Sunday, August 31, 2014

Egypt hypocritically calls on USA to respect right of protest

Mada Masr
Egypt calls on US to respect right of protest

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on American authorities on Tuesday to uphold international human rights standards and to respect protesters’ rights to freedom of assembly in the city of Ferguson, Missouri.

The comments were made in light of heavy-handed security tactics by Missouri’s authorities following the police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American on August 9.

statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Badr Abdel Atty called on American authorities “to exercise restraint, and respect the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

It was met with skepticism, sarcasm and ridicule on social media networks.

“Laughing not permitted… Egypt calls on America to respect the right of peaceful assembly in light of protests in Ferguson,” Abdel Rahman Salah wrote on Twitter.

Another Egyptian Twitter user commented that if the events in Ferguson were happening in Egypt, there would be at least 100 fatalities due to the crackdown.

Following the murder of Brown, Missouri’s governor authorized the deployment of heavily militarized police forces, imposed a state of emergency and curfews, and gave the green light for the use of smoke and tear gas canisters against protesters, as well as rubber bullets.

Dozens of arrests have been reported and the National Guard has been deployed to the city in hopes of quelling unrest and racial tensions.

Abdel Atty’s comments affirmed recommendations by the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, issued on Monday. In his statement, published on the UN News Center Website, Moon expressed hope that local and federal investigations will “shed full light on the killing and that justice will be done.”  

Last year, Egypt banned all forms of public assembly that are critical of the ruling government.

Presidential Decree 107 (2013), the “Law Regulating Right of Assembly, Processions and Peaceful Protest” strictly limits the freedom to protest and peaceful assembly, while granting police sweeping powers to forcefully disperse protests, even those that are officially authorized.

According to this law, the Egyptian police are empowered to use batons, water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and even live shotgun shells against protesters. The law also imposes penalties of imprisonment ranging from two to seven years and/or fines of up to LE300,000 ($US 42,000) for violations.

This year, the anniversary of the armed crackdown on Islamist protest camps at Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda squares on August 14, 2013 — which left hundreds dead (estimates range from 400 to over 1,200) — saw fatal violence. Egyptian police shot dead at least five civilians protesting against the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to mark the violent dispersals.

On August 11, security authorities at Cairo airport barred representatives of Human Rights Watch from entering the country. Their report regarding the August 14 crackdown was denounced and dismissed by Egypt’s ruling authorities.

A host of mainstream Egyptian TV channels have recently pointed the finger at human rights violations in Ferguson.

Mention has not been made of the scale of fatalities during the August 14 dispersals, the state of emergency and curfew imposed across most of Egypt for three months, or the over 800 Egyptian civilians killed during the January 25 uprising of 2011.

*Photo by Virginie Nguyen


Mada Masr

Washington fires back at Egypt’s comments on Ferguson

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

During the US State Department’s daily briefing on Tuesday, Deputy Spokesperson Mary Harf responded to the recent Egyptian Foreign Affairs statement regarding the Ferguson protests, saying that the US practices freedom of expression that isn't upheld with the same respect in Egypt.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Badr Abdel Aty had said in a press conference on Tuesday that Egypt “closely monitors” the protests in Ferguson and reiterated the United Nation’s calls on the US to exercise “self-restraint” and “respect the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion.”

Large protests had broken out in Ferguson, Missouri and were met with a violent police response following the killing of a teenager by a police officer.

“We here in the United States will put our record for confronting our problems transparently and openly and honestly up against anyone else’s in the world. And we, when we have issues here, confront them in that way, as you’ve seen over the past few days, and we would call on other countries to do the same. And unfortunately, we haven’t always seen that, so we’ll keep calling on them to do so,” Harf said in a response to a question about Egypt’s comment.

Asked whether she believed the Egyptian comment is meant as an answer to the US criticism of the Egyptian government, Harf continues, “People are free to say what they’d like. They are free to weigh in on issues. That’s the beauty of freedom of expression that we hold very dearly here in the United States. That freedom of expression hasn’t, quite frankly, been upheld with the same sort of respect in Egypt.”

Social media has responded to the Foreign Ministry’s statement with sarcasm as Egypt has imposed strict limitations on freedom of assembly and expression in the past year, issuing a Protest Law that requires a permit from the Ministry of Interior before assembly and arresting thousands of demonstrators in the past period, sentencing many to lengthy jail sentences.

Harf refused the comparison between the situation in Egypt and that in Ferguson, reiterating the US government’s concern about the human rights situation in Egypt.

Similarly Ministry of Interior Spokesperson Hany Abdel Latif gave advice to the US police during a phone interview on Sada al-Balad station on Tuesday regarding the treatment of protesters.

Abdel Latif urges the US police to negotiate with protesters and refrain from the use of excessive force. The Egyptian police is notorious for violence against protesters, as well as for practicing other forms of human rights violations, such as torture of detainees

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