VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia — A year after the military ejected President Mohammed Morsi from office, the human rights standards in Egypt have been sharply declining. Since Morsi’s ejection, at least 16,000 of his supporters have been detained, 80 of which have died in custody.
According to Amnesty International, 1,247 death sentences have been given out, with at least 247 of them having been completed.
Morsi belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood; since his removal, the government has cracked down on Islamists or anyone they consider to be an opponent to the current rule.
The human rights violations in Egypt are mainly taking place towards the Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The military controlled government has sentenced hundreds of supporters through quick, mass, unfair trials. Many of the trials do not contain credible evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Supporters planned the anniversary of Morsi’s removal as “a day of anger” to display their dissatisfaction. His supporters came out to protest on the streets, where Egyptian police fired tear gas to disperse them. Police arrested protesters outside of the presidential palace and other places. They illegally held hundreds, including children, in Central Security Forces camps.
Those detained have been subjected to treatment used in Mubarak’s darkest times. They are being beaten, electrically shocked, suspended, raped and mentally tortured during their time in prison. Amnesty International states Egypt’s criminal system “has suffered huge setbacks over the past year with several politically-motivated verdicts.”
A Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Badie, was sentenced to death in June. Three journalists have been taken into prison on unproved charges of “editing video footage to falsely give the appearance Egypt is in a civil war.”
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, says, “Sentencing three professional journalists to years in prison on the basis of zero evidence of wrongdoing shows how Egypt’s judges have been caught up in the anti-Muslim Brotherhood hysteria fostered by President al-Sisi. Egypt is punishing people for exercising basic rights that are essential to any democratic transition, and US legislation requires progress on those rights before the Obama administration can certify additional military aid.”
Human Rights Watch states these convictions should be dropped, charges aquitted and the detained journalists immediately released. Joe Stork also states, “Unfortunately, today’s verdict is not an aberration. In President al-Sisi’s Egypt, simply practicing professional journalism is a crime, and the new constitution’s guarantees of free expression are not worth the paper they’re written on.”
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amensty International, compares the current system with the notorious old ways, stating, “Despite repeated promises by current and former presidents to respect the rule of law, over the past year flagrant violations have continued at an astonishing rate, with security forces effectively granted a free reign to commit human rights violations with impunity.”
Although it is looking bad at the moment, it is believed that change is on the way. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo in order to meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry.
It has been reported that Kerry is “absolutely confident” that the U.S. will soon restore suspended aid to Egypt. He has been quoted saying that President al-Sisi “gave me a very strong sense of his commitment to a re-evaluation of the judicial process.”
Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, later wrote a note to Kerry, explaining how Egypt was working to falsely convey their progress. In reality, they are failing to go through with the proper steps.
Roth has made a list of things the Egyptian government could do in order to move towards a more democratic government; and thus, regain U.S. aid.
The list includes the ceasing of harassment and persecution of opposition activists, allowing anyone to peacefully contest and participate in elections and the integration of independent criminal investigations into the use of lethal force by security.
If Egypt can successfully implement the changes suggested by Kenneth Roth, the nation could potentially turn itself around.
– Courtney Prentice