Sunday, May 31, 2015

Egypt: At least 2,500 killed in violence within last 19 months

Aswat Masriya
At Least 2,500 Killed As a Result of Violence in Egypt Within 19 Months - Report

31 May 2015

Cairo — The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) said on Sunday that at least 2,500 civilians and security personnel were killed in violence in the period between June 2013 and December 2014.

NCHR, whose members are appointed by the government, said in a report on human rights conditions that 700 security personnel and 1800 civilians were killed, including 1,250 Muslim Brotherhood members.

The reporting period started one month before the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood politician and former president Mohamed Mursi by the military, following mass protests against his rule.

Since July 2013, violence caused by militants has surged, especially in the Sinai Peninsula, although other parts of the country have been affected.

In addition to the deaths caused by violence, at least 80 detainees died in custody in prisons and police stations in the same period, the report said.

"The phenomenon of deaths in detention had disappeared completely ... but it returned again," the report said. The council called for a quick solution to this.

It cited health and living conditions and "extreme over-crowdedness" as the reasons for the deaths. Occupancy inside police stations reached 400 percent and 160 percent in prisons, the report stated, citing the Interior Ministry.

"It is true that there is nothing to prove that any of them died as a result of torture but there is nothing to prove otherwise," it read.

The reporting period has also witnessed an expansion in the use of prolonged periods of preventive detention. "So preventive detention became a punishment."

The council demanded a reasonable maximum period that may be spent in preventive detention and called for the release of humanitarian cases, the elderly and students who have not been implicated in violence.

Sisi extends terms of unelected union leaders for another year

Mada Masr
Sisi allows unelected board members of state-run trade union to stay another year

Monday, May 25, 2015

Jano Charbel

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a presidential decree Thursday extending the terms for board members of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) for another year, inciting the ire of critics who point out that ETUF elections are now four years overdue.

In the absence of union elections, the Manpower Ministry has been appointing its board members since 2011.

According to the Trade Union Law, ETUF elections should be held every five years, but the country’s largest labor federation hasn’t held elections since October through November 2006. An Administrative Court ruling invalidated those polls in late 2006 due to the lack of judicial oversight.

Independent union organizers and other critics argue that by extending the terms for unelected ETUF leaders, Thursday’s decree facilitates the state's direct control over the federation. They also lambaste the move for encouraging a lack of transparency and accountability among the union’s leaders.

“These elections are being postponed, yet again, because the ruling authorities do not want to lose their control over this state apparatus. The regime wants to keep the ETUF under its wing,” Nagy Rashad, a former caretaker member of the ETUF, told Mada Masr.

Rashad further argued that the decree “is a non-democratic measure and has clear authoritarian dimensions.”

He pointed out that the ETUF has remained under state control since it was founded in 1957, “and since the January 25 revolution [of 2011], we’ve witnessed how all the interim and ruling authorities have sought to keep the ETUF in line with their political and economic objectives, in order to serve their own interests — just as [former President Hosni] Mubarak had done before them.”

ETUF leaders joined Sisi on April 27 to commemorate Labor Day at Cairo’s Police Academy this year. At this official event, ETUF’s acting president Gebali al-Maraghi presented Sisi with a declaration from his federation pledging that its members would reject labor strikes and refrain from other forms of industrial protests.

“We demand free and fair elections so as to insure that the ETUF becomes a representative trade union body, which genuinely represents its members, as opposed to representing the interests of the ruling regime. We also demand new legislation to replace Trade Union Law 35/1976, which allows for indirect elections of the ETUF’s top leaders,” Rashad concluded.

ETUF elections have been postponed time and time again since 2011 under the pretext of avoiding overlap with parliamentary elections.

However, the parliamentary elections that were slated for March and April of this year are now also overdue, having passed the deadline stipulated by constitutional Article 230. The Supreme Constitutional Court halted those elections on March 1, on the basis that the law on electoral constituencies does not guarantee fair voter representation.

German Parliament rescinds invitation to meet with Sisi in June, cites human rights concerns

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Head of the German Parliament Norbert Lammert canceled a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi scheduled for early June due to concerns regarding “the human rights situation in Egypt,” German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday.

Lammert reportedly sent a letter to the Egyptian Ambassador in Berlin justifying rescinding Sisi’s invitation. In a statement issued by the German Parliament on Tuesday, Lammert criticized the current political situation in Egypt.

“Instead of holding the long-awaited parliamentary elections, we have been witnessing months of systematic prosecution of opposition groups, mass arrests, convictions to lengthy prison terms and issuing a shocking number of death sentences, including against former head of the Egyptian Parliament Saad al-Katatny,” he clarified.

Lammert’s statement emphasized that “since no efforts seem to have been made toward maintaining the peace in Egypt or towards democratic development,” he “sees no basis for a conversation with the Egyptian president.”

In response, Egypt’s Ambassador to Germany Mohamed Hegazy told privately owned newspaper

Al-Masry Al-Youm that the Egyptian side had not “requested” nor was it “looking forward to meeting with the head of the German Parliament.”

“The meeting was added to the trip’s itinerary by the German side,” Hegazy added.

According to Der Spiegel, the German Federal Press Office has yet to comment on whether Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with Sisi in light of recent developments.

Lammert’s decision is one of many reactions triggered by Saturday’s court decision sentencing Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood figures to death.

On Sunday, a US State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Guardian that the US is “deeply concerned by yet another mass death sentence handed down by an Egyptian court to more than 100 defendants, including former President Morsi.”

The European Union also criticized the court’s decision, adding that the “cruel and inhumane” penalty “stemmed from a flawed trial.”

*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Sexual violence by security forces surges under Sisi's reign

FIDH/International Federation for Human Rights
Stifling Egyptian civil society: Sexual violence by security forces surges under el-Sisi
Stifling Egyptian civil society: Sexual violence by security forces surges under el-Sisi
19 May 2015

Since the military takeover in July 2013, there has been a surge in sexual violence perpetrated by the security forces in Egypt, asserts a report released today by FIDH.

The scale of sexual violence occurring during arrests and in detention, the similarities in the methods used and the general impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators point to a cynical political strategy aimed at stifling civil society and silencing all opposition, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

Based on interviews with victims, lawyers and members of human rights NGOs, the report reveals the involvement of police, National Security Intelligence officers and the military in sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, rape with objects, electrocution of genitalia, sex-based defamation and blackmail.

  We were attacked in a raid led by the chief of the Alexandria Criminal Intelligence (Mabahith)... They made us kneel down with our hands behind our heads. Then they took the young women to one side and frisked us with our faces towards the wall, sexually harassing us and insulting us. I tried to remove the hand of one of the Central Security soldiers from my trousers, so then they beat me with their weapons until I could no longer resist. K., an activist from an Egyptian human rights NGO.

Such violence is perpetrated on a massive scale by state security forces, making a mockery of government commitments to make combating sexual violence in Egyptian society a priority.

Piecemeal and token measures, including partial legislative reforms and the establishment of a unit within the Ministry of Interior dedicated to fighting violence against women, have had little impact on the spread of this epidemic.

The FIDH report shows that such violence is widely tolerated, with perpetrators, whether state actors or civilians, rarely having to answer for their crimes. Since the July 2014 trial of seven men accused of participating in mob-sexual assaults in Tahrir Square during the inauguration of President el-Sisi in June 2014, there have been no further trials for mob sexual violence. As for the security forces, despite complaints, no officers have been tried for crimes of sexual violence.

The role of the security forces in perpetrating sexual harassment and assault, including during body searches, security checks and in police stations, constitutes a further deterrent to victims filing complaints. The general climate of impunity fosters and fuels further violence by state actors and civilians.

The Egyptian government must immediately put an end to these crimes, committed by actors under their direct authority. They must ensure serious investigations into all allegations and the prosecution and punishment of those responsible in accordance with international standards, said Amina Bouayach, FIDH Secretary General.

While tolerating these crimes, el-Sisi’s regime has also hijacked the fight against sexual violence as a pretext to tighten state security. Since autumn 2013, the government has orchestrated a campaign of repression against LGBT persons.

Security forces raided bath houses and detained LGBT persons based on information gathered through internet surveillance and accused them of “debauchery” and
“sexual indecency.” The government justified the arbitrary detention of these individuals, during which many suffered sexual violence, by invoking protection of Egypt’s moral and religious order.

This report supplements information documented in a report published in April 2014 on sexual violence perpetrated against women in the public sphere by civilians, in which FIDH and Egyptian NGOs underlined the State’s failure to effectively investigate and prosecute perpetrators of mob rape, sexual assault and harassment and called for the adoption of ten urgent measures to end violence against women.

*Download the report Stifling Egyptian civil society: Sexual violence by security forces surges under el-Sisi

Court bans football Ultras & labels them "terrorists"

Mada Masr

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Cairo Court for Urgent Affairs issued a verdict on Saturday banning the activities of all hardcore football fan groups known as Ultras across the country and declaring them terrorist organizations.

The verdict, which criminalizes the existence of Ultras groups, stems from a report by Zamalek Club President Mortada Mansour, who also accused them of attempting to kill him and banned them from entering the club.

It is the latest development in a long history of animosity between the state and the Ultras, which has resulted in frequent confrontations between Ultras fans and police forces at football stadiums and escalated following the involvement of Ultras in the 2011 revolution.

Two massacres have occurred during football matches since 2012, which Ultras groups hold security forces responsible for.

In February 2012, clashes between Ahly and Port Said fans following a match in Port Said stadium turned tragic when security forces blocked the exits of the stadium and 72 Ahly fans were killed.

Again in February 2015, around 20 Zamalek fans were killed when the police deployed teargas in the small metal box they were passing through to enter the stadium.

Dalia Abdel Hamid, a social researcher who has studied Ultras groups extensively in recent years, says that the state’s animosity towards the Ultras is based on several factors, including their participation in the revolution and the state’s fear of organized groups.

“They are being punished along with all other factions who took part in the revolution, whether activists, journalists, or civil society, but they have endured the most severe consequences, along with the Muslim Brotherhood as the two groups who have faced real massacres,” she explained.

Since the establishment of the two main groups — Ultras White Knights and Ultras Ahlawy — in 2007, the fan groups have clashed frequently with the authorities.

In 2008, there were confrontations when police forces attempted to ban fans from entering indoor matches. This resulted in clashes outside the stadiums that occurred again when security forces tried to prevent fans from using fireworks and banners during games.

In 2009, a media campaign was started against the fan groups, led by former footballer and talk show host Ahmed Shobeir, who accused them of being drug addicts. This was followed by the mass arrests of ultras members from their houses, according to a report by privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.

The Ultras groups used their experience in confrontations with the police during football matches on the front-lines of clashes during the 2011 revolution.

Abdel Hamid says the fact that Ultras groups are well organized and self-funded makes them a threat to the state, despite them not being primarily political groups.

Ultras groups, whose members are in the thousands and are spread across the country, have not yet officially responded to Saturday's ruling.

*Additional reporting by Mostafa Mohie
**Photo courtesy of Ultras White Knights Facebook age

Court issues death sentence for ex-President Morsi & 105 others

The Slate

An Egypt court has sentenced former president Mohamed Morsi, along with 105 other Muslim Brotherhood supporters, to death for a mass jail break in 2011.

The sentence was referred to the grand mufti, Egypt’s most important religious authority, “whose opinion isn't legally binding but is traditionally adopted by the court,” details the Wall Street Journal.

But Yehia Ghanaem, a former managing editor of the newspaper Al Ahram tells Al Jazeera the death sentence is the expected outcome, and whatever the grand mufti decides was “not compelling to the judiciary.” The court is expected to make a final ruling on June 2.

The sentence against Morsi, who is already serving a 20-year prison term on charges tied to the killings of protesters in 2012, was immediately condemned by Amnesty International. Morsi’s sentence “shows a complete disregard for human rights.

His trials were undermined even before he set foot in the courtroom,” said Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, reports CNN. “The death penalty has become the favorite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition.”

Morsi and the other defendants were convicted of killing and kidnapping police officers as part of their escape from Wadi Natroun prison at the height of the revolt that led to the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak. More than 20,000 prisoners escaped or were released during the revolt, and the court said Morsi colluded with foreign militants to free Islamists, reports the BBC.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan criticized Egypt for the sentence and the international community for staying silent. “While the West is abolishing the death penalty, they are just watching the continuation of death sentences in Egypt. They don’t do anything about it,” he said.

*Photo by Khaled Desouki courtesy of AFP/Getty Images

Deutsche Welle criticizes banning of Egyptian talk show

Daily News Egypt

DW criticises authoritative ban of Reem Maged’s show

German TV channel Deutsche Welle (DW) Arabic condemned the alleged interference of Egyptian authorities in banning a joint programme between the German channel and Egyptian private channel OnTV on Friday.

The weekly programme “Gama’a Moanath Salem” [Feminine sound plural], presented by Egyptian anchor Reem Maged, has only aired two episodes on both channels since 2 May, to feature success stories of Egyptian women in society.

The first episode featured folklore artist Shaheera Mehrez, while the second episode, aired on Saturday, featured Al-Masry Al-Youm photojournalist Eman Helal and her encounters with shooting and field reporting current events in Egypt from 25 January Revolution in 2011 to the dispersal of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-ins on 14 August 2013.

There is much ambiguity surrounding the ban’s real reasons, as well as uncertainty regarding the entity which ordered the ban. DW Arabic spokesperson Christoph Jumplet told Daily News Egypt: “I cannot really tell why the show was banned, ask the Egyptian authorities.”

He added: “It is too early to tell whether the partnership will continue between both channels, yet we support OnTV and we want to continue this programme.”

In an official DW Arabic statement Friday, the channel said: “This act is a blatant violation against press freedom in Egypt.” The statement added that the programme will continue airing on its channel and on the website every Saturday.

The banning has also stirred negative responses on social media platforms. Thousands of Twitter users, media personnel, and activists used a hashtag of the programme’s name to criticise the ban. “Reem presents a source of fear to the state dictatorship,” a Tweet read.

The show was considered a comeback for Maged on TV after an absence that lasted for nearly two years following the halt of her programme “Baladna b el masry” [Our country in the Egyptian way] on OnTV in 2013.

Maged is also a political advocate who took part in the “No to military trials” protest in front of the Shura Council in 2013. Earlier, she was accused of insulting judiciary on her show in 2012. She was also summoned by military prosecution, for previewing alleged military violence towards activists in 2011.