Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 2 December 2014
We are deeply concerned about a number of recent developments in Egypt and their impact on freedom of expression, association and assembly. We are also concerned about the seriously damaging lack of accountability for human rights violations committed by security forces in the context of demonstrations.
At least five people, including two security officers, were reportedly killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces during protests over the weekend. The authorities must ensure that security forces do not resort to the excessive use of force and that prompt, thorough and independent investigations are conducted into all human rights violations committed in the context of protests, including those that resulted in deaths. Protestors, for their part, should exercise their right to assembly in a peaceful manner. The increasing polarisation in Egyptian society is very alarming and we urge all sides to engage in a national dialogue to move the country forward in line with the human rights protections enshrined in its constitution and in line with Egypt’s international human rights obligations.
Last week, 78 teenagers were sentenced to between two and five years on charges of participating in unauthorised protests, of membership of the Muslim Brotherhood, of calling for the downfall of the regime, and of blocking roads and transportation and “spreading fear among citizens” in Alexandria. We urge the Government to immediately release all those who have been detained for the legitimate exercise of their rights to peaceful assembly, and to freedom of association and expression.
Also last week, on 26 November, the Government approved a draft law laying down the offences that qualify “an organisation, association, group or band” of individuals to be considered a “terrorist entity.” We understand discussions are continuing on this text and that the draft law will also be considered by the President before adoption. We urge that it is thoroughly re-examined to ensure it meets international human rights norms and standards.
We are also concerned about the use of military trials to prosecute civilians. At least 16 civilians are reported to have been tried in military courts since President al-Sisi issued a decree in October this year that allows the military to protect, along with the police, “critical and sensitive facilities”. Under this law, these include “stations, power networks and towers, gas and oil fields, rail lines, road networks and bridges.” Military tribunals generally fall short of key international due process standards and we urge Egyptian authorities to halt the trials of civilians before military tribunals.
We are also closely following attempts to bring to justice those responsible for serious human rights violations in Egypt, including the killings of hundreds of people in February 2011 as well as in August last year. We note that the report of a national independent fact-finding commission into last August’s killings in Rabaa al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda was made public last week. We urge the authorities to ensure that all those who are responsible for human rights violations, up to the highest levels, face justice in line with international standards of fair trial and due process. Victims and their loved ones have the right to justice and accountability and to reparations and compensation, as recommended by the National Fact-Finding Commission last week. Egyptian authorities have the duty to ensure that perpetrators of serious human rights violations do not enjoy impunity.
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