A statement prepared by 21 human rights organisations Thursday evening urged President Mohamed Morsi to put an end to the rapid deterioration of human rights in Egypt.
“The human rights record over the past eight months since President Mohamed Morsi took the seat of power… are worse than it was before the revolution in the era of the former president,” the joint-statement warned.
Among the statement’s signatories are the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights and the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.
The report said Egypt is witnessing “another version of an authoritarian regime, with special features”.
One such “feature” is the use of torture by members of the ruling Freedom and Justice Party on civilian protesters. During former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the human rights organisations concluded, such dirty work conducted by security forces and paid citizens.
The levels of attacks on the media during Morsi’s tenure and on the independence of the judiciary are also new phenomena, according to the statement.
The report echoes another report issued by the Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies last October, which stated concerns over the government’s handling of human rights abuses. As it was in October, the statement said, the issue of human rights still rests beyond the circle of attention today.
The rights groups’ statement also criticised Morsi for not including human rights violations as a concern in during first 100 days as president, and for not taking advantage of proposed initiatives by several human rights groups at the beginning of his tenure.
The statement declared that the governments continuation of current policies and practices “will lead to more serious threats and attacks against a number of fundamental rights”. Such rights include the right to peaceful assembly and the collective exercise of political and social protest, currently under threat from the new draft protest law being deliberated by the Shura Council.
The right to association and the freedom to function as a collective association in accordance to international standards, the right to form independent trade unions and pluralism of unions, freedom of belief and religious practice of non-Sunni Muslims as well as the rights of religious and non-religious minorities are also under threat, according to the statement.
The 21 organisations also said freedom of the press and flow of information are also under threat, as are women’s rights and the right to a fair trial.
“Unfortunately, the worst fears of this report have been achieved,” the statement said. Morsi’s 22 November constitutional declaration and the appointment of a prosecutor general undermined the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
“Imposing a state of emergency without the need to do so [in the Suez Canal region] violates international standards of human rights,” the report said, adding that the continuing practice of torture and systematic insult to the dignity of citizens, “as well as the protection and praise given to security officers by the Ministry of Interior and the presidency for their performance… allows for the propagation of impunity and creates a relapse in the human rights situation in Egypt”.
The signatories criticised the Freedom and Justice Party’s attack on the media, which has led to more cases being filed against journalists for insulting the president than all other leaders combined in the past 100 years.
In reaction to these issues and more, the human rights organisations demanded the government establish an independent commission comprised of “the most prominent professional competencies in Egypt in regards to constitutional law and human rights – regardless of political affiliations or religious views – to review the new constitution”.
They also recommended the government allow for a new prosecutor general to be appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council, as per law. Investigations into torture at the hands of police and other groups in prisons and other such places were also demanded.
The active targeting of protesters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the increased rape and sexual assault of women must also be halted, the statement declared.
The restructuring of the National Council for Human Rights to comply with international standards, as well as investigations into officials and Brotherhood leaders involved in attacking protesters are also key demands.
Yasmin Hossam, a lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights working on documented cases of torture by police and other groups, said there is plenty of evidence which incriminates the Muslim Brotherhood and the police in the kidnapping of protesters. “Morsi’s government is trying to use violence against demonstrators as a weapon to settle things down until the upcoming elections,” she said, adding that the kidnapping of activists and protesters are a tool to settle the community until they can secure the elections.
“We demand the government act,” Yasmin said. “But we know they will not since they are behind these attacks to begin with.”