Human rights in Egypt
Most sources agree that Egypt is a gross violator of human rights. Authorities have effectively banned protests and freedom of expression, imprisoned its opponents, usually after unfair trials, outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, and expanded its anti-terrorism powers. Torture, forced disappearances, and deaths in custody are not rare occurrences. The government continues to persecute NGOs and journalists. Women and members of religious minorities are subject to discrimination. People are arrested for “debauchery” and sexual orientation.
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|Life in Egypt|
Due to an insurgency in Northern Sinai, the army has enacted curfews and evicted communities from their homes along the border with Gaza in order to restrict the flow of arms. A new constitution was adopted in January 2014. The document, in principle, improved protections for women's rights, freedom of expression, and other civil liberties. However, these rights have not been enforced in practice.
There is a critical lack of accountability, with most human rights violations being committed with impunity. In a December 2016 report, a panel of UN experts concluded that: “The continuous persecution of women human rights defenders such as Azza Soliman and Mozn Hassan... establishes and reinforces a pattern of systematic repression of the Egyptian women’s rights movement, aiming to silence and intimidate those working tirelessly for justice, human rights and equality” On July 24, 2018, a hearing was held before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, on security, human rights, and reform in Egypt.
In September 2017 Human Rights Watch reported that since the 2013 military coup "Egyptian authorities have arrested or charged probably at least 60,000 people."
With the 2019 Egyptian constitutional referendum that saw voters approve of proposed amendents, observers concluded that el-Sisi was "building a brand of authoritarianism that has not only demolished the democratic gains of the 2011 uprising, but surpasses the autocracy of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian leader who was forced from power during the revolt."
The prison conditions in Egypt may have directly led to the death of former President Mohamed Morsi, and may be placing the health and lives of thousands more prisoners at severe risk, UN independent experts said on 9 November 2019.
Rights and liberties ratings
Freedom House, the "independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world," rated Egypt "not free" in 2011. It gave Egypt a "Political Rights Score" of 6 and "Civil Liberties Score" of 5 on a scale of 1-7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7 representing the lowest level of freedom. (Freedom House's office was among the offices of NGOs in Cairo raided by Egyptian security forces 29 December 2011 for "violation of Egyptian laws including not having permits." The raid was condemned by Freedom House as "an unprecedented assault on international civil society organizations and their local Egyptian partners.")
In 2000 the related Center for Religious Freedom placed Egypt as partly free at 5; this put them in line with Muslim nations like Turkey and Indonesia. Reporters Without Borders placed Egypt between Bhutan and the Côte d'Ivoire in press freedom.
See List of indices of freedom for more information on these ratings and how they are determined.
Freedom of speech
The Press Law, Publications Law, and the penal code regulate and govern the press. According to these, criticism of the president can be punished by fines or imprisonment. Freedom House deems Egypt to have an unfree press, although mentions they have a diversity of sources. Reporters Without Borders 2006 report indicates continued harassment and, in three cases, imprisonment, of journalists. They place Egypt 143rd out of 167 nations on press freedoms. The two sources agree that promised reforms on the subject have been disappointingly slow or uneven in implementation. Freedomhouse had a slightly more positive assessment indicating that an increased freedom to discuss controversial issues has occurred.
According to Al Jazeera.net, "in the past few years, independent Egyptian newspapers have emerged that have proved willing to hold the rich and powerful elite to account, right up to the presidency. The old state-owned newspapers are beginning to lose their readership." In July 2006, the Egyptian parliament passed a new press law. The new law no longer allows journalists to be imprisoned for comments against the government, but continues to allow fines to be levied against such journalists. The independent press and the Muslim Brotherhood protested this law as repressive. In July of 2018, the Egyptian parliament passed the Media Regulation law which pushed for the regulation of the press in Egypt. This law also restricts the freedom of speech for journalists.
Although the Egyptian Government rarely bans foreign newspapers, in September 2006, Egypt banned editions of Le Figaro and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, because of their publication of articles deemed insulting to Islam. According to Al Jazeera, the German newspaper contained an article authored by the German historian Egon Flaig, "looking at how the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was a successful military leader during his lifetime". Al Jazeera quotes the Egyptian minister of information as saying that he, "would not allow any publication that insults the Islamic religion or calls for hatred or contempt of any religion to be distributed inside Egypt."
Once again, I was told, Egyptians are starting to look over their shoulder to see who might be listening, to be careful what they say on the phone, to begin considering all over again who they can and cannot trust.
“The intelligence services are extremely active,” says a well-known commentator.
The United States State Department voiced concern in August 2012 about freedom of the press in Egypt, following a move by the authorities to put two critics of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on trial. The State Department also criticized Egypt for actions against Al-Dustour, a small independent newspaper, and the Al-Faraeen channel, both of which have criticized Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In July 2016, Egyptian security forces stormed the home of Liliana Daoud, a Lebanese-British journalist, and whisked her to the airport. Without advance warning, Ms. Daoud found herself on a plane to Lebanon. Before her deportation, Ms. Daoud was fired from her job at local private channel just a few weeks after a pro-Sisi businessman bought it. In August 2018, the Egyptian government put television host Mohamed al-Ghiety on trial for interviewing an anonymous gay man. He was later jailed, fined and sentenced to a year of hard labour.
Amnesty International said Egyptian authorities are increasingly using arbitrary and excessive probation measures as a way to harass activists. They have been imposed extreme conditions in some cases, where activists released from prison forced to spend up to 12 hours a day in a police station. Police probation in Egypt requires released prisoners and detainees to spend a certain number of hours at a police station daily or weekly. Amnesty International has documented at least 13 cases in which probation measures were excessive or were arbitrarily imposed against activists. In some cases, activists are detained for a second time as a probation ways. Amnesty International called the Egyptian authorities to lift all arbitrary probation measures and order the immediate and unconditional release of activists who have been detained.
In late 2017, the Egyptian police cracked down on the selling of a toy dubbed 'Sisi's testicles' or 'Sisi's pendulum', used by children to mock the president. The police "arrested 41 clacker sellers and seized 1,403 pairs of the 'offensive' toy," according to local daily al-Masry al-Youm.
Freedom of religion
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of Coptic Christians
Islam is the official state religion of Egypt. According to a 2003 US State Department report, "members of the non-Muslims worship without harassment. The government has made efforts toward greater religious pluralism and Christians are a significant minority who have served in government. Coptic Christmas (January 7) has been a national holiday since 2002.
That said, intolerance at a cultural and political level remains according to two US-based sources. Islam is the state religion and the government controls the major mosques. There have been disputes between Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria and the government. Christians have found the building and repair of churches, however, to be problematic. Government regulations dating from Ottoman times require non-Muslims to obtain presidential decrees before building or repair a place of worship. Although in 1999 President Mubarak issued a decree making repairs of all places of worship subject to a 1976 civil construction code, in practice Christians report difficulty obtaining permits. Once permits have been obtained, Christians report being prevented from performing repairs or building by local authorities. However, new legislation was passed in September 2016 that now grants permits to churches for rebuilding regardless of the number of Christians in the neighborhood, a law that has been applauded by various Christian Members of Parliament.
Human Rights Watch also indicates issues of concern. For example, they discuss how the law does not recognize conversion from Islam to other religions. According to a poll by the PewResearchCenter in 2010, 84 percent of all Egyptian Muslims polled supported the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion. Human Rights Watch also mentions strict laws against insulting Islam, Christianity or Judaism and detention for unorthodox sects of Islam, such as Ahmadiyya. In 1960, Bahá'í institutions and community activities were banned by Presidential decree of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. All Bahá'í community properties, including Bahá'í centers, libraries, and cemeteries, were subsequently confiscated. Bahá'ís are also not allowed to hold identity cards, and are thus, among other things, not able to own property, attend university, have a business, obtain birth, marriage and death certificates. This ban had not been rescinded as of 2003. In 2001, 18 Egyptian Bahá'ís were arrested on "suspicion of insulting religion" and detained several months without being formally charged.
On 6 April 2006, the Administrative Court ruled in favour of recognising the right of Egyptian Bahá'ís to have their religion acknowledged on official documents." However, on 15 May 2006, after a government appeal, the ruling was suspended by the Supreme Administrative Court. On December 16, 2006, only after one hearing, the Supreme Administrative Council of Egypt ruled against the Bahá'ís and stating that the government may not recognize the Bahá'í Faith in official identification numbers. The ruling left Bahá'ís unable to obtain the necessary government documents to have rights in their country unless they lie about their religion, which conflicts with Bahá'í religious principle. Bahá'ís cannot obtain identification cards, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, or passports. Without those documents, they cannot be employed, educated, treated in hospitals, or vote, among other things. In 2008, a Cairo court ruled that Bahá'ís may obtain birth certificates and identification documents, so long as they omit their religion on court documents.
An Egyptian convert from Islam to Christianity, Mohammed Beshoy Hegazy has recently sued the Egyptian government to change his religion from Islam to Christianity on his official ID card. Earlier this year, Egyptian courts rejected an attempt by a group of Christians who had previously converted to Islam but then returned to Christianity and then sought to restore their original religion on their ID cards. The case is currently before an appeals court. The most recent violations of human rights towards Christians include the Nag Hammadi massacre which occurred in January 2010, and the 2011 Alexandria bombing which occurred on January 1, 2011.
In October 2012, a number of legal cases against Egyptians, particularly Christians, were filed because the defendants allegedly showed contempt for Islam. The large number of Islamists on the panel to draft the Egyptian constitution after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian Revolution has led to concern by non-Muslims and liberals. Rights groups have said that Islamic conservatives have felt emboldened by the success of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafi Nour, and other Islamic groups in the Egyptian elections, and have been more bold in imposing their standards on other Egyptians. In one example, an Egyptian teacher cut the hair of two 12-year-old students because they didn't wear a Muslim headscarf.
The Amnesty International published a report denouncing the silence of the Egyptian Authority on the attacks committed by the so-called Islamic State against the Coptic Christians in North Sinai. Between 30 January and 23 February, seven Coptic Christians were murdered there. Before the last attack in February, a Sinai armed group of ISIS broadcast a video message threatening the lives of Copts and claiming responsibility for bombing of a Cairo church in December 2016 that killed at least 25 people. Due to the latest attacks in Egypt, at least 150 Coptic Christian families have fled al-Arish, seeking shelter in the neighborhood of Ismailia. As the report mentioned, Majid Halim fled al-Arish to Cairo with seven of his family members after his father, who runs a stationery shop in al-Arish, had received many threats over the past two years, and his photo had been published on Facebook pages alongside a message inciting violence against Coptic Christians and demanding that they had to leave the town. On 22 February 2017, Nabila's son in law, Sameh Mansour, was told by his neighbor that two masked men came to his home and knocked on his door while he was out making arrangements the burial of his two relatives murdered by ISIS. That same day one of his neighbors, Kamel Abu Romany, who lived 150 meters away from Mansour's house, was also killed by armed gunmen. Mansour, therefore, fled with his family leaving his house and his job. Now he lives in temporary accommodation in Ismailia, and tries to place his young children in new schools in Ismailia.
Status of religious and ethnic minorities
From December 31, 1999 to January 2, 2000, 21 Coptic Christians were killed by an angry mob in Al-Kosheh. Al-Ahram in part cites economic resentment as the cause, but discusses Muslims who condemned the action. A Coptic organization saw it as a sign of official discrimination. In 2005 a riot against Copts occurred in Alexandria.
Status of women
The Ministry of Health issued a decree in 1996 declaring female circumcision unlawful and punishable under the Penal Code, and according to UNICEF the prevalence of women who have had this procedure has slowly declined from a baseline of 97% of women aged 15–49 since 1995. According to a report in the British Medical Journal BMJ, "[t]he issue came to prominence...when the CNN television news channel broadcast a programme featuring a young girl being circumcised by a barber in Cairo. ...Shocked at the images shown worldwide, the Egyptian president was forced to agree to push legislation through the People's Assembly to ban the operation". Despite the ban, the procedure continues to be practiced in Egypt and remains controversial. In 2006, Al-Azhar University lecturers Dr. Muhammad Wahdan and Dr. Malika Zarrar debated the topic in a televised debate. Dr. Zarrar, who objected to the procedure, said..."Circumcision is always brutal...I consider this to be a crime, in terms of both religious and civil law". Dr. Wahdan defended the partial removal of the clitoris for girls who Muslim doctors determine require it, saying it prevents sexual arousal in women in whom it would be inappropriate such as unmarried girls and spinsters. He cited Muslim custom, Islamic law, and a study reporting that the procedure is a determinant of chastity in Egyptian girls. He also blamed the controversy about the procedure on the fact that the "West wants to impose its culture and philosophy on us". The ban was controversial in the medical community as well. In the debates leading up to the ban, a gynecologist at Cairo University, said that "Female circumcision is entrenched in Islamic life and teaching," and, "called on the government to implement training programmes for doctors to carry out the operation under anaesthesia. Another doctor reportedly said, "If my daughter is not circumcised no man is going to marry her." Other MDs opposed the ban stating that the, "trauma of the operation remains with the girl for the rest of her life,..."[disputing] the argument that the procedure prevents women from "moral deviation," and argued that it is not, "a legitimate medical practice, and when it is conducted by untrained people it frequently results in infection and other medical problems..."
In 2017 Cairo was voted the most dangerous megacity for women with more than 10 million inhabitants in a poll by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Sexual harassment was described as occurring on a daily basis.
According to the Human Rights Watch 2019 report, 69 Egyptian women were imprisoned because of peaceful demonstrations in 2018. The detainees were subjected to enforced disappearance, imprisonment, humiliation, and harassment inside the detention centres. They were not provided with food and medicine in a proper way and were not allowed to meet their families. Since 2013, more than 2,500 women have been arrested arbitrarily.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor's report Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Egypt stated that "children in Egypt are engaged in child labor, including in agriculture and domestic service" and that "the Government has not addressed gaps in its legal and enforcement framework to protect children". In fact, statistics in the report show that 6.7% of Egyptian children aged 5 to 14 are working children and that 55% of them work in agriculture. In December 2014, the department's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor mentioned 2 goods produced under such working conditions: cotton and limestone. Quarrying limestone has been determined by national law as a hazardous activity. Efforts to reduce child labor have increased. For example, from April 1, 2016 to April 30, 2018 the International Labor Organization embarked on a project combating child labor in Egypt. In 2018, the Ministry of Social Solidarity provided financial aid to over 1.6 million people to help fund childhood education in order to decrease the amount of child labor.
Status of homosexuals
Homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt, but is considered taboo. Until recently, the government denied that homosexuality existed in Egypt, but recently official crackdowns have occurred for reasons felt to include the desire to appease Islamic clerics, to distract from economic issues, or as a cover-up for closet homosexuals in high places. In 2002, 52 men were rounded up on the Queen Boat, a floating nightclub, by police, where they were beaten and tortured. Eventually 29 were acquitted and 23 were convicted for "debauchery and defaming Islam" and sentenced for up to five years in prison with hard labor. Since the trial was held in a state security court, no appeal was allowed. A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, a political party rising in popularity in Egypt, condemns homosexuality, saying, "From my religious view, all the religious people, in Christianity, in Judaism, condemn homosexuality," he says. "It is against the whole sense in Egypt. The temper in Egypt is against homosexuality." A government spokesman said the Queen Boat incident was not a violation of human rights but, "actually an interpretation of the norms of our society, the family values of our society. And no one should judge us by their own values. And some of these values in the West are actually in decay."
In 2006, Human Rights Watch released a 144-page report called In a Time of Torture: The Assault on Justice in Egypt's Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct. The report stated that "The detention and torture of hundreds of men reveals the fragility of legal protections for individual privacy and due process for all Egyptians." Egyptian human rights organizations including the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, the Egyptian Association Against Torture, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Nadim Centre for the Psychological Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information also helped HRW to launch the report. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch stated, "when we talk about the situation of homosexuals in Egypt, we don't describe the Queen Boat Case, but we describe a continuing practice of arresting and torturing gay men." A Cairo court sentenced 21 men to prison in 2003 after it found them guilty of "habitual debauchery", in a case named after the nightclub they were arrested in, the Queen Boat. He also pointed out that, under the pretext of medical exams, the Forensic Medical Authority contributed to the torture of the defendants."
According to a report in the Egyptian press, "the government accuses human rights groups of importing a Western agenda that offends local religious and cultural values. Rights groups deny this claim, but independent critics argue that it's not void of some truth. Citing the failure of these groups to create a grass-roots movement, critics point to "imported" issues such as female genital mutilation and gay rights as proof that many human rights groups have a Western agenda that seems more important than pressing issues that matter to ordinary Egyptians—such as environmental, labour, housing and educational rights," and says that the issues brought up at the press conference to launch the above report, "reminded some in the audience of US efforts to impose its own vision of democracy in Egypt as part of the US administration's plan for a Greater Middle East."
Status of Palestinians
Palestinians who lived in the Gaza Strip when Israel came into being were issued with Egyptian travel documents which allowed them to move outside of the Gaza Strip, and Egypt. Their status as refugees has been deteriorating rapidly since the 1970s. After 1948 they were allowed rights similar to Egyptian nationals, and in 1963 they were allowed to own agricultural land, nor did they have to acquire work visas. In 1964 the government decreed that Palestinian refugees had to obtain an exit visa, an entry visa or a transit visa. In 1976 a law was passed stating that no foreigners could own real property, although Palestinians were later granted the right to own agricultural land. In 1978 the ability of Palestinians to work in the civil service was revoked. Gradually the process of attaining travel documents for Palestinians has become more difficult. Jordanian Palestinians who hold two year passports are now required to obtain entry and exit visas to travel to Egypt.
President Anwar Sadat enacted a law banning Palestinian children from attending public schools. He enacted Law 48, banning Palestinian workers from employment in the public sector. Palestinians came under surveillance by Egyptian security services after the 1978 assassination Egyptian Minister of Culture Yusuf al-Sibai by the Palestinian terrorist group Abu Nidal.
Conditions for detainees and torture
According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights in 2011, 701 cases of torture at Egyptian police stations have been documented since 1985, with 204 victims dying of torture and mistreatment. The group contends that crimes of torture occur in Egyptian streets in broad daylight, at police checkpoints, and in people's homes in flagrant violation of the people's dignity and freedom.`
A 2005 report of the National Council for Human Rights, chaired by former UN secretary-general and former Egyptian deputy prime minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali, cites instances of torture of detainees in Egyptian prisons and describes the deaths while in custody of 9 individuals as, "regrettable violations of the right to life." The report called for "an end to [a] state of emergency, which has been in force since 1981, saying it provided a loophole by which the authorities prevent some Egyptians enjoying their right to personal security."
According to an Al-Jazeera report, the Council asked government departments to respond to complaints, but "The Interior Ministry, which runs the police force and the prisons, ...answered [only] three out of 75 torture allegations." The council also recommended that President Hosni Mubarak, "issue a decree freeing detainees...in bad health."
In February 2017, Amnesty International's report accused the Egyptian authority of violating human rights. On February 9, 2017, El Nadeem Center for rehabilitation of victims of violence was shut down. The shutdown of the center was considered another shocking attack on civil society since it offers supporting victims of torture and other ill-treatment and families of people subjected to enforced disappearances in the country, which should have been given support not punishment over carrying out its values. As the report suggested, the shutdown of the center follows a year of harassment by the authorities on human rights activists; yet the center made a judicial appeal against the decision. The police carried out the latest raid without waiting for the outcome of this appeal, however. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies documented 39 people who have been executed since December 2017. These individuals were mostly civilians who were convicted under military jurisdiction which is in violation of International human rights standards.
Welcome parades, in which new prisoners are physically and psychologically abused while crawling between two lines of policemen, is a torture technique used in Egyptian prisons. In September 2019 during the 2019 Egyptian protests, blogger Alaa Abd el-Fattah and his lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms were subjected to welcome parades in Tora Prison following their 29 September arrests.
Since 2015 at least 1,700 people have been reported to be disappeared. Most of the victims were abducted from the streets or their homes and were forced to have a complete cut off from their families and lawyers. The police forces have also carried out multiple extrajudicial executions.
An investigative report by Reuters news agency published in March 2019 cited figures provided by the Egyptian Interior Ministry's statements from 1 July 2015 to the end of 2018: "In 108 incidents involving 471 men, only six suspects survived... That represents a kill ratio of 98.7 percent. Five members of the security forces were killed.... Thirty seven were injured." The Reuters' analysis of the ministry's statements found that in total "465 men killed in what the Interior Ministry said were shootouts with its forces over a period of three and a half years." The killings began in the aftermath of the assassination of Egypt's chief persecutor Hisham Barakat, who was an ally of president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
According to Kate Vigneswaran, senior legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists’ Middle East and North Africa programme, the killings described by Reuters “constitute extrajudicial executions".
The Human Rights Watch in its May 2019 report accused the Egyptian military and police forces of committing serious abuses against civilians in the Sinai Peninsula. HRW's investigation revealed that thousands of people have been killed since 2013 and crimes including mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and possibly unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians have been prevailing. The Egyptian army has denounced the accusations, claiming that some politicised organisations are trying to tarnish the image of Egypt and its military through "fabricating" such reports.
In its World Report 2019 Human Rights Watch stated: "Egypt's international allies continue to support Egypt's government and rarely offer public criticism."
Less than two years after taking power in a military coup, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was "embraced" by Western leaders, according to the Financial Times (FT). FT stated that "Western leaders should think hard before taking their rapprochement with the field marshal further. President Sisi is ruthlessly attempting to eliminate his opponents, notably the Muslim Brotherhood group, filling Egypt's jails on an unprecedented scale." After they had supported former ruler Hosni Mubarak for decades, the U.S. and its allies were again choosing the status quo in a context in which "the regime [went] beyond anything witnessed in Egypt in the [previous] century, not even during Gamal Abdel Nasser's time."
Luigi Manconi, former president of the human rights commission in the Italian Senate, said that Western governments had overlooked Egypt's human rights record under both Mubarak's and El-Sisi's presidencies "because of the country's geopolitical, economic and strategic importance." With Egypt, the Italian energy company Eni, was in the midst of planning the largest developing project of an oil field in the Eastern Mideterranean when the Regeni case broke the news. Manconi stated: "An economic relationship like that which Eni is pledging to Egypt and Egypt is pledging ENI, although we might dislike it, is infinitely more powerful than the death of a 28-year-old Italian."
"By and large, the international community has now rallied around Egypt's latest strongman once again," wrote journalist and author Jack Shenker, recalling how in 2015 he watched the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi address Sisi at a major economic conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, stating, "Your war is our war, and your stability is our stability." Egypt was a key partner in the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme during the Bush-era War on Terror. "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan," explained CIA agent Robert Baer at the time. "If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt." While Barack Obama described El-Sisi regime as "the most repressive in Egyptian history", Donald Trump labelled his Egyptian counterpart 'a fantastic guy'.
In a report on human rights in Egypt, journalist and blogger Wael Iskandar stated that there was an international complicity with the repressive government in Egypt. When U.S. undersecretary Mike Pompeo visited Egypt on 19 January 2019, he outlined President Donald Trump's "America First" vision of an assertive US role in the Middle East for his audience at the American University in Cairo, adding that "America is a force for good in the Middle East. Period." Pompeo's speech, commented Iskandar,
made no reference to advancing human rights or democracy, nor to alleviating widespread poverty or reining in brutal police states—all issues at the heart of the Arab uprisings in 2011, and which appear even more out of reach in Egypt today than they did eight years ago. His speech indicated the US would effectively endorse crackdowns on the freedoms of citizens in the Arab world, such as that taking place in Egypt today, in order to pursue its animosity towards Iran and whatever else it perceives as in its best interests.
This unprecedented state of repression would not have been possible without Sisi's internal consolidation of power within Egypt's state institutions since 2013, winning the support and complicity of the United States and the European Union (EU) along with the financial backing of Egypt's Gulf allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the increasingly permissive international and regional environment for autocrats and authoritarians, firmly embraced by President Trump, outlined in Pompeo's Cairo speech.
The Gulf states committed their support for the Egyptian government and recognised its government, including their provision of massive economic support packages. French president Emmanuel Macron refused to speak about Egypt's human rights record in October 2017. Egypt was the largest recipient of arms from France between 2013 and 2017. Germany sold Egypt a submarine and Siemens made a deal to build a power station in the country.
In January 2019, CBS News stated that "American taxpayers send more foreign aid to Egypt than to any other nation except Israel. But America's nearly one and a half billion dollars a year is going to a regime accused of the worst abuses in Egypt's modern history." Since 1948 the U.S. has provided Egypt with $77.4 billion in foreign aid. Because of worsening human rights conditions under El-Sisi, the U.S. suspended its aid, but resumed aid under Obama to help the Egyptian government fight ISIS in the country. The main priority of the US president and the military is not "to fight terrorism and improve governance," said Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour from 2014 to 2017, at the Senate hearing on 25 April 2019. The government's priority "has been to make sure that what happened in 2011 in the Tahrir square uprising can never ever, ever, ever happen again ... the Trump administration, like Sisi, is less interested in countering ISIS than in continuing its relationship with the Egyptian military."
When asked about the 2019 Egyptian constitutional referendum on new amendements, the US president Donald Trump said that he did not know about it and that what he knew was that "Mr. Sisi is doing a great job." Trump's support of el-Sisi "in the midst of what many analysts are calling a 'power grab', stated Howard LaFranchi of The Christian Science Monitor, "is just one of a growing number of signs of the Trump administration's disenchantment with policies of democracy promotion and increasing preference for authoritarian rule for stabilizing a volatile Middle East." Trump's support of el-Sisi's authoritarian rule, along with his support of general Khalifa Haftar in Libya, concludes LaFranchi, is aligned with US priorities in the Arab world, among them "stability in a key region for the global economy." Thus its shift to take a back seat and let regional powers play a major role in shaping outcomes.
The U.S. State Department 2018 annual report (released in March 2019) on human rights in Egypt cited abuses which included "arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents, forced disappearances and torture." The United States, according to a special report by Reuters, which investigated some of the killings carried out by the Egyptian forces against "suspected militants in disputed gun battles," released a US$195-million military aid package to Egypt which had been withheld "in part because of concerns over Egypt's human rights record. US officials' [reasoned] that security cooperation with Egypt is important to US national security."
On 30 April 2019, the BBC reported that the White House had made a move to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. The move by the Trump adminisration came after a request made by president Sisi during his visit to the US earlier in the month. Shadi Hamid, who studies Islamist movements at Brookings Institution's Centre for Middle East Policy, said: "As a factual matter, the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist organisation. There is not a single American expert on the Muslim Brotherhood who supports designating them as a terrorist group." There is a unanimous position, Hamid asserted, that such a designation is inaccurate.
While the Egyptian government has been accused of a human rights crisis, Egypt announced that it would host the 64th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in April 2019. Human Rights Watch's director for Middle East and North Africa Michael Page said, "Egypt is trying to appear like a country open for human rights delegates and sessions while, at the same time, crushing all dissenting voices and its once-vibrant human rights community. We know that many Egyptian and international organizations are not allowed to work freely in Egypt and cannot voice concerns without severe retaliation from the government."
Egypt's stances on international human rights treaties are as follows:
- 1.^ Note that the "Year" signifies the "Year covered". Therefore the information for the year marked 2008 is from the report published in 2009, and so on.
- 2.^ As of January 1.
- 3.^ The 1982 report covers the year 1981 and the first half of 1982, and the following 1984 report covers the second half of 1982 and the whole of 1983. In the interest of simplicity, these two aberrant "year and a half" reports have been split into three year-long reports through interpolation.
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