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Egypt

    May 29, 2013

    A new law on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt, currently with the Shura Council, would effectively be a death blow to independent civil society in Egypt, said Amnesty International.

    If it passes in its current form, the Egyptian authorities would have wide-ranging powers over the registration, activities and funding of civil society organizations. It would also allow for the creation of a new Co-ordinating Committee, which is likely to include representatives of security and intelligence agencies.

    Those found in violation of the law would face hefty fines and potential prison sentences.

    President Morsi announced today that he had referred the law to the Shura Council, Egypt’s nominal upper house of parliament. While the lower house remains dissolved, the Council has the authority to pass new legislation until elections are held to elect a lower house.

    May 17, 2013

    There are credible fears that the charges against a well-known opposition activist in Alexandria may be spurious and in retaliation for his activism, Amnesty International said as his appeal hearing is due to resume.

    On 12 March, the activist Hassan Mostafa was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for insulting and attacking a public prosecutor in Alexandria – accusations he vehemently denies. The case was marred by procedural irregularities and the refusal of the trial court to hear all defence witnesses. Hassan Mostafa is currently being held at the Borg al-Arab Prison and will attend his next hearing on Saturday.

    “We fear that Hassan Mostafa may be imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and other human rights, in which case Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “The appeals court must review all the evidence in this case.”

    May 10, 2013

    A Coptic Christian teacher detained in Egypt on charges of “defamation of religion” must be immediately released and the criminal case against her dropped, said Amnesty International today, ahead of her appearance in court on Saturday.

    Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour, 24, has been in custody since 8 May, when she went to the public prosecution’s office in Luxor to respond to charges of “defamation of religion”. The case against her is based on a complaint lodged by the parents of three of her students alleging that she insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad during a class.

    The alleged incident took place at the Sheikh Sultan primary school in Tout, Luxor Governorate, on 8 April during a lesson on “religious life”. Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour has been teaching at three schools in Luxor since the beginning of this year.

    May 10, 2013

    Amnesty's Egypt Researcher Diana Eltahawy blogs from Cairo

    Today I attended the first hearing in the trial of 12 people, including three leading activists, at a Dar Al Qadaa Al-Ali court. They are accused of attacking and burning the campaign headquarters of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq on 28 May 2012.

    Amnesty International fears that the activists are being pursued in a politically motivated case, which comes amid the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression and dissent.

    May 03, 2013

    “It’s ironic that May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day and I’m facing trial the next day just for posting a video.” Egyptian blogger Ahmed Anwar

    In Egypt, making fun of the authorities is no laughing matter. It’s a criminal offence.

    When blogger Ahmed Anwar posted a video of belly-dancing policemen on-line, he expected to get some laughs. Instead, he’s on trial for “criticizing” the Interior Ministry and “misusing” the Internet.

    In March 2012, Ahmed Anwar posted a video on-line which made fun of police officers giving an award to an actress, calling them “the ministry of belly dancers”.  The video, showing police officers dancing, criticizes police brutality and impunity for human rights abuses. The Tanta Public Prosecution bought a case against him after the Ministry of Interior complained about the video. Ahmed Anwar was arrested by police at his house on March 17, 2013 and referred for trial ten days later. His trial started on May 4. The next hearing is scheduled for June 1.

    April 16, 2013

    President Mohamed Morsi should release the findings of an official investigation he instigated into abuses against protesters without delay and ensure the armed forces are not above the law and are held accountable for abuses, Amnesty International said today.

    Amnesty International is alarmed that statements by the authorities in response to part of the report being leaked effectively signal that impunity will continue for human rights violations by the army.

    The organization has also expressed its dismay over apparent claims by Egypt’s Public Prosecutor that the full report contained no evidence of army abuse – despite the fact that leaked excerpts of the report clearly detail human rights violations by Egypt’s military.

    Amnesty International and other groups have documented abuses by the Egyptian army since the beginning of the “25 January Revolution”.

    President Morsi appointed a fact-finding committee in July 2012 and charged it with investigating abuses against protesters committed between the start of the uprising on 25 January 2011 and the end of military rule on 30 June 2012.

    April 08, 2013

    Amnesty's Egypt researcher Diana Eltahawy blogs from Cairo

    On Sunday I attended the Cairo funeral of four Coptic Christians killed on Friday night in Khousous, a small town north of the city.

    I had been planning to travel to Khousous to find out more about the sectarian violence which led to the deaths there.

    Instead, I found myself caught up in more violence at the funeral itself — with mourners on one side, and unknown assailants and, later, security forces on the other.

    Before the clashes erupted, feelings of grief, anger and injustice were palpable inside Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, which was filled with mourners. Tears, prayers and wailing were drowned out by chants against the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, and vows to avenge the dead.

    Shortly after the caskets and funeral procession made their way out of the cathedral, violence broke out nearby between some of the mourners and assailants reported to be residents of the area.

    April 03, 2013

    Today’s charges against yet another comedian for ‘defaming religion’ are part of an alarming new escalation of politically-motivated judicial harassment and arrests, Amnesty International has said.

    In a mounting crackdown on freedom of expression, up to 33 people have been targeted within the last two weeks, with arrests and charges.

    Some have been charged with what seem to be politically motivated or trumped-up criminal charges. Others are charged with ‘insulting the President’ or ‘defamation’ of religion for actions that should not be criminalized as they merely amount to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.  

    “We are seeing arrests and charges for literally nothing more than cracking a few jokes. This is a truly alarming sign of the government’s increasing intolerance of any criticism whatsoever,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  

    March 06, 2013

    Two laws that would severely restrict the work of independent civil society organizations and limit freedom of assembly in Egypt should be significantly amended or dropped, Amnesty International said today as the country’s Upper House of parliament prepared to debate the proposed legislation.

    A draft law proposed by the Ministry of Local Development tabled for discussion tomorrow would further tighten restrictions imposed on non-governmental organizations working in Egypt, including on registration, activities and obtaining foreign funding.

    Under this plus another proposal by the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs (MISA), authorities would retain powers to reject or block registration of NGOs and would have wide grounds for dissolving organizations.

    The draft law developed by MISA allows government officials to enter the headquarters of NGOs to monitor their records and activities. It also bans activities on the grounds of “threatening national unity, violating public order or morals”, as well as “field research” and opinion polling unless prior permission is obtained from relevant authorities.

    February 21, 2013

    A move by Egyptian authorities to prohibit national NGOs’ contact with foreign organizations without prior permission from security bodies represents a new low for freedom of association, said Amnesty International.
     
    In a letter to the NGO the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Egypt’s Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs stated that no “local entity” is permitted to engage with “international entities” in any way without the permission of the “security bodies”, referring to instructions issued by the Prime Minister.
     
    Amnesty International has obtained a copy of the letter. The vague language on “international entities” is likely to include both international human rights organizations and UN bodies.

    “NGOs in Egypt already face staggering restrictions, but this instruction is a new low,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  “It is a disturbing indicator of what may lie ahead for human rights groups in the government’s new law.”

    February 12, 2013

    A temporary ban on YouTube imposed in Egypt over a video deemed offensive to Islam is a setback for freedom of expression , Amnesty International has said.

    A court in Cairo this weekend ordered a 30-day block on the video-sharing website in the wake of the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video, which sparked protests across Muslim countries in September.

    Saturday's court ruling said that "freedom of opinion [should] not attack the beliefs of others".

    "This ruling is a clear assault of freedom of expression and has far-reaching consequences in the country where activists have relied heavily on YouTube to expose human rights abuses in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    "Criticism of religions and beliefs are a vital part of freedom of expression – regardless of how offensive or intolerant the opinion might be."

    Cairo's Administrative Court said there must be a balance between freedom of expression and “the interests and goals of society, and the protection of its values and traditions".

    February 06, 2013

    Letting perpetrators in Egypt get away with sexual harassment and assault has fuelled violent attacks against women in the vicinity of Tahrir Square in recent months - continued impunity will only lead to further crimes, Amnesty International warned today in a new briefing.

    Based on the accounts of survivors and activists gathered by Amnesty International, mob-led sexual assaults follow a clear pattern.

    Women are attacked alone or separated from friends by a group of men that quickly escalates in number; the survivors are dragged inside the mob as hands and sometimes weapons violate their bodies and the men attempt to remove their clothes.

    “Horrific, violent attacks on women including rape in the vicinity of Tahrir Square demonstrate that it’s now crucial President Morsi takes drastic steps to end this culture of impunity and gender-based discrimination, and for all political leaders to speak out,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    February 01, 2013

    Amnesty International's Egypt researcher Diana Eltahawy writes from Cairo.

    Almost every girl and woman – regardless of age, social status or choice of attire – who has walked the streets or taken public transport in Cairo, has experienced some form of verbal or physical sexual harassment.

    This isn’t new. For years, Egyptian women’s rights activists and others have called on the authorities to recognize the seriousness of the problem.

    There needs to be a fundamental shift in institutionalized attitudes that discriminate against women.

    The Egyptian authorities must introduce legal reforms, prosecute perpetrators and address root causes, because the plight of women who have experienced sexual violence has been ignored.

    Blame is placed on the victims for being dressed “indecently”, or for daring to be present in “male” public spaces.

    The horrific testimonies emerging following protests commemorating the second anniversary of the “25 January Revolution” have brought to light how violent mob sexual attacks against women have happened, but have rarely been brought to public attention.

    January 31, 2013

    Violent clashes between protesters and security forces have claimed at least 38 lives in Port Said.

    Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy is in Egypt and has collected testimony that points to the use of excessive force by the security forces as unrest continues.

    She said: “It’s quite clear from the testimony I’ve gathered that security forces have been guilty of excessive force including the use of firearms when lives have not been directly in danger.

    “The culture of impunity that has built up in Egypt over decades remains and we are calling for full, independent and thorough investigations to bring those who committed crimes to justice.”

    Now back in Cairo, Diana Eltahawy is available for interview.

    Timeline of testimony gathered in Port Said by Amnesty International

    26 January

    January 30, 2013

     

    Violent clashes between protesters and security forces have claimed at least 38 lives in Port Said.

    Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy is in Egypt and has collected testimony that points to the use of excessive force by the security forces as unrest continues.

    She said: “It’s quite clear from the testimony I’ve gathered that security forces have been guilty of excessive force including the use of firearms when lives have not been directly in danger.

    “The culture of impunity that has built up in Egypt over decades remains and we are calling for full, independent and thorough investigations to bring those who committed crimes to justice.”

    Now back in Cairo, Diana Eltahawy is available for interview.

       Timeline of testimony gathered in Port Said by Amnesty International

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