Egypt's wide-scale repression continues after 3 years of revolt: Amnesty

Ahram Online , Thursday 23 Jan 2014

Amnesty International says Egypt has witnessed violence on an "unprecedented scale" that paints a bleak picture of the state of rights and liberties

Police arrest protesters for breaking new protest law at a demo outside parliament on 26 November, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Egypt's authorities are trampling on human rights and quashing dissent, Amnesty International said in a report Thursday, days ahead of the third anniversary of the 2011 revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The rights organisation said that Egypt's future looks bleak unless the state changes course and adheres to human rights and the rule of law.

“Egypt has witnessed a series of damaging blows to human rights and state violence on an unprecedented scale over the last seven months," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

"Three years on, the demands of the ‘25 January Revolution’ for dignity and human rights seem further away than ever."

The report highlighted thousands of arrests of supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, crackdowns on university campuses, arrests of activists and restrictions on the right to assembly under a new "repressive" protest law.

“With such measures in place, Egypt is headed firmly down the path towards further repression and confrontation unless the authorities change course and take concrete steps to show they respect human rights and the rule of law," said Sahraoui.

Approximately 1,400 people have died in political violence since the army overthrow Morsi following mass protests against his rule, where police used "excessive lethal force," or in clashes between opposing civilians, the international rights watchdog said.

Amnesty put the number of security personnel who were killed since Morsi's ouster at around 95.

Dozens of police and army personnel have been killed in shootings and bombings in the Sinai Peninsula alone, where Islamist militants have stepped up attacks since July 2013. Islamist militants have also attacked and torched dozens of churches across Egypt following the violent dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins last August.

The rights group claimed that probes into violence in Egypt have failed to hold security forces responsible for human rights violations, focusing instead on abuses by Islamist supporters of Morsi.

By allowing the security forces to "operate with impunity, the authorities have emboldened them," Sahraoui said.

"The cycle of abuse will only be broken when the rule of law applies to all, regardless of their rank, and political affiliations."

Several leading symbols of the 2011 revolution have been imprisoned on charges of protesting without police authorisation in violation of a law passed in November.

Amnesty also condemned pressure applied against journalists and other media workers and non-governmental organisations. "This is a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for them to operate in Egypt and continue their work documenting and reporting on state abuses," Sahraoui said, adding that the judiciary too is being used as a "tool of repression" to punish government opponents.

The rights group has voiced alarm about the government's December designation of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement as a terrorist organisation, saying it fears the decision is "politically motivated" in light of state's failure to prove the group's links to any terrorist attacks since Morsi's ouster.

"The authorities should repeal or amend repressive laws; reform the security forces and ensure the independence of the judiciary," Sahraoui said.

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