The hidden meaning behind Sisi’s comments about human rights in Egypt

Government institutions and circles close to the regime of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi celebrated his decision to lift the state of emergency, which had been declared in violation of the constitution since April 2017.

All these parties are competing in expressing the wisdom and experience of the president who they say has always respected human rights. Also, they considered this decision as a new open horizon for rights and freedoms in Egypt. Yet the cancellation of the emergency state does not mean much as the real effect of the emergency law is provided in other laws that mean Egyptians live under a permanent, undeclared emergency state.

A list of fair demands

We think that any honest political will to open a new horizon for democracy should express itself through tangible and practical procedures. On top of such procedures should be the release of prisoners of conscience and the convicted because of their peaceful political activities. Another step related to the previous one is finishing open and long-term pretrial detention that turned into a punishment itself used to keep the opposition detained without trial. Pretrial detention could be 30 or 60 days maximum and only for serious crimes, and it should be provided that it may not be renewed or circumvented in any way.

Any honest political will to open the public arena should reconsider the legal system that justifies that repression; on top of this the Protest Law, the Terrorism Law, the Terrorist Entities Law, the Electronic Crimes Law, and the NGO Law all contain articles that keep the emergency state alive.

Also, the regime should stop blocking websites and digital newspapers in violation of the law. The regime should also stop the monopoly of the media through entities affiliated with the General Intelligence Service to enable real freedom of expression. Such reform should also include the independence and freedom of the judicial authority, an end to intervention in its work, stop punitive measures against independent judges, the retrial of collective sentences that are issued without valid judicial procedures, and the cancellation of trials before the Supreme State Security Court.

Authorities should also allow prisoners to receive their rights provided in law and regulations, stop the punishment of political prisoners through solitary confinement, stopping them from reading books, perform mass prayer, and exercise. Also, the regime should open the doors to independent human rights organisations and approve surprise inspections that reveal the real conditions inside prisons. They should also activate the constitutional article of national reconciliation, issue a transitional justice law that guarantees transparency, accountability, and develop national reconciliation and victim compensation.

Also important is restructuring the Ministry of Interior, dissolving the notorious National Security Agency (Political Security), holding accountable all security personnel involved in enforced disappearances, torture, and physical liquidation, and integrating the human rights culture into the educational system of police officers and personnel. If some of these demands were implemented without circumvention it would be clear evidence from the president that he was serious about political reform and maintaining real freedoms and respecting rights. Other than that, it is meaningless noise and propaganda aimed at whitewashing the ugly face of the regime against the international community and nothing more.