable prisoners who are convicted and pretrial detainees to be registered to receive the coronavirus vaccine inside prisons and places of detention, as soon as possible.

Earlier, more than 100 prominent international human rights organisations sent a warning message to foreign ministers around the world concerning the efforts of the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to eradicate the deteriorating human rights movement in Egypt, and that this community is subjected to “annihilation” under his mandate.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a joint statement by 31 countries around the world with the US at the top of the list, which represents an unusual step and hasn’t happened since 2014. The statement urged Egypt to stop the exploitation of the anti-terrorism laws to silence and imprison opponents, human rights defenders and journalists. The commission also demanded the unconditioned release of them, and to halt restrictions imposed on media, and to release all detained journalists.