The rule of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi has seen the “most dramatic reversal of human rights in Egypt’s modern history,” Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Prominent rights activists have been jailed or sought refuge abroad while non-governmental organizations face a November 10 deadline to register under “a highly restrictive 2002 law” or face criminal charges, the New York-based group said.
It called on Egypt’s allies to use the country’s periodic review at the UN Human Rights Council, due to take place Wednesday, to condemn rights abuses that have taken place since al-Sissi, then head of the armed forces, ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last year.
“Washington, London, Paris and other capitals have failed to confront Egypt’s dramatic reversal of human rights,” Human Rights Watch official Philippe Dam said.
In outlining Egypt’s slide, the group also pointed to a decree by al-Sissi allowing lifetime prison sentences for anyone convicted of receiving funding from abroad to “harm the national interest.”
That amendment to the penal code, which also provides for the death penalty if the offender is a public servant, has caused further alarm among Egyptian rights groups.
Al-Sissi has been ruling by decree because the lower house of parliament was dissolved in June 2012 and the upper house was dissolved in July 2013. No date has been set for elections to select a new legislature.
In addition to the crackdown on civil society, Egyptian authorities themselves acknowledged that 22,000 people, thought to be mainly Islamists, have been arrested since Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi was deposed, Human Rights Watch said.
“Police arrested many simply for alleged membership in or sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and best-organized opposition movement in the country,” the group said.
Egypt’s strategic importance has ensured that Western governments seek to remain on good terms with it despite reservations about its domestic policy.
The United States released delayed military aid in June while in August Italian Premier Matteo Renzi became the highest-ranking European official to visit Cairo since Morsi’s ouster.
Egyptian authorities have said their security measures are aimed at confronting terrorism, a category in which they include Muslim Brotherhood activities.
A constitutional referendum in January and al-Sissi’s election as president in May with more than 96 per cent of the vote show that the country is on the path to restoring democracy, the government has argued. SAPA