The blocking of websites still continues with banning 261 VPN and proxy websites on 29 August raising the total number of blocked sites to 405, according to the latest report by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE.)
On 24 May, the Egyptian authorities started blocking news websites on alleged claims of “supporting terrorism.” In a span of 3 months, the blockade expanded from news websites to banning VPN sites, websites of non-profit organizations and personal blogs of journalists.
Among the blocked websites are the independent news website Mada Masr and the privately-owned Daily News Egypt.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Reporters Without Borders (RWB) websites have also been blocked.
Also, the blog of Ahmed Gamal Ziada, a writer for Masr Alarabia, researcher, and photojournalist, has been blocked preventing readers in Egypt from accessing his blog.
The blocked VPN websites are Tunnelbear, Cyberghost, Hotspot Shield Elite VPN (Hsselite), Tigervpn and Zenvpn among many others.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aloáin, today raised grave concerns with the Government of Egypt over its ongoing assault on freedom of expression.
“Limiting information as the Egyptian Government has done, without any transparency or identification of the asserted ‘lies’ or ‘terrorism’, looks more like repression than counter-terrorism,” they said in the report.
At its height, the strike involved 16,000 workers at the state-owned
Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla in northern Egypt.
It was suspended on Tuesday of last week after management agreed to consider the workers’ demands.
When workers launched their strike on 7 August, bosses had insisted that their demands would not be met.
The Misr Spinning and Weaving Company chair threatened to lock out workers.
But this threat was met by a demonstration of thousands of workers and their families through Mahalla.
There were also signs that their action could spread. Some 3,000
workers at the nearby Al-Nasr Processing and Dyeing factory joined the
strike, and other factories reported slowdowns.
This clearly made bosses nervous, with Al-Nasr management quickly making promises to resolve the dispute.
The Misr Spinning and Weaving Company chairman instructed factory management to open dialogue with the workers.
Before the strike was suspended bosses had ramped up their rhetoric,
branding it as “led by terrorists”. This is a reference to the banned
Muslim Brotherhood organisation. Promised
But last Sunday a leaflet signed by the company’s
commissioner-general and a group of local MPs promised to consider
workers’ demands within the week.
Workers responded by suspending their strike. But they made clear
that it will restart after the Eid Al-Adha festival, ending on 4
September, if the promises prove hollow.
While the outcome of the dispute is yet to be seen, it is hugely important.
The Mahalla workers refused to be intimidated by the security forces,
and have successfully forced Egypt’s largest state-owned company to
consider their demands.
This may seem a small step, but is significant in a country where
strikes are illegal and strike leaders and thousands of activists have
Workers’ demands included payment of a delayed 10 percent bonus and
increasing the monthly food allowance. These issues point to bigger
problems the regime is facing.
It has recently pushed through series of “economic reforms” in
exchange for a $12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.
The IMF declared the Egyptian Central Bank’s governor its “Central
Bank Governor of the Year” for the role he played in pushing through the
free market reforms.
But these measures have seen inflation jump as high as 30 percent, plunging millions deeper into poverty.
Further laws favourable to foreign investors are expected soon. But
alongside more attacks, there is a potential for a fightback.
Recent weeks have seen wildcat strikes by Egyptian train drivers over
safety and large protests by residents of Warraq Island in Cairo. The
regime is trying to demolish their homes and sell land to investors.
Resistance at Mahalla has often played an important role in Egypt, including during the 2011 revolution.
Mass strikes and uprisings in the city can give confidence to workers and poor people across Egypt to fight.
Four years since security forces violently dispersed two
sit-ins at Rabaa al Adawiya and al-Nahda squares in Greater Cairo,
leaving at least 900 people dead and thousands more injured, Egypt is
experiencing an unprecedented human rights crisis, said Amnesty
Not a single person has been held to account for the events on 14
August 2013, widely known as the Rabaa massacre. Instead, hundreds who
attended the protests, including journalists and photographers who were
covering the events, have been arrested and are facing an unfair mass
trial. This vacuum of justice has allowed security forces to commit
serious human rights violations, including using excessive lethal force
and carrying out enforced disappearances, entirely unchecked.
“President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi’s regime has been determined to wipe
out all memory of the massacre of the summer of 2013. The dark legacy
of this failure to bring anyone to justice is that Egypt’s security
forces today feel that they will not be held accountable for committing
human rights violations,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns
Director at Amnesty International.
“The Rabaa dispersal marks a defining turning point for human rights
in Egypt. In the years since then, security forces have stepped up
violations and varied their methods, carrying out enforced
disappearances and extrajudicial executions on a scale never seen
Since 2015, at least 1,700 people are estimated to have been
“disappeared” by state agents for periods ranging from a few days to up
to seven months. Most victims are abducted from the streets or their
homes and held incommunicado for months, cut off from their families and
lawyers. Egyptian security forces have also carried out dozens of
The Egyptian government’s efforts to erase all memory of the 2013
massacres appear to have had some impact. In August 2013, following the
excessive use of lethal force by security forces at Rabaa, the EU
Foreign Affairs Council agreed to suspend export licenses to Egypt of
any equipment which could be used for internal repression. Despite
this, many EU member states have continued to supply the country with
arms and policing equipment. The latest EU country report published last month also makes no mention of the Rabaa massacre or the impunity security services still enjoy.
Grossly unfair trials
Since the Rabaa massacre, the Egyptian authorities have led a bitter
crackdown against political dissidents, rounding up thousands and
sentencing hundreds to life in prison
or death, after grossly unfair trials. In many cases defendants were
convicted in mass trials based on scant or dubious evidence. Most faced
charges including participating in unauthorised protests, belonging to
the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, damaging state and private
property, possessing firearms and attacking security forces.
The prosecution authorities, who have an obligation to bring those
responsible for the 2013 tragedy to justice, have proven unwilling to
investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes. Instead of
offering justice and remedy for victims, they have helped shield
perpetrators from prosecution.
“The level of disparity between the rampant impunity enjoyed by
security forces who took part in the Rabaa dispersal on one hand, and
the mass persecution of Muslim Brotherhood supporters who participated
in protest as well as journalists reporting that day, is shocking,” said
According to official statistics, six security officers were killed
during the Rabaa dispersal and three during the al-Fateh protest two
days later, also in Cairo. At least 1,231 people are being prosecuted in
two mass trials collectively charged with their killing.
Many of those detained are held in appalling conditions including
prolonged solitary confinement amounting to torture. They have
frequently been beaten and denied access to lawyers, medical care or
In another emblematic case, known as the “Fateh mosque case”, at
least 494 people are on mass trial for participating in a protest on 16
August 2013, while no investigation was conducted into the use of
excessive lethal force by security forces that day that killed 120 protesters.
Those on trial include the Irish Egyptian national Ibrahim Halawa.
The group are facing charges including participating in an unauthorised
protest, belonging to a banned group, as well as murder and attacking
the security forces. The prosecution failed to investigate claims by
defendants that they were tortured by police to “confess” to crimes they
did not commit.
The “Rabaa operations room case” involving four journalists from the
RASSD news network - Youssef Talaat, Abdallah Al-Fakharany, Samhi
Mostafa and Mohamed El-Adly – is another case that exemplifies the
blatant injustice characterizing such trials.
The journalists were sentenced to five years in prison on 8 May 2017
after being convicted of charges including creating and overseeing media
committees at the Rabaa sit-in to spread “false information and news”.
During the trial, their lawyers were unable to attend several crucial
court sessions leaving them unable to prepare a proper defence. The
court’s judgement also relied primarily on investigations by Egypt’s
National Security Agency that were not substantiated by material
Held 21 Months Without Trial Despite Serious Illness
August 14, 2017
authorities should immediately provide appropriate health care to the
imprisoned journalist Hisham Gaafar, whose health, including his
eyesight, is deteriorating in detention, Human Rights Watch said today.
If prison authorities are unable to provide him necessary health care,
they should allow him to seek care in private health facilities.
The Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency arrested Gaafar,
director of the Mada Foundation for Media Development, a private media
company, at his office in October 2015. Prosecutors have ordered Gaafar
detained pending investigation on charges that include membership in the
Muslim Brotherhood and illegally receiving foreign funds for his
foundation, his lawyers told Human Rights Watch.
“Egypt’s Interior Ministry has shown contempt for Hisham Gaafar’s health and well-being,” said Sarah Leah Whitson,
Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that the Interior
Ministry refuses to provide him his rightful care is a sad testament to
Egyptian authorities’ disregard for detainees’ most basic rights.”
Gaafar, 53, has an eye condition – optic nerve atrophy – that
requires ongoing specialist care or he may risk losing his sight
altogether. He also suffers from a years-long prostate enlargement
condition and risks complications if he does not receive the proper
treatment. His eyesight is deteriorating and his health has worsened
during his time in detention, in poor conditions, his family said.
Immediately following his arrest, police took Gaafar to his home,
where officers seized his personal publications, work papers, computers,
and phones, including those belonging to his wife and children. They
detained his family inside the home for 17 hours. Security officers
confiscated all his medical documents and reports and have not returned
them to his family, despite their requests.
National Security officers then took Gaafar to an undisclosed
location and held him for two days without access to his family or
lawyers. His family heard of his whereabouts when a lawyer saw him by
coincidence in the Supreme State Security Prosecution office in Cairo.
Prosecutors have kept him in pretrial detention since then.
Under Egyptian law, prosecutors have broad power to hold those
suspected of committing major offenses, including political and national
security crimes, in pretrial detention for up to five months without
regular judicial review, and judges can extend the detention for up to
two years without requiring any substantive justification from
A judge should immediately review the necessity and legality of
Gaafar’s detention and either send him to trial without further delays
or release him, Human Rights Watch said.
During Gaafar’s time in detention, most of it spent in the maximum security Scorpion Prison in Cairo,
the Interior Ministry’s Prisons Authority has not provided needed
medicine but has intermittently allowed Gaafar to receive the eye
vitamins and prostate medicine he required, after completely banning
such supplies for the first two months of his detention. During those
two months, his wife, Manar, told Human Right Watch, prison authorities
kept Gaafar alone in a cell that, in his words, resembled a “tomb”
Later, they allowed his family very short and irregular visits, with
no chance to verify whether he had received the medicine they had given
to prison guards for him. Since March 2017, prison authorities have
again denied him visits from relatives and his lawyer.
Before he was detained, Gaafar used special optic tools to read and
glasses for everyday life. He also needed some assistance in his daily
routine, his wife said. Prison authorities allowed his wife to deliver
the glasses several months after his detention, but when they reached
him, they were broken.
The way the glasses were broken suggested it had
been deliberate, his wife said. She delivered new ones, but he has not
had a new eye examination. His wife said that he recently told her he
was not seeing as well as before, even with the glasses, suggesting his
eyesight may have deteriorated.
Gaafar has had optic nerve atrophy in both eyes since he was a
teenager, according to his wife.
Medical documents and reports from
2012, which she provided to Human Rights Watch after she retrieved them
from a hospital, stated that at the time he had only 10 percent of his
vision remaining in his left eye. Optic nerve atrophy has no cure, but
it can be slowed by exposure to sunlight, medicine, and a healthy diet,
his wife said doctors had told them. These are not available in adequate
amounts to inmates at Scorpion Prison and many other Egyptian detention
A Human Rights Watch report on Scorpion Prison,
published in 2016, documented cruel and inhuman treatment by officers
of the Interior Ministry’s Prisons Authority that probably amounted to
torture, including preventing food and medicine deliveries and other
interference in medical care that may have contributed to prisoners’
Gaafar’s wife said he appeared weak and to have lost significant
weight during her March 2017 visit. She said she saw bite marks all over
his body, which he said were from insects that had infested his cell
due to a sewage leak. He told her he had suffered pain for weeks because
he was sleeping on the concrete floor without a mattress. Human Rights
Watch previously documented that Scorpion Prison authorities deny
inmates a wide variety of basic necessities for hygiene and comfort,
including beds, pillows, and mattresses.
In late February 2016, after a public outcry and growing criticism
from the Journalists’ Syndicate, human rights organizations, and public
figures, the authorities transferred Gaafar to the Tora Prison Hospital
after he began suffering from urinary retention – the inability to
fully empty his bladder.
Prison authorities then transferred him to
al-Manial University Hospital, which is affiliated with Cairo
University. Doctors who examined him there on March 4, and again on
March 10, 2016, asked prison officials to allow him to be kept at Cairo
University hospitals to prepare for more tests, including diagnostic
surgery on his enlarged prostate, the apparent cause of the urinary
Gaafar spent five months at the prisoners’ ward at Qasr al-Aini
Hospital, where ill inmates who are hospitalized are usually held, but
the authorities repeatedly failed to give Gaafar timely permission to go
for needed tests. Human Rights Watch has previously documented that prison authorities pressure hospitals not to admit inmates or to return them without necessary treatment.
Gaafar told his wife that he received very little medical care
there. In August 2016, the authorities sent Gaafar back to Scorpion
Prison before he had undergone the examinations that he was told he
needed. Prison authorities and Cairo University hospitals have not
allowed Gaafar’s family to read or obtain a copy of the medical reports
issued during his detention, his wife said.
The family managed to obtain the hospital discharge report through
unofficial means, however, and provided a copy to Human Rights Watch.
The report contained no detailed information on any tests Gaafar may
have undergone or treatment received but stated that he suffers from
“mild prostate enlargement" and that "the patient needed no surgical
intervention.” The report did not state what caused the enlargement or
whether it was benign or cancerous – a primary concern for the family.
A couple of days after returning to prison, Gaafar found blood in
his urine, and officers transferred him again to Tora Prison Hospital.
But the facilities there lack a urology specialist, his wife said, and
the prison authorities have refused to arrange for Gaafar to be seen by
one. He appeared before a court in August 2016 carrying a urinary
catheter, his lawyers said.
His wife said that after filing several complaints, a National
Security officer visited Gaafar in detention in November 2016, and told
him, “don’t worry, we will treat you.” But Gaafar’s request to seek
treatment in a private health facility was ignored.
One of his lawyers and his wife both told Human Rights Watch that
prosecutors never allowed them to obtain a copy of the official charges
against him or the rest of his case file. However, Hossam al-Sayed,
another Mada Foundation journalist who was arrested with Gaafar on the
same day, was released without bail in March 2016, said the lawyer Karim
Abd al-Rady of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (an
independent rights group).
Under an amendment to the penal code decreed by President Abdel
Fattah al-Sisi in September 2014, Gaafar could face a 25-year sentence
if convicted of receiving foreign funds illegally.
Prisoners have the right to the highest attainable standard of
physical and mental health guaranteed in the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Egypt ratified in 1982.
The Committee Against Torture, the monitoring body of the Convention
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment – ratified by Egypt in 1986 – has found that failure to
provide adequate medical care can violate the treaty’s prohibition of
cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
“It is deeply concerning that Egypt’s judiciary has become complicit
in human rights violations by cruelly detaining people like Gaafar for
years without justification, exposing them to serious abuse and harm,”
Cholera is believed to have affected more than 500,000 people and
killed nearly 2,000 since late April, the World Health Organization said
A full 503,484 suspected cases and 1,975 deaths are attributable to
the outbreak that erupted last than four months ago in the war-ravaged
country, a WHO overview showed.
The UN health agency said the speed at which the deadly waterborne
disease was spreading had slowed significantly since early July, but
warned that it was still affecting an estimated 5,000 people each day.
The collapse of Yemen's infrastructure after more than two years of
war between the Saudi-backed government and Shiite rebels who control
the capital Sanaa has allowed the country's cholera epidemic to swell to
the largest in the world.
WHO warned that the disease had spread rapidly due to deteriorating
hygiene and sanitation conditions, with millions of people cut off from
clean water across the country.
"Yemen's health workers are operating in impossible conditions," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
"Thousands of people are sick, but there are not enough hospitals,
not enough medicines, not enough clean water," he said, also lamenting
that many of the doctors and nurses needed to rein in the outbreak had
not been paid for nearly a year.
"They must be paid their wages so that they can continue to save lives," he said.
WHO said that it and its partners were "working around the clock" to
support the national efforts to halt the outbreak, adding that more than
99 percent of people who contract cholera in Yemen can survive if they
can access health services.
More than 15 million people in the country have no access to basic healthcare.
Tedros called on all sides in Yemen's conflict, which has killed more
than 8,300 people since March 2015, to urgently seek a political
"The people of Yemen cannot bear it much longer - they need peace to rebuild their lives and their country," he said.
Tunisian fishermen have prevented a
ship carrying European far-right activists from docking, dealing a blow
to their mission to disrupt the flow of migrant boats from Africa to
The C-Star, chartered by French-based group Génération identitaire (GI), was unable to berth in Zarzis.
GI says non-governmental organisations active in the Mediterranean collude with people traffickers.
But the Zarzis fishermen said the anti-migrant activists were racists.
They vowed not to let the C-Star refuel if it landed and the vessel is now expected to try another Tunisian port on Monday.
"It is the least we can do given what is happening out in the
Mediterranean," Chamseddine Bourassine, head of the local fishermen's
organisation, told AFP news agency. "Muslims and Africans are dying."
A port official who asked to remain anonymous said: "Us let in racists here? Never."
Meanwhile humanitarian groups say any attempt to turn migrant boats
back to Libya could be very dangerous and illegal under international
About 600,000 migrants have been rescued from traffickers' boats and taken to Italy since the beginning of 2014.
More than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean over the same period.
Earlier this month rights group Amnesty International accused the EU of mostly leaving it up to sea rescue charities to save migrants.
the same time, NGOs have come under criticism from the Italian
authorities, who have threatened to stop vessels of other countries
from bringing migrants to Italian ports.