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Amnesty International statement condemns ‘state violence’ and ‘widespread repression’ in Egypt

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Human rights watchdog calls for interim authorities to “loosen their stranglehold on civil society”

A strongly worded statement released by Amnesty International Wednesday condemns interim authorities’ physical and legal attacks against opposition forces as well as the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The statement, which was released just two days before the 25 January Revolution’s third anniversary, claims that “Egyptian authorities are using every resource at their disposal to quash dissent and trample on human rights”.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International says: “Egypt has witnessed a series of damaging blows to human rights and state violence on an unprecedented scale over the last seven months,” adding that “the demands of the 25 January Revolution for dignity and human rights seem further away than ever.”

The statement cites the recent Protest Law signed by interim president Adly Mansour, and the government’s designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation as creating an environment for further repression.

“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, starting with the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience, Egypt is likely to find its jails packed with unlawful detained prisoners and its morgues and hospitals [filled] with yet more victims of arbitrary and abusive force by its police,” Sahraoui said.

The statement also comes on the heels of a constitutional referendum, which interim authorities hail as a stepping stone to a country that Mansour says “respects freedom, democracy and makes rights and justice a way of work and life”.

Amnesty’s statement questions this claim: “The Egyptian government will be judged by its actions, not its words. Verbal reassurances will ring hollow if repression on the ground is increasing and a mere tweet can lead you to prison.” This is an apparent reference to liberal intellectual Amr Hamzawy, who, along with two dozen others, is being charged with “insulting the judiciary.”

“The authorities must loosen their stranglehold on civil society and allow peaceful protests and other avenues for lawful dissent. Their current policies are a betrayal of all the aspirations for bread, freedom and social justice of the 25 January Revolution,” Sahraoui said.

Amnesty’s statement also condemns the seemingly constant violence that has taken place since Morsi’s ouster on 3 July. The report specifically cites the government’s forced dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in in August.

“No proper investigation has been carried out into the deaths of more than 500 Morsi supporters when excessive force was used to disperse [the] sit-in,” the statement reads. “Not a single member of the security forces has been charged in connection with the incident which was a callous bloodbath on an unprecedented scale.”

The human rights watchdog calls for the interim authorities to be accountable for their security forces and the harms that they may commit, claiming that the absence of justice for the killed protesters leads to a “cycle of abuse will only be broken when the rule of law applies to all, regardless of their rank and political affiliations.”

The statement also warns the interim authorities against using a real terrorist insurgency, undertaken by Ansar Beit Al-Maqdes and other armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula, to justify oppression and a lack of human rights for the country’s citizens.

Thousands of Morsi supporters have been arrested since the 3 July ouster, including women and children, the statement claims. Hundreds of students have been arrested at universities and a number of them have been killed. The report cites one specific case, that of Mohamed Reda, a 19 year-old engineering student that was shot and killed when police fired birdshot at students inside the university’s campus.

The statement also condemns recent attacks on journalists and raids on non-governmental organisations. “There is a concerted effort underway to squeeze out any independent observers from activists, to journalists to nongovernmental 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,” said Sahraoui.


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