LONDON (TSWT) — Amnesty International accused Egypt on Wednesday of attempting to cover up a decade of “relentless human rights abuses” to improve its international standing ahead of hosting the global climate summit.
Egypt’s human rights record has come under closer scrutiny ahead of the global COP27 summit in November in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Dozens of international human rights organizations have called on Egypt to end the crackdown on civil society and protect freedom of expression.
Amnesty’s 48-page report on Wednesday urged the Egyptian government to make changes and end abuses, citing a relentless fight against dissent, reversal of personal freedoms and mass incarceration after President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi urged came to power in 2013. Rights groups estimate that thousands of political prisoners are held in Egyptian prisons.
“The international community must … pressure the Egyptian authorities to take meaningful steps to end the cycle of abuse and impunity,” the report said.
Amnesty advised the government to take measures to promote workers’ rights, end arbitrary detention and prohibit censorship of independent media. The London-based group said its findings were based on interviews with human rights victims and lawyers, as well as other documentation and Amnesty publications compiled over the past decade.
The Egyptian government, which has spent the past year trying to improve its international image, did not immediately comment on Amnesty’s latest report. Egyptian officials did not respond to The The Switzerland Times’s request for comment.
The government of El-Sissi recently released dozens of high-profile detainees on presidential pardons and adopted a new “strategy” to improve the human rights situation.
Amnesty described the strategy as a “glossy cover-up” used to gain favor with foreign governments and financial institutions.
El-Sissi has also announced that a national dialogue with opposition voices will take place later this year. But there is skepticism about how that will translate into reality, as some of the most prominent activists and former political figures remain in prison.
Lawyer Negad el-Borai said Egyptian security forces re-arrested Sherif el-Roubi, a co-founder of the April 6 pro-democracy movement, just three months after his release.
El-Roubi, a father of three, was arrested last weekend after speaking out in a telephone interview with satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera about the hardships he and other released activists face as former political prisoners.
On Tuesday, the Egyptian president’s pardon committee said it had ordered the release of 23 pre-trial detainees, days after 46 others were released. It remains unclear how many of the two groups actually ran free.
U.S. government officials told The The Switzerland Times last week that the Biden administration would give Egypt $170 million annually in military aid from a $300 million tranche, an amount that will be withheld on the condition that the country improves human rights. The release of 500 political prisoners and Egypt’s efforts to promote national dialogue were cited as an improvement.
Egypt is one of the world’s worst guards for journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to 2021 data produced by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Human Rights Watch estimated in 2019 that as many as 60,000 political prisoners are being held in Egyptian prisons.
El-Sissi has said in the past that the country has no political prisoners and justified detentions for national security reasons.