Monday, June 30, 2014

Accurate depictions of Sisi's dictatorship

Altered image of Dictator Sisi washing feet of Saudi Arabia's absolute monarch - his paymaster - King Abdallah during most recent visit to Egypt aboard his personal jet

Press freedom in Egypt under Dictator Sisi

Dictator Sisi: Building A New Egypt

*Art courtesy of JoeTube, Financial Times, and KAL's Cartoon respectively

Journalist sentenced to 5 yrs in prison for reporting on sectarianism

Mada Masr 
Coptic journalist sent to jail for reporting on sectarian violence

Monday June 23, 2014

Journalist Mohamed Hegazy was sentenced to five years in prison by the Minya Misdemeanor Court on Monday, reported the state-owned news site Al-Ahram Gate.

Hegazy, a correspondent for the US-based Coptic channel Al-Tareq, was arrested in Minya while reporting on sectarian violence there in December 2013.

His camera and flash drives were confiscated, and he was accused of spreading fabricated news and inciting sectarian strife by falsely reporting that Copts face religious discrimination in Egypt.

Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher on religious freedoms at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told Mada Masr that Hegazy — who changed his name to Bishoy Armia after converting to Christianity three years ago — was filming Coptic families whose homes were burned down in Minya’s Bany Obiad village at the time of his arrest.

“But instead of arresting the perpetrators of the violence, they arrested Hegazy — the police knew about the story of his conversion,” Ibrahim asserted.

The reporter had filed a suit with the Administrative Court to change the religious affiliation on his national ID card after he and his wife converted, but the case was thrown out. Egyptians wishing to legally register their religious conversion — particularly those who have converted to Christianity or Baha’i — face several bureaucratic obstacles to doing so.

Since the failed court case, Hegazy was repeatedly harassed by security forces, impelling him to move across the country several times over the past year, according to Ibrahim.

The journalist’s lawyer has said that Hegazy was also harassed by police and other inmates during his detention, Ibrahim added.

Australian, British, Dutch & Egyptian journalists sentenced to prison

RSF - Reporters Without Borders

Politically-orchestrated trial ends in long jail terms

Monday 23 June

In a sign of the Egyptian regime’s increasingly totalitarian nature, a Cairo court today passed sentences ranging from seven to ten years in prison on Al-Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Adel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who have already been held for more than 160 days.

Not content with criminalizing all political opposition, the Egyptian authorities are pursuing a policy of gagging news media that try to offer a different take on reality from the government’s,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We point out that such arrests and arbitrary convictions violate the provisions of the new constitution, especially article 71.”

Mohamed Adel Fahmy, Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau chief, who has Canadian and Egyptian dual nationality, and Peter Greste, an Australian reporter, were given seven-year terms on charges of "broadcasting false reports" with the aim of supporting the Islamist movement and harming Egypt’s image.

Baher Mohamed, who is Egyptian, received the same sentence plus an extra three-year jail term on additional charges, giving him a combined sentence of ten years in prison.

Of the six other detained defendants, four were sentenced to seven years in prison and two were acquitted. Eleven other defendants who were tried in absentia –including two British journalists and a Dutch journalist – were given ten-year jail terms.

The 16 Egyptian defendants were accused of membership of a “terrorist organization” (the Muslim Brotherhood) and of trying to harm Egypt’s image. The four foreign journalists were accused to trying to support Muslim Brotherhood by means of false reports.


Journalists continue to be subject to arbitrary arrest in Egypt although the new constitution guarantees freedom of expression and opinion (article 65), media freedom (article 70) and media independence (article 72).

The government established after President Mohammed Morsi’s removal in July 2013 has systematically persecuted media regarded as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera has been one of the leading targets of this anti-Brotherhood witch-hunt, with the authorities closing its offices and arresting its journalists arbitrarily.

The campaign was intensified after the government’s decision on 25 December to add the Muslim Brotherhood to its list of terrorist organizations. It is now prohibited for journalists to possess or disseminate Muslim Brotherhood statements or recordings.

The extreme polarization of the Egyptian media (between those that support and those that oppose Morsi) is reinforcing the polarization of Egyptian society as a whole. As seen again during the recent election campaign, many media are overtly supporting the current government and, as a result, failing to play their watchdog role.

A total of six journalists have been killed by live rounds since 3 July 2013. Most were killed while covering pro-Morsi demonstrations. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), more than 65 journalists were arrested for varying periods of time between 3 July and 30 April.

In a recent open letter, Reporters Without Borders urged Egypt’s new ruler, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, to act as a guarantor of freedom of the media and information and to release all detained journalists.

Egypt is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Minya court confirms another 183 death sentences

Case Makes Mockery of Right to Fair Trial

(Beirut) – An Egyptian court in Minya on June 21, 2014, confirmed 183 of the 683 provisional death sentences imposed after a lightning trial that severely violated the defendants’ due process rights. The authorities should ensure that all the defendants have a prompt retrial in accordance with international fair trial standards.

Judge Said Youssef confirmed the 183 death sentences, including for Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide, Mohamed al-Badie, in connection with a mid-August 2013 attack on the Adwa police station in the central Egyptian governorate of Minya that left two policemen dead.

On April 28, 2014, Judge Youssef had recommended the death penalty for 683 defendants. These provisional sentences were reviewed by Egypt’s Mufti, the country’s preeminent interpreter of Islamic law, whose advice to judges is nonbinding and confidential.

The court commuted four of the other provisional death sentences to lengthy prison terms, including two women and one man given life sentences and one man sentenced to 15 years in prison in addition to receiving a death sentence, and acquitted 496 others, a human rights activist who attended the June 21 session told Human Rights Watch.

“Condemning 183 rather than 683 people to die after a cursory and one-sided trial is still a travesty of justice,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “The punishments are deadly serious, but the trials weren’t.”

Only 74 defendants were present for the Adwa trial’s single hearing on March 25. None were present for the sentencing on April 28 and June 21. The charges included murder, the attempted murder of five people, including a local Christian man, threatening public order, and burning the Adwa police station.

Defense lawyers had boycotted the trial after the same judge condemned 529 people to death for an August 2013 attack on the Matay police station, also in Minya, following a similarly brief trial on nearly identical charges. On April 28, Judge Youssef confirmed 37 of those 529 death sentences and sentenced the other defendants to life in prison.

Attacks on the two police stations in Minya took place in August 2013 amid riots following security forces’ lethal dispersal of two large Cairo sit-ins.

Under Egyptian judicial procedure, the country's general prosecutor automatically appeals death sentences to the Court of Cassation, which can order a retrial. Defendants may also appeal to the court for a retrial. If the retrial results in a similar verdict, the defense may again ask the Court of Cassation to grant a retrial.

The original trial was in clear violation of Egyptian and international law, Human Rights Watch said. Article 96 of Egypt’s constitution holds that all those accused of a crime are “presumed innocent until proven guilty in a fair legal trial in which the right to defend oneself is guaranteed.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt is a state party, limits the circumstances in which a state can impose the death sentence. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that interprets the ICCPR, has said that “in cases of trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty, scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important.”

The Minya verdicts followed a spate of death-penalty rulings for fatal violence sparked by security forces’ use of lethal force in August 2013 to disperse the Cairo sit-ins. On June 19, a Giza criminal court headed by Judge Mohamed Nagi Shahata recommended the death penalty for 14 senior Islamist politicians, including al-Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide, on charges including inciting murder in connection with fatal violence outside Giza's Al-Istiqama Mosque.

The previous day, a Giza criminal court headed by Judge Moataz Khafagi recommended the death penalty for 12 men convicted of ambushing and killing police Gen. Nabil Farrag in the Giza village of Kirdasa, also in the wake of the lethal dispersal of the Cairo sit-ins.

Those 12 men and 11 others also faced charges of, among other things, attacking soldiers, police, Christians, places of worship, and public facilities. Egypt's Mufti will review the provisional sentences in both cases.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and inhumane punishment.

“By confirming death sentences after blatantly unfair trials, the Minya court is undermining the basic rights that Egypt's new constitution seeks to protect,” Stork said. “The right to a fair trial is absolute, regardless of the circumstances, and is all the more vital where lives are at stake.”

Everyone's right to protest!

Comrades from Cairo
Everyone's Right to Protest

June 20, 2014

To Those At Whose Side We Struggle,

We write to you again at the bloody dawn of a new presidency: our fourth in as many years. General Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who oversaw the brutal overthrow of Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, now sits on Egypt’s Iron Throne.

Mubarak’s resurgent police state is more ferocious than ever. The media, controlled by a handful of millionaires, is terrorizing the populace into sacrificing their most basic rights to the double-faced deity of Security and Stability. And the young revolutionaries who dared to challenge the status quo and who, for a moment in 2011, glimpsed the possibility of something new, are being rounded up and jailed one by one.

Having hijacked the popular protests of 30 June 2013 against the Muslim Brotherhood to ride back into power, the military establishment is now using every means at its disposal to silence all forms of dissent and annihilate the hard-won political space of the past three years.

Violence and intimidation have always been the principal tools of the police force, but in Sisi’s Egypt the judiciary has been given a new and leading role in the suppression of freedoms.

Their tool is the Protest Law, which in its seven months of life, has been used to round up, detain and sentence thousands of participants in peaceful protests - and to target specific and influential activists within them.

The most noted example today is Alaa Abd El Fattah. On 26 November 2013, around two hundred protesters gathered outside Egypt’s Parliamentary Upper House were attacked by police with water canons, batons, plainclothes thugs, and tear gas.

Fifty people were arrested, and once the women, journalists and lawyers--who were all beaten--were released, twenty four men were left in jail. The following night, the police violently arrested Alaa from his home.

Today, Alaa and the twenty four have been sentenced to fifteen years in prison. In Alexandria, Mahienour el-Massry, one of the coastal city’s most tireless human rights lawyers, sits in prison on a two-year sentence for holding a protest outside a courthouse where the policemen who murdered Khaled Said were standing trial.

Back in Cairo, the founders of the April 6th Youth Movement, one of the most organised, young political groups in the country, are serving three year sentences in maximum security. And there are many many more. Since 3 July 2013, over thirty six thousand have been arrested for political participation. More than eighty have died in custody.

So now we face the police’s bullets, the prosecution’s corruption and the courtroom’s cages. But there can only be one way forward. We will not hand our rights over to a tyrant and his security state. We will not let our comrades waste their youth in Mubarak’s prison cells. We will not be silenced.

And so on Saturday we march to the Presidential Palace. And around the world friends and comrades have stepped forward in solidarity. Protests have been announced for Athens, Berlin, Derry, London, Paris, New York, and Stockholm, with more still to join.

Though we know it will be a long time before we reach the dizzying heights of 2011 again, moments of unity and of international struggle are as important as ever.

The right to protest is not just under attack in Egypt but is being repressed and criminalized across the globe. And from Gezi Park to Nabi Saleh to US campuses to Marikana, people are fighting for it.

It is impossible to engage on all fronts, on all injustices, simultaneously. And often tragedy is required for focus. In Egypt we are at a crucial juncture.

The protest law must be brought down. The imprisoned must be freed. The government must know that it cannot act with impunity. Small actions multiplied, amplify.

When the world watched Tahrir Square in February 2011, it swelled the pressure building on Mubarak. When the revolution squared up to the Army (SCAF) later that year, the Generals’ delegitimization was hastened by the international public’s aversion to them.

The effects of solidarity are unquantifiable, unknowable. But we do know that if we, or anyone, gives up their right to protest we are giving up the right to shape our own world.

Government announces campaign to combat atheism

Mada Masr

Govt announces campaign to save youth from atheism

Thursday June 19, 2014

The newly formed Cabinet is planning a campaign to combat atheism, according to an official statement released Wednesday.

Neamat Saty, the Youth Ministry’s director of civic education, would work with Ahmed Turky, the head of the Endowment Ministry’s mosques management unit, and a team of psychiatrists to form a national strategy to eradicate atheism.

Although Article 64 of Egypt's recently passed Constitution stipulates that "freedom of religion is absolute,” the ministries plan on “confronting and abolishing [atheism] through religious, educational and psychological means handled by experts in these fields,” according to a report published by the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.

The plan is part of a Cabinet-wide effort to “confront all issues that negatively affect [youth] and hinder the steps of development towards the future.”

Turky told Mada Masr in a phone interview that there is a protocol between the two ministries to address various intellectual “threats” facing the country’s youth.

“Previously, we launched a similar campaign against religious extremism where we targeted 200,000 youth whom we saw to be most vulnerable to such ideas, especially in Sinai,” Turky said.

He added that the two ministries are now hoping to combat certain “intellectual pests” that target Egyptian youth, like atheism, asserting that the scope of atheism’s reach in Egypt is still being determined by a joint research committee.

“We are taking preventive and preemptive measures. We do not want to see atheism being endemic in Egypt,” the official explained.

Turky pointed to the ongoing standoff between politics and religion, and arguments concerning how those two realms should ideally interact, as direct causes for an upsurge in both religious extremism and atheism.

“The ongoing conflict will lead youth to either be religious extremists or push them more toward profanity and atheism,” Turky claimed.

But some say it’s problematic for state institutions to get involved in such matters.

Amr Ezzat, a researcher on religious freedoms at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), told Mada Masr that state bodies are meant to serve all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, and it’s extremely dangerous for them to launch campaigns against certain religious views.

“If we are talking about a modern civil state, the existence of a ministry that runs the affairs of Islam in the first place [the Endowments Ministry] is problematic in itself,” Ezzat argued.

Initiatives like the one announced on Wednesday "do not simply campaign against atheism, but they call for violating the rights of those citizens who hold such beliefs in the first place, which is considered mere incitement. These initiatives propagate that atheists threaten the national unity of the society, while the existence of such religious institutions at the first place is the threat,” he continued.

Belying Ezzat’s concerns are actions like the one taken in March by a Ministry of Interior official in Alexandria, who declared that a special police task force would be formed to arrest a group of atheists residing in the coastal city who were open about their beliefs on Facebook.

In a phone interview with presenter Mohamed Moussa on his television show Redline, aired on the Honest satellite channel, Alexandria Security Directorate chief Amin Ezz al-Din said that the task force would be spearheaded by police officers with expertise in such "crimes,” and that they would legalize arrest procedures against these controversial activists.

The ministries’ campaign echoes recent attacks on atheism in local media, a discourse that is particularly prevalent on private satellite channels. In the same episode in which he interviewed Ezz al-Din, Moussa called for the arrest and execution of an atheist he had hosted on his show as punishment for his beliefs.

In another high-profile incident, a television host on the popular Sabaya program, aired on Al-Nahar satellite channel, kicked her guest off the show live on air for expressing her anti-Islamic views.

On a similar note, the EIPR issued a statement Thursday condemning the 6-month prison sentence levied against a Coptic teacher in the southern governorate of Luxor. The teacher was found guilty of religious blasphemy and defaming Islam.

According to EIPR, this is Luxor’s third court case against religious blasphemy, with each case being brought against religious minorities and those holding religious beliefs contradicting with the Sunni Muslim majority.

In its statement, EIPR cautioned that "freedom of opinion and expression is imperiled by individuals and institutions that seek to impose moral guardianship on the citizenry, in a climate hostile to liberties and supported by the governing authority."

The legal persecution of religious minorities is not unique to the newly sworn-in government. Former President Mohamed Morsi’s yearlong administration was broadly criticized for its perceived crackdown on religious freedoms, as well as a wave of lawsuits against political dissidents and religious minorities accusing them of insulting Islam.

Activist Alber Saber was sentenced to three years in prison by a misdemeanor court in January 2013 for insulting religion after he published a video on his Facebook page promoting atheism

Government moves to outlaw labor strikes, but it is promoting production?

Mada Masr 
Govt moves to outlaw strikes, but is it promoting production?

Tuesday June 17, 2014

Jano Charbel

In an effort to stabilize the national economy, Egypt’s authorities have repeatedly called on the working classes to increase production, and to refrain from strikes and other forms of labor protests.

Citing massive losses of revenue amounting to tens of millions of pounds each year, the Ministry of Manpower has been calling for a one-year ban on strikes. It has moved to prohibit strikes in Alexandria, and may potentially implement similar strike bans in other governorates nationwide.

Joining these calls are the prime minister, former and current presidents.
Their talk of increased production and the cessation of strikes has been parroted in the mainstream media.

However, recent policies indicate that the ruling authorities are not assisting in increasing productivity. Hundreds of factories and production lines remain idle, while daily power outages leave many companies and services without electricity — often for hours at a time.

Over the past week, authorities in several governorates — particularly Cairo, Giza, Damietta, Matrouh, Qalyubiya, Ismailia, Sohag and Assiut — have ordered security forces to clear vendors from the streets, to improve traffic flow and maintain “clean” and “civilized-looking” streets, according to officials.

Several thousands of unlicensed street vendors have had their merchandise confiscated in these security sweeps.

Despite talk of increased productivity, the state also moved to declare official holidays for both the public and private sectors on May 28, to extend voting in the presidential election for a third day, as well as for the inauguration of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on June 8.

“The double standards of the authorities are very obvious,” said independent union organizer Fatma Ramadan.

“They call on supporters of the ruling regime to rally in streets and squares across the country, while security forces block off many roads for them. Whereas, opponents of the regime are issued prison sentences for up to 15 years for participating in unauthorized rallies” — under the Protest Law issued in November.

“The authorities are calling on workers to give up their only tool of resistance, their only weapon — the right to strike — while offering practically nothing in return,” she added.

According to figures issued by the independent Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, 87 workers were arrested and/or prosecuted in association with strikes and other labor protests between July 3, 2013 and May 15, 2014. Additionally, 41,163 individuals were arrested and prosecuted on charges relating to unauthorized protests or other illegal political actions.

While the right to strike is not banned by law, Trade Union Law 35/1976 and Unified Labor Law 12/2003 impose numerous restrictions on the ability of workers to legally exercise this right.

Since its establishment in 1957, the country’s largest labor body, the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) has authorized only two strikes.

Under the rule of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, the then-Minister of Manpower, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khaled al-Azhari, actively advocated a one-year ban on strikes in 2013.

More recently, the acting Minister of Manpower Nahed al-Ashry has moved to enforce this one-year ban on strikes.

On May 10, Ashry presided over the signing of a “code of honor,” in which representatives of Alexandria’s chambers of commerce, state-controlled federations, and independent labor federations agreed to “halt strikes and all other formers of labor protests” until the election of a president and parliament.

According to Ramadan, “Written agreements to ban strikes won’t succeed in ending them as long as workers’ rights are violated and their freedoms are denied.” While the frequency of strikes may have temporarily decreased from earlier this year, labor problems persist unresolved, the independent union organizer adds.

Ramadan explained that the Ministry of Manpower has discussed enforcing another governorate-wide ban on strikes in the Nile Delta governorate of Gharbiya, although this has not yet materialized.

Many workers appear to be pinning their hopes on Sisi’s presidency, welcoming the state’s calls for increased productivity and the halting of labor protests. “We will halt our strikes and our demands for the minimum wage, while striving to double our production and also contributing one additional hour of work per day,” said textile worker Yasser Salama in Mahalla City, located in the Gharbiya.

In an interview with the private Al-Shorouk newspaper on Friday, this worker from the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company championed the initiative of the ETUF calling for a halt to strikes to assist the elected President and enable the new government in moving forward.

The Misr Spinning and Weaving Company is Egypt’s largest textile mill, employing some 20,000 workers. This company has been at the forefront of the country’s strikes and industrial actions since December 2006.

Other workers at this mammoth textile company are not willing to give up their right to strike, however.

Worker and activist Kamal al-Fayoumi explained that most of the strikes at this company have been targeted at “the mismanagement and corruption of company administrators,” which have allegedly cost the company hundreds of millions of pounds worth of losses since 2006.

Fayoumi claimed that the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company has been operating at around 50 percent of its productive capacity or less, while many production lines are stalling.

“We demand raw materials needed to operate our factories, and to bring this company back to its original productive capacity,” Fayoumi said.

Yet the Holding Company for Spinning and Weaving, which manages 32 public sector textile companies, and the Ministry of Investment have not yet provided the necessary amount of raw materials or investment to get these companies back to their optimum levels of productivity.

According to Tamer Fayez, another worker at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla said, “The authorities are constantly talking of increased production and productivity, yet our factories are falling into disarray.”

Fayez was dismayed by the fact that the company’s administration granted its 20,000 workers a half-day off work on May 26 and 27 for the election. Fayez was even more disturbed when Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb announced that May 27 would be an official holiday for employees of both the public and private sector.

“Mehleb visited our company on March 5, and told us not to obstruct production with our strikes, yet he is officially obstructing production for the sake of electoral and political gains. How is this acceptable?”

Mehleb also promised Mahalla’s workers that they would receive the minimum wage of LE1,200 per month. This has not yet been implemented.
According to the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, an independent NGO, some 4,000 factories — in both the public and private sectors — have been shut down since the January 2011 uprising. State sources have denied these claims and their figures indicate that only a few hundred factories have been stalled since the January 25 Revolution.

While these figures may be disputed, there are seven companies that have been awaiting state investment in order to re-operate since September 2011.

The Administrative Court annulled the privatization contracts for the Tanta Flax and Oils Company, the Shebin al-Kom Textile Company, Nile Cotton Ginning Company, Nasr Steam Boilers Company, the Nubariya Seed Company, Omar Effendy Department Stores Company, and the Simo Paper Company.

The court found that these seven companies — privatized from the 1990s to early 2000s — were sold-off for well under their real market value. The state is supposed to re-incorporate these companies into the public sector, but has not yet done so.

Only the Omar Effendy Department Stores Company has been re-operated under the public sector, but not all of its branches are back in service. The Shebin al-Kom Textile Company has been intermittently operating at a greatly reduced rate.

According to Hisham al-Oql, a sacked worker from the Tanta Flax and Oils Company, “We’re stuck in the same old situation, with the same empty government reassurances.”

Oql explained that production at this company has been entirely halted since October 2013. There are some 480 workers — from an original workforce of around 2,300 —  still receiving their basic wages from the Ministry of Investment and the Holding Company for Chemical Industries (which oversees this company) although there is no production here whatsoever.

“We don’t want handouts or assistance payments. We want our jobs back and our company back,” said Oql. “We want to get back to work, to increase production like the authorities keep telling us to do. We’ve repeatedly offered to work for a whole month without pay, until the company gets back on its feet.”

“What is keeping this company from production?” asked Oql. “The raw materials are available, the factories are available, and the workers are available. The only thing that is not available is the political will to invest and re-operate our company.”

When Tanta Flax’s workers sought to self-manage their company on March 19, local authorities and the electric company cut-off all power to it.

“We hope the government fulfils its promises … we hope for a resumption of production at our company and all other stalled companies,” Oql concluded.

*Photo by Mohamed Al-Saeed

Al-Jazeera reporter released after 10 months in prison, 140 days of hunger strike

RSF - Reporters Without Borders

Reporter freed after 10 months in prison, 140 days on hunger strike

Tuesday 17 June 2014   

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Abdullah Al-Shami, an Al-Jazeera correspondent held without formal charge since August 2013, was freed today. He had been on hunger strike for the past 140 days.

Prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat approved the release of Abdullah Al-Shami and 12 other detainees on health grounds.

Shami was arrested while covering a demonstration in Cairo’s Rabiaa Al-Adawiya Square on 14 August 2013 by supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the Moslem Brotherhood president deposed on 3 July. According to Human Rights Watch, 377 people were killed when the security forces used force to disperse the protest.

Shami lost 40 kg in weight and suffered a significant decline in health as a result of the hunger strike he began on 21 January in protest against his arbitrary detention. On 13 May, RWB voiced deep concern about his condition and called for his immediate and unconditional release so that he could receive appropriate treatment.

We are very relieved by Shami’s release after 10 months in detention,” said Virginie Dangles, deputy head of research and advocacy at Reporters Without Borders. “Many journalists are still detained in Egypt including three Al-Jazeera journalists who were arrested in December. We reiterate our call to the Egyptian government to end the travesty of justice surrounding their trial.”

The three other detained Al-Jazeera journalists – Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy, who has Egyptian and Canadian dual nationality, reporter Peter Greste, an Australian who used to work for the BBC, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian employee ­– have been held since 29 December.

Their trial began in February. In all, 20 journalists are being tried jointly. They consist of 16 Egyptians, who are accused of belonging to a “terrorist organization” (the Moslem Brotherhood), and four foreigners – two Britons, an Australian and a Dutchman – who are accused of "supplying money, equipment and information" in order to "spread false reports and create the illusion of a civil war in Egypt".

Eight of them are in detention while the other 12 are being tried in absentia. On 16 June, the judge announced that a verdict would be issued on 23 June. The prosecutor-general has requested long jail terms, ranging from 15 to 20 years.

In a recent open letter, Reporters Without Borders urged President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to act as a guarantor of freedom of the media and information and to release all detained journalists.

*Photo courtesy of Al-Jazeera

Egypt: Police confiscate 1,000 copies of publication by human rights NGO

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Newspaper issued by IFEX member in Egypt confiscated

6 June 2014

On 14 June, security forces stormed the printing house of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and confiscated the 72nd issue of its newspaper, Wasla. They also detained an employee of the printing house, seized all copies of the newspaper along with the printing supplies.

In contravention of Egypt's Constitution, security forces refused to allow the lawyers present to see the arrest warrant or to inform them of the details of the raid. One of the police officers, however, told the lawyers verbally that the printing house was accused of "issuing a newspaper that calls for the downfall of the regime," alleging that the newspaper is issued by the Muslim Brotherhood. Around 1000 copies of the newspaper were confiscated along with the printing templates.

When a lawyer from ANHRI went to Osim police station, where the employee was being held, the police officers refused to reveal the reasons behind the incident. This, despite the clear provisions in the Constitution which oblige a police officer to inform those detained of the reasons of their detention. It is also clearly inadmissible in the Constitution to confiscate any print publication without a valid warrant.

Wasla newspaper was first published on 1 April 2010. So far, ANHRI has released 72 issues of the paper, which aims at compiling some of the writings of online journalists and activists on social networking sites (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, forums) and publishing them in printed form. 
It is distributed amongst the older generations, people who do not regularly use the Internet, for the purpose of keeping them informed of the opinions and writings of younger generations. When Wasla was first published, it was celebrated by writers and journalists, even the local Egyptian TV channel itself created an episode about it.

Executive Director at ANHRI Gamal Eid said: "The crackdown on civil society has started, and the new regime's intentions have been revealed faster than we expected. It has only been a week since the new president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took over the reins of power and attacks on civil society have already begun. The confiscation of Wasla newspaper and the fabrication of absurd accusations of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood is indicative of the fate of press freedom and freedom of expression in the country."

"The investigation into the case will be conducted today [15 June 2014] marking the official start of the crackdown campaign against civil society and human rights organizations. Whatever the decision of the Public Prosecution in this fabricated satirical case, ANHRI will not halt its activity and is determined to implement of the rule of law no matter what the price is.”

Click here for a list of the accusations brought up against Wasla newspaper and the items seized during the raid.

Egyptian authorities & society must act against sexual harassment/assault/rape

Committee Assessment Should Lead to Reforms
June 13, 2014
(Beirut) – Egyptian authorities should act quickly to combat all forms of violence and harassment against women, Human Rights Watch said today. 
After a spate of sexual assaults during post-election celebrations, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told the prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab on June 11, 2014, to form a committee to address harassment. The committee is a positive step, but effective, comprehensive action needs to follow, Human Rights Watch said.

Egyptian rights groups documented at least nine incidents of mob sexual assaults and harassment in Cairo’s Tahrir Square between June 3 and 8 during celebrations of President Sisi’s election and inauguration. There had been other attacks in the square during post-election celebrations.

“This level of attention to sexual harassment from an Egyptian president needs to be judged by what actually results,” said Rothna Begum, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “A comprehensive national strategy would be a vital step toward stopping attacks on women, if implemented.”

President Sisi’s office said in a statement that the ministerial committee should include participation by the Muslim and Christian religious establishments to “identify the reasons for the spread of the phenomena of harassment and determine a national strategy to address it.”

On June 9, 2014,  25 Egyptian rights groups called for a comprehensive law on violence against women and a national strategy to implement such legislation.

Law reform should be central to the national strategy, Human Rights Watch said. Egypt has major gaps in its laws on violence against women. There is no specific law on domestic violence. The Penal Code has an outdated, narrow definition of rape. Even recent amendments on sexual harassment need improvement.

The reform should include provisions for victim assistance, protocols and guidelines for all government officials responding to violence against women, adequate funding for agencies carrying out the reforms and for monitoring their prevention and enforcement activities. The authorities should consult with Egyptian women’s rights groups and survivors when drafting the strategy and any new legislation.

In response to the recent attacks, the Interior Ministry reported arrests of seven men, and the public prosecution opened an investigation into three other men. On June 10, President Sisi told the interior minister to “take all necessary measures to combat sexual harassment.” The following day, he paid a visit to a hospitalized victim of a sexual attack, accompanied by television cameras, during which he apologized to her and promised to hold the attackers accountable.

On June 9, Egyptian rights groups reported that at least 500 women had been sexually assaulted by mobs in Egypt  between February 2011 and January 2014, and that  thousands of women had been subjected to sexual harassment. In 2013, Human Rights Watch documented epidemic sexual violence in Egypt, including at least 91 attacks between June 30 and July 3, during demonstrations, and the weak government response.

On June 5, 2014, outgoing President Adly Mansour’s Decree No.50 of 2014 came into force, with two narrow amendments to the Penal Code. One broadened the definition of harassment and sexual harassment. Offenders can be sentenced to at least 6 months in prison or a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$700-$1,400). 
The second change increased penalties to between two and five years in prison and a fine of 20,000-50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$2,800-$7,000) when the offender is in a position of authority over the victim, if the crime is committed by two or more people, or one of the offenders is armed with a weapon.

The Egyptian authorities are required to act both under binding international law, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and Egypt’s new constitution to protect “women against all forms of violence.” This requires enacting and enforcing comprehensive legislation for which the authorities should look to the United Nations Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women for guidance.

“Gruesome sexual attacks on women marred President Sisi’s election and inauguration,” Begum said. “Egypt’s women, and the world, are watching to see what President Sisi will do to put a halt to the sexual attacks and harassment.”
*Photo courtesy of REUTERS 

Blogger & 24 other activists sentenced to 15 yrs in prison for peaceful protest

Egypt: 15-year jail sentences for blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others condemned

June 11, 2014

‘It’s deeply troubling that, just days into Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s presidency, courts are already jailing government critics’ - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
The handing down of 15-year jail sentences to 25 activists in Egypt earlier today has been condemned by Amnesty International.
Earlier today the leading activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others were sentenced to 15 years in prison on politically-motivated charges by the Cairo Criminal Court.
The 25 were sentenced on charges of stealing a police radio, attacking security forces, protesting without permission and hindering the work of national institutions. They had been tried in relation to a peaceful protest which took place outside Egypt’s Shura Council last November by the “No To Military Trials” group. The activists were protesting against the inclusion of a provision allowing the trial of civilians before military courts by the Drafting Committee of the Constitution. 
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“It’s deeply troubling that, just days into Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s presidency, courts are already jailing government critics.
“By locking up one of the leading activists in Egypt, the authorities are sending a clear message that they will not tolerate anyone daring to challenge or criticise them.
“Protesting peacefully is not a crime. If held solely for taking part in a protest, the activists must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

*Photo courtesy of Noor Ayman Nour

Egypt: Worst condition of human rights in decades

Should Not Ignore Worst Situation in Decades

(Beirut) – President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi takes office in Egypt in the midst of a human rights crisis as dire as in any period in the country’s modern history, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. The new president should make addressing Egypt’s dismal human rights record a top priority.

In the period since the July 3, 2013 ousting of President Mohamed Morsy, Egyptian security forces have used excessive force on numerous occasions, leading to the worst incident of mass unlawful killings in Egypt’s recent history. Judicial authorities have handed down unprecedented large-scale death sentences and security forces have carried out mass arrests and torture that harken back to the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

“Instead of addressing the urgent need for reform, Egyptian authorities have spent the last year engaging in repression on a scale unprecedented in Egypt’s modern history,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. “Now that President al-Sisi has formally taken the reins of power, he should put an end to these rampant abuses.”

In addition to the violence and mass arrests, the authorities have imposed extensive restrictions on freedom of association, expression, and assembly, which dramatically reverse gains made following the January 25, 2011 uprising. In addition, there have been violations of refugee rights and discrimination against women, with rampant impunity across the board for serious human rights abuses.

The new president should order the release of anyone held solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly; amend or drop the restrictive 2013 public assembly law; and order security forces to halt use of firearms against demonstrators, unless strictly necessary to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury. In addition, his administration should ensure that credible criminal investigations are carried out into the police and army killings of more than 1,400 demonstrators over the past 12 months and the mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees.

“Egypt’s allies should impress upon Egypt that the world will not accept foot-dragging or purely cosmetic changes,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If Egypt doesn’t carry out credible investigations into the illegal killings and torture, the mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council should be used to pursue an international investigation.

Egypt’s Human Rights Crisis (July 2013 – June 2014)

Mass Protester Killings
Since July 3, 2013, security forces have repeatedly used excessive and arbitrary force to disperse protests. At least 1,400 protesters have been killed in protests and political violence as a result, and most likely scores more. The most serious incident took place on August 14, when security forces violently dispersed sit-ins organized by Morsy supporters in Raba’a al-Adawiya and Nahda Squares in Cairo. Those assaults on that one day killed up to 1,000 protesters, according to then-Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy. It was the worst incident of mass unlawful killing in Egypt’s modern history.

The August 14 killings were preceded and followed by other incidents that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have found to involve excessive use of force and firearms, which resulted in the mass killings of protesters, including:
  • On July 8, 2013, Egyptian army forces killed at least 61 protesters outside the Republican Guards Headquarters in eastern Cairo;
  • On July 27, 2013, police dispersal of a march near the Manassa Memorial in eastern Cairo resulted in at least 82 deaths;
  • On August 16, 2013, police killed at least 121 demonstrators when dispersing protests around Ramses Square;
  • On October 6, 2013, police killed more than 57 demonstrators when dispersing pro-Morsy marches across Egypt; and
  • On January, 25, 2014, the third anniversary of the January 2011 uprising, police killed at least 64 demonstrators when dispersing protests throughout the country.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch acknowledge that the security situation in Egypt has deteriorated, including attacks by armed groups targeting security forces personnel, buildings, checkpoints, and vehicles, which authorities say have led to the killing of hundreds from the security forces. Some of these attacks targeted tourists or indiscriminately harmed ordinary citizens.

Egyptian authorities have the responsibility to protect the right to life of all in Egypt, and to prosecute those responsible for crimes, but should do so within the framework of international human rights law.

In particular, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms require law enforcement officials to strictly limit the use of any force to situations in which it is absolutely necessary and proportional to the legitimate aim pursued. Firearms may only be used as a last resort – when strictly necessary to protect themselves or others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. The intentional lethal use of firearms is only permissible if unavoidable in order to protect life.

Mass Arrests
The campaign of arrests and detentions since July 3, 2013, has been as intense as during any period in recent Egyptian history. Many of those detained have faced months of detention without charge or trial. Others have faced a litany of cut-and-paste charges and have been denied their due process rights. Unnamed government officials told the Associated Press in March 2014 that security forces had detained at least 16,000 people since July 2013. WikiThawra, an initiative run by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, has said that over 41,000 people have faced arrest or criminal charges since Morsy was ousted.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s main opposition group, and other Morsy supporters, have been the primary target of the dragnet. Police have arrested most of the Brotherhood’s high- and mid-level leadership, as well as thousands of rank-and-file members and perceived sympathizers. The crackdown has expanded to include secular activists, journalists, and other dissidents. Those detained face charges that include protesting without authorization, incitement or engaging in violence, “thuggery,” vandalism, blocking roads, and belonging to a banned or terrorist group.

Under Mubarak, Egyptian rights organizations determined that some 18,000 dissidents and opponents of the government were held in 2006 in administrative detention – prolonged detention without charge under the terms of the emergency law.

Due Process Violations and Mass Death Sentences
The judicial process since July 3, 2013, has been rife with serious procedural deficiencies that routinely deprive detainees of basic due process rights. Although the state of emergency decreed in July was lifted in November, prosecutors in dozens of instances reviewed by Amnesty International and Human Rights have renewed pretrial detention orders on the basis of little or no evidence that would warrant prosecution, effectively keeping many of those rounded up in arbitrary detention for months without formal charge.

Many of the trials documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been grossly unfair, violating both Egyptian law and international standards. These trials, including mass trials involving hundreds of people in a single case, failed to assess the individual criminal responsibility of each defendant, yet resulted in lengthy sentences or even the death penalty – which Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose in all circumstances.

In many of these cases, the public prosecution relied almost entirely on police witnesses without presenting any other material evidence or independent witnesses. Defense lawyers say they have had difficulties in obtaining details of the prosecution evidence against their clients and were unable to check or photocopy case files from the courts, jeopardizing their ability to prepare an effective defense.

A criminal court in Minya, for example, recommended the death penalty for over 1,200 people in preliminary verdicts in two separate cases in March and April 2014. The court did not allow defendants the right to mount a meaningful defense, or even assess whether they had counsel. The court tried most defendants in their absence in proceedings that fell far short of ascertaining their individual guilt or innocence. These were the largest mass death sentences that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have ever documented in Egypt. In the first mass case, after receiving an opinion from the Grand Mufti, the court issued 37 death sentences and sentenced the others to life in prison in a final verdict which continues to raise concern given that the court did not consider individual responsibility for the alleged offenses. The final verdict in the second case is scheduled to be delivered after receipt of the Grand Mufti’s opinion on June 21.

Since July 3, 2013, military prosecutors have continued to try civilians before military courts. Provisions in Egypt’s new constitution permit military trials for civilians in a number of circumstances, in breach of international law.

Outside of the formal judicial process, Egyptian authorities have forcibly disappeared dozens of people since July 2013. Security forces held Morsy, along with nine senior aides, in secret detention for months. Egyptian lawyers and activists have a list of 30 people subjected to enforced disappearance for as long as 76 days. They are now known to be at al-Azouly Prison, inside al-Galaa Military Camp in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. Former detainees said that hundreds may be detained at the prison.

Torture and Other Ill-Treatment
Mounting reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees harken back to the most abusive periods under Hosni Mubarak. Detainees have described to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch severe beatings by security forces during their arrest, their arrival at police stations, and their transfer between prisons, as part of their “welcome party.” Scores of protesters detained during the third anniversary of the uprising on January 25, 2014, complained of torture, including being subjected to electric shocks to extract confessions. Those forcibly disappeared at al-Azouly military prison said they were tortured, including with electric shocks and being hung from doors.

Sharply Diminished Freedom of Association, Expression, and Assembly
While the new constitution has language that appears to protect human rights, authorities over the last year have routinely violated those rights, particularly the rights to free expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Thousands of detainees were rounded up solely as a result of their peaceful exercise of these rights.

Free Expression
On July 3, 2013, the military-backed government raided and took off air at least six TV stations affiliated with or sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is currently detaining 16 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, placing Egypt among the worst jailers of journalists.

Egypt has particularly targeted the Qatar-based TV station Al Jazeera, closing its Egypt offices and arresting many of its reporters. Egyptian authorities have held the correspondent of Al Jazeera’s Arabic program, Abdullah al-Shamy, without charge since August 14, 2013. Authorities also arrested three staff of Al Jazeera’s English program, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed, in December and are trying them, along with 17 other journalists, media students, and opposition activists, on charges of “broadcasting false news” and assisting Muslim Brotherhood members.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have separately documented dozens of cases of people detained merely for peaceful expression of dissent, such as possessing flyers or balloons with anti-military slogans and displaying signs commemorating victims of the August dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood encampment at Raba’a al-Adawiya Square in Cairo.

In January 2014, the government put a travel ban on the academic and former Member of Parliament Amr Hamzawy. Prosecutors charged Hamzawy with “insulting the judiciary” based on a tweet in which he said that a particular court ruling was politicized. The same month authorities charged another prominent academic, Emad Shahin, with conspiring with foreign organizations to harm national security. Both men had been critical of some of President Morsy’s policies, but also criticized the heavy repression that followed his ouster.

Also in January, authorities arrested some of the few activists who openly challenged the draft constitution and called for a “no” vote in the referendum.

Free Assembly
In November 2013, the government issued a new law that severely restricts peaceful demonstrations by granting the Interior Ministry free rein to ban any protest, forcefully disperse demonstrations, and arrest participants on vague grounds such as “imped[ing] citizen’s interests.” Prominent activists like Alaa Abdel Fattah, the co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement Ahmed Maher, the blogger Ahmed Douma, the April 6 leader Mohamed Adel, and the human rights lawyer Mahienoor al-Masry have been imprisoned for allegedly violating the new protest law, along with scores of other activists and government critics.

Maher, Douma, and Adel were each sentenced to three years in prison in December, while al-Masry was sentenced to two years in May 2014 and Abdel Fattah is currently on trial, though free on bail. Security forces have used the law to forcibly disperse protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters as well as other political and human rights activists, and to arrest scores of protesters.

Free Association
In September 2013, a Cairo court banned the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered a confiscation of its assets. In December, the government designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Subsequently, the government has taken over control of 1,075 associations linked to the Brotherhood and dozens of Brotherhood-affiliated schools. The government has yet to put forward any evidence to support the terrorist designation, or to link the group to specific terrorist attacks.

On April 28, 2014, the Court of Urgent Matters banned the activities of the April 6 Youth Movement, which led many of the mass protests during the 2011 uprising, and ordered the authorities to shut down its headquarters. The court ruled that the group was “co-operating with foreign states, including the US, to cut US aid, possessing weapons, protesting and spreading chaos in the country,” and had “distorted Egypt’s image.”

Authorities raided the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, a prominent rights group, twice in six months. On December 19, 2013, security forces raided its Cairo office just after midnight and detained two staff members and four volunteers, subjecting them to ill-treatment before releasing five of the group the next morning. The sixth, the above-mentioned Mohamed Adel, was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly violating the assembly law. On May 22, 2014, police raided the group’s Alexandria office, briefly arresting at least 15 activists and lawyers and subjecting them to ill-treatment.

Violence, Discrimination Against Women
Women protesters participating in demonstrations around Tahrir Square faced a wave of sexual violence, with over 100 attacks around Tahrir Square reported in the week of June 30, 2013 alone. As demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square to mark Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's inauguration on June 8, 2014, reports emerged of mob sexual harassment and assaults in the area, with the Interior Ministry stating it had arrested seven people in connection with the attacks. Outgoing interim President Adly Mansour issued a new law on June 5, 2014, to address sexual harassment, but over the last year the authorities have taken little action to stop or investigate violence against women, or to bring those responsible to justice.

Women continue to be under-represented in public life, including top-level government positions and the judiciary. According to the last official surveys, women also face endemic levels of sexual and gender-based violence, including widespread sexual harassment in the public sphere and high levels of domestic violence, with the authorities failing to take substantive action to acknowledge the problem or combat it. Official statistics show that women also face discrimination in the workplace in terms of pay and position and face disproportionate levels of unemployment and illiteracy.

Intensified Crackdown on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Migrants
Egyptian authorities have violated the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from Syria, including both Syrian nationals and Palestinians who were living in Syria. Security officials implemented a visa requirement and security clearance for Syrians following the ousting of Morsy. Since then, airport officials have denied entry to at least 476 Syrians and returned them to Syria in violation of the international legal prohibition against refoulement, the return of anyone to a place where their life or freedom would be threatened or to a real risk of torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment.

In July 2013, police and military police arrested at least 72 Syrian men and nine boys at checkpoints on main Cairo roads in a sweep following a media campaign accusing the Syrians of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. From August through December, Egypt arbitrarily detained – often in defiance of prosecutorial release orders – over 1,500 refugees from Syria, including 250 children, many of whom had sought to migrate irregularly to Europe. The authorities coerced over 1,200 to leave Egypt, some to go to Syria under threat of indefinite detention. In December, authorities released the majority of around 200 refugees who remained in custody. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reported that as of June 3, 2014, Egypt had detained 519 additional refugees from Syria and was holding 102 at police stations on the Mediterranean coast.

Pervasive Impunity for Rights Abuses
Not a single police or army officer has been held accountable for the repeated use of excessive force and other serious abuses since July 2013. Authorities continue to deny wrongdoing, yet refuse to publicly disclose almost any information about potential violations.

Outgoing president Adly Mansour established a presidential fact-finding committee in December 2013 “to gather information and evidence for the events that accompanied the June 30, 2013 revolution and its repercussions.” The commission has operated without transparency and, according to its mandate, lacks the authority to subpoena witnesses or evidence, establish individual criminal responsibility, or make its findings public. President Mansour recently extended the deadline for its final report from June to September 2014.

In March, President Mansour requested the Justice Ministry to open a judicial investigation into the Raba’a and Nahda dispersals. The Ministry of Justice, however, announced that it would not assign a judge to investigate these events, since investigations fall under the prerogative of the public prosecution, which in turn says that it is already investigating these events. The public prosecution has yet to bring charges against any members of the security forces in those incidents. Almost one year on, not one officer has been referred to trial on charges related to the unlawful use of firearms against protesters.

A March 18, 2014 court ruling sentenced a police captain to 10 years, and three lower-ranking officers to one-year suspended sentences, for their role in the tear gas suffocation of 37 protesters in a police van outside Abu Zaabel Prison. An appeals court overturned the convictions on June 7, 2014.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch encourage President al-Sisi to address these serious human rights concerns by taking the following steps:
  • Ensure thorough, independent, and impartial investigations into the unlawful use of force by security forces, including those responsible in the chain of command, in incidents of mass killings since June 30, 2013, such as the August 2013 Raba’a and Nahda Square dispersals in which up to 1,000 protesters were killed;
  • Order security forces to end unlawful, excessive use of force and to act at all times, including in policing future demonstrations, in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, only using firearms as a last resort when strictly necessary to protect themselves or others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury;
  •  Immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, including national and international media personnel arrested in the context of performing their duties as journalists and those detained solely for membership in the Muslim Brotherhood;
  • Order the Justice Ministry to conduct a review to ensure detainees are afforded their full due process rights, including establishing clear individual criminal responsibility, regular access to counsel and family visits, and the opportunity to review evidence and mount a meaningful defense;
  • Initiate thorough, independent, and impartial investigations into security officials alleged to be responsible for torture or other ill-treatment of detainees;
  • Make public a registry of all those arrested since July 3, 2013, their place of detention, and the charges against them;
  • Repeal or amend law 107 of 2013 restricting freedom of assembly to bring it in line with international human rights law and standards on freedom of assembly, in particular abolishing provisions that give the Interior Ministry wide latitude to ban protests and forcibly disperse or arrest those participating in them; and
  • Ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood and other banned organizations can appeal their closure and designation as terrorist groups in a fair and transparent process using criteria that conform to international standards on the right to freedom of association.

*Photo by Khaled Desouki courtesy of AFP

Yet again, judges acquit murderous & corrupt policemen


Egypt court acquits Mubarak-era minister

Ex-interior minister Habib al-Adly acquitted of corruption, three years after court sentenced him to 12 years in jail

June 12, 2014

An Egyptian court has acquitted a former interior minister who served under Hosni Mubarak of corruption, three years after he was sentenced to 12 years in jail by another court.

A cassation court had ordered the retrial of Habib al-Adly, who had been convicted of money-laundering and illicitly enriching himself.

The charges of which he was acquitted on Thursday were linked to the sale of land owned by him. Adly was acccused of tasking police officials with finding a buyer who would pay the highest possible price.

However, the disgraced ex-minister, who ran Mubarak's security services for more than a decade before a popular uprising overthrew the strongman in 2011, will remain in detention.

In February, a court upheld a three-year jail sentence handed to Adly for taking advantage of his position and forcing police conscripts to work on his private property.

He was also sentenced to life in prison along with Mubarak in 2012 over the kilings of protesters in the 2011 uprising, but a court later overturned the verdict on technical grounds. Adly and Mubarak are now being retried along with six police commanders. 

*Photo courtesy of REUTERS

Agence France-Presse

Egypt court overturns conviction for Islamist prisoner deaths

June 7, 2014

Cairo (AFP) - An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday overturned the conviction of a policeman who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the deaths of 37 prisoners from tear gas.

It also overturned suspended one-year sentences handed to three other officers over the August deaths of the prisoners, who were alleged supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

The 37 died after the tear gas was thrown inside their closed police van when they were being transferred to Abu Zaabal prison near Cairo.

Since Morsi the army ousted Morsi in July, the military-installed authorities have launched a crackdown on his supporters that has left more than 1,400 dead in street clashes and at least 15,000 in prison.

Hundreds have also been sentenced to death in speedy trials.

The officer given 10 years was the deputy head of the police station who oversaw the transfer.
The four officers were sentenced for manslaughter after the prosecution's investigation revealed they acted recklessly toward the victims.

On Saturday, the Appeals court ordered the case to be transferred to the general prosecution for further investigation.

The decision "means that the case is back to square one", human rights lawyer Amr Imam told AFP.

During the first trial, a justice ministry expert said the truck used transporting the victims had a capacity of only 24 people, but was carrying 45 that day.

The interior ministry said at the time of the incident, which took place at the peak of the crackdown against Morsi's supporters, that police fired tear gas when the inmates rioted.

It came four days after security forces stormed two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, sparking clashes that killed hundreds.

In February, a court acquitted six police officers of killing 83 protesters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria during the 2011 uprising against dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Nearly 850 people died during the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, when protesters battled the then-despised police.

But in the past three years, blame for killings during the uprising has shifted to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood as the police has been rehabilitated in public opinion.

Morsi himself and top Brotherhood leaders are on trial on charges that could incur the death penalty.

On Saturday, a court postponed until July 5 the verdict in the trial of Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and 37 others for inciting violence that killed two people last summer in the Nile Delta city of Qaliub.

But it sentenced to death 10 defendants who are on the run, and a final ruling on their cases is expected the same day they are reviewed.

*Photo by Khaled Desouky courtesy of AFP