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Human rights in Egypt under international spotlight

Coalition of international NGOs calls on UN Human Rights Council to address Egypt’s human rights situation

Rabaa sit in dispersal (Photo by Mohamed Gamil/DNE)
Rabaa sit in dispersal (Photo by Mohamed Gamil/DNE)

The serious and rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt requires the United Nations Human Rights Council to take a principled position, a coalition of 15 international NGOs has said.

The UN Human Rights Council opened its 25th session on Monday. The NGOs, which include Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, called on the UN body in an open letter to address the “grave human rights situation in Egypt” through the adoption of a resolution on the country.

The coalition said that the current human rights situation is characterised by “repeated excessive use of force, including lethal force, by the security forces, leading to the death of hundreds of protesters.”

The coalition also addressed the “increasingly severe restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, as well as academic freedoms” and “arbitrary imprisonment[s]…” Egypt has ranked as the 159th of 180 countries in 2014 World Press Freedom Index released annually by Reporters Without Borders.


The NGOs believe that the crackdown has led to increasing instability and said the Human Rights Council “should call on the Egyptian government to respect its international human rights obligations, ensure accountability for human rights violations within the country, and act in accordance with democratic principles.”

They called on the UN council to mobilise action that would condemn in “the strongest terms the persistent climate of impunity and restrictions on peaceful assembly and expression” as well as attacks and bombings which left both civilian and security causalities. They added that the action should urge Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat to “initiate investigations into the use of lethal force by security forces.”

The letter states that the “absence of a transparent investigations and accountability to date for grave human rights violations committed in Egypt since January 2011 may necessitate an international inquiry into such violations unless meaningful accountability occurs on a national level.”

The period following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi has been marred by deadly clashes and violent dispersals of sit-ins, most notably the dispersal pro-Morsi sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda squares.

Wiki Thawra, a website dedicated to documenting the revolution put the latest death toll of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal at 969. Official counts stated that no more than 650 civilians died in the dispersal process. Wiki Thawra reported 2,273 clashes in that period, compared to 153 clashes between January and June.

The NGOs also said the action should urge the government to “acknowledge publicly the important and legitimate role of civil society in the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law” and urge the “government to fulfill its obligation to ensure the basic human rights of prisoners and detainees” Last month, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis was denied a request to visit prisoners during his visit to Egypt.

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