Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

Gaza is burning and the Arabs sit and watch

July 14, 2014
Dr Mohammed Al-MisferDr Mohammed Al-Misfer

There have been many times when oppressed people resisting their oppressors gain international solidarity for their cause as public opinion sways in their favour. They embody bravery as they continue to resist against their enemies. We saw this pattern manifest itself in Vietnam when the people struggled against the biggest superpower in the world. The Vietnamese demonstrated how they turned to each other for support when the northern city of Hanoi stood as a beacon of light for its counterpart Saigon in the south. Soon after, the southern Vietnamese people embodied the spirit of resistance and achieved all of their goals.

When it comes to the Palestinian case, the situation is entirely different, for in the Gaza Strip (Southern Palestine) we see true armed resistance being engaged in the battle against the Zionist enemy, which is armed with the most sophisticated weapons and is using all of its power and influence throughout the world to frame this conflict as it sees fit; it is from this that the Palestinian people in Gaza can find no escape. Gaza is burning and its natural supporters, the Arabs of the region, sit and watch. The Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah (which we can consider here to be the northern region of Palestine), should be the biggest advocate for its people in Gaza. And yet, all we here are murmurs and useless statements being made here and there.

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ElBaradei leads Egypt anti-torture protest

June 25, 2010

Middle East Online, June 25, 2010

Powerful comeback for ElBaradei

Ex-IAEA chief carries on his ‘change’ campaign in Alexandria in protest against police brutality.

By Mona Salem – ALEXANDRIA

Mohamed ElBaradei, the ex-atomic watchdog chief turned Egyptian dissident, led thousands of protesters in the northern city of Alexandria on Friday demanding an end to police brutality.

ElBaradei emerged from the Muslim weekly prayers in Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber district to rapturous applause from a 4,000-strong crowd chanting “Change” and holding posters of 28-year-old Khaled Said who was allegedly killed this month at the hands of police officers.

ElBaradei, who had earlier visited Said’s family to offer condolences, struggled to move through the crowd as protesters rushed to reach him, some kissing his hands, others patting him on the back.

Hundreds of police and anti-riot forces surrounded the protesters, who represented several political groups including the pro-reform April 6 youth movement and the banned opposition Muslim Brotherhood, as well as prominent activists and opposition politicians and ordinary citizens.

Protesters held up signs reading: “Our condolences to Freedom” and “Long Live Egypt”. Others chanted “Down with (President Hosni) Mubarak”.

They demanded the ouster of Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who they say has failed to bring to justice those accused of torture.

According to witnesses, Said was killed on June 6 when plainclothes policemen dragged him out of an Internet cafe and beat him to death on a busy Alexandria street.

Egypt’s interior ministry said he had died from asphyxiation after swallowing a bag of narcotics when approached by officers.

But rights groups have rejected the official account, and Said has since become a symbol for rights activists against police brutality, for which Egypt has been criticised at home and abroad.

Disturbing images of Said’s battered and bruised face have appeared on social networking websites, sparking public outcry and condemnation from local and international rights groups.

Opposition members and political activists have argued that the incident is proof that Egypt’s decades-old emergency law, which was renewed last month for a further two years, has created a legacy of police impunity.

Several protests have broken out around the country since Said’s death, demanding his alleged torturers be brought to justice.

The Alexandria demonstration also marked a powerful comeback for ElBaradei following weeks away from the public eye, amid criticism that his reform campaign had run out of steam.

Rarely are such numbers out in force in Egypt, where police does not tolerate large political gatherings.

“There were thousands of people, and thousands more in the streets near the mosque,” said Hassan Nafaa, the coordinator for the National Association for Change set up by ElBaradei to call for political reforms.

“If the protesters had been allowed to move even 500 metres (yards), thousands more would have joined,” he said after the protest.

“We gathered today to mourn the loss of Khaled Said and to mourn the fate of this nation,” he said.

ElBaradei, 68, has emerged as Egypt’s most high-profile reform champion since his retirement from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency last year.

Egyptian riot police crush Cairo protests

June 22, 2010
Morning Star Online, Monday 21 June 2010

Egyptian riot police beat and arrested dozens of protesters on Sunday when they attempted to stage a protest against police brutality in the centre of Cairo.

It was the latest in a series of demonstrations following the death of Alexandria businessman Khaled Said, who was found dead on June 6 after being approached by plainclothes policemen at an internet cafe in Alexandria.

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Egypt’s blockade on Gaza

June 4, 2010

By Ahmad Shokr, ZNet, June 4, 2010

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Ahmad Shokr’s ZSpace Page

In the wake of Israel’s raid three days ago on a civilian vessel attempting to deliver material goods to the residents of Gaza, Egypt announced on Tuesday the temporary opening of its border with Rafah to allow humanitarian and medical aid into the Gaza Strip, with restrictions on what kinds of supplies can enter. On Monday, President Mubarak responded swiftly to the Israeli navy’s assault on the Freedom Flotilla, affirming Egypt’s support for the people of Gaza. Israel’s ambassador to Egypt was quickly summoned by the Egyptian foreign ministry, and told that Egypt condemns the violence deployed against international activists and rejects the continued blockade of the strip.

As international pressure mounts on Israel to justify its savage attack on unarmed civilians attempting to provide material support to a besieged population, Hosni Mubarak’s government is posturing on the international stage, trying to show the world and its own citizens that it’s on the right side of this tragedy. Its statements give the false impression of an enduring commitment to the collective welfare of Palestinians living in Gaza.

However, a brief review of Egypt’s track record over the past three years tells a different story that undermines these duplicitous claims.

Under pressure from the US and Israel, Egypt has actively participated in the Gaza siege since Hamas took control of the strip in June 2007, blocking the movement of people and goods over its official border crossing. This has effectively tightened Gaza’s economic strangulation, causing acute shortages in basic supplies, a near-complete halt in industrial production, and a sharp rise in health and sanitary problems. It has contributed to what several human rights organizations have described as the worst humanitarian crisis in Gaza since its military occupation by Israel in 1967.

Egypt has been actively suppressing the underground tunnel trade, one of the main lifelines for the Gazan economy which provides most of the daily needs for 1.5 million people, including fuel, clothing and construction materials. Egyptian security forces have targeted tunnels for destruction and, in one recent case, were accused of pumping poisonous gas into a tunnel that resulted in the deaths of four Palestinians.

Egypt began construction of an underground steel wall last December–dubbed a security barrier by the government–which has so far covered almost half of the border area.

Egypt has prevented similar humanitarian convoys in the past, leaving international activists no recourse but the sea to deliver supplies to the besieged strip. Last December, the Egyptian government blocked most of the 1,400 participants in the Gaza Freedom March–organized by a coalition of pro-Palestinian organizations–from entering Gaza via the Rafah crossing to deliver vital humanitarian supplies. Days later, following a confrontation between members of the Viva Palestina convoy and Egyptian riot police in the port of el-Arish, the Egyptian foreign minister announced a ban on all future aid convoys destined for Gaza.

All these actions have taken place in the context of a very cordial Egyptian-Israeli bilateral relationship that involves various levels of political and economic cooperation, including preferential trade agreements and the long-term provision of natural gas to Israel. Keeping in line with US and Israeli policy, Egypt has also worked to undermine the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip while bolstering support for the discredited Palestinian Authority.

The decision to open the Rafah crossing comes after two consecutive days of popular protests across most major Egyptian cities, as well as heightened international concern over the plight of Gaza’s imprisoned population. The move is designed to serve Egypt’s vested interest in appearing as an honest regional broker and supporter of the Palestinian cause.

The Egyptian government desperately wants to deflect any negative attention away from its own complicity in the blockade. But empty rhetorical gestures and mendacious displays of solidarity with Palestinian suffering do not change the basic fact that Gazans have been victims of a coordinated Israeli-Egyptian siege, for which Mubarak’s government bears its fair share of responsibility.

Ahmad Shokr is a journalist based in Cairo, Egypt.

Egypt using defamation laws to prosecute dissenting voices

May 29, 2010

Amnesty International USA, May 25, 2010

Amnesty International has criticized the Egyptian authorities’ use of criminal defamation charges to silence and harass activists, after the trial of two leading human rights defenders and a prominent blogger started on Saturday.

A court in Cairo heard the case of the three men on charges of “defamation”, “the use of threats” and “misuse of communication tools”, after allegations of extortion were made by a judge in 2007.

Gamal Eid, Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Ahmed Seif El-Islam Hamad, founder of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) both appeared before the Khalifa Court of Misdemeanour on Saturday.

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Egypt: Cosmetic Changes Can’t Justify Keeping Emergency Law

May 15, 2010

Free All Detained Under the Law for Exercising Right to Free Expression and Assembly

Human Rights Watch, May 12, 2010

“President Mubarak has again breached his promise of five years ago to end emergency rule.The cosmetic changes announced this week don’t change the fact that the state of emergency perpetuates official lawlessness and contempt for basic civil and political rights.”

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director

(New York) – The Egyptian government’s announced modifications of the emergency law in place for almost three decades do not make renewal of the state of emergency any more acceptable, Human Rights Watch said today.

In an attempt to ward off criticism, the government repeated earlier claims that officials will restrict the application of the law to cases involving terrorism and drug-related crimes and said that it would no longer enforce certain measures, such as monitoring communications and confiscating property. The state of emergency was renewed on May 11, 2010, for two more years. The emergency law comes into force when a state of emergency is declared or extended.

“President Mubarak has again breached his promise of five years ago to end emergency rule,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The cosmetic changes announced this week don’t change the fact that the state of emergency perpetuates official lawlessness and contempt for basic civil and political rights.”

President Hosni Mubarak, during his 2005 election campaign, promised to replace the emergency law with new counter-terrorism legislation, but since then his government has renewed the emergency law three times, in May 2006, May 2008, and again this week. Egypt has been governed under emergency law almost continuously since 1967 and without interruption since Mubarak became president in October 1981 after the assassination of Anwar Sadat.

The law gives the executive – in practice the Interior Ministry – extensive powers to suspend basic rights by prohibiting demonstrations, censoring newspapers, monitoring personal communications, and detaining people indefinitely without charge. Egyptian defense lawyers and human rights groups say at least 5,000 people currently remain in long-term detention without charge or trial under the emergency law. Some have been in jail for more than a decade.

In a session before the People’s Assembly on May 11, Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif said that the government “commits itself before the representatives of the nation to not utilize the extraordinary measures made available under the emergency law except to confront the threat of terrorism and narcotics, and only to the extent necessary to confront these dangers.” He stated that the government would ensure that constitutional and international safeguards are provided and that the use of the emergency law is subject to judicial supervision. Renewal of the law was passed in an evening session in the People’s Assembly with 308 members of parliament voting in favor and 101 against. More than two-thirds of the parliament belong to the ruling National Democratic Party and can be counted on to support virtually any government initiative.

This is not the first time officials have claimed to restrict use of the emergency law to counter-terrorism and drug-related crimes. In February, Mostafa Hanafy, vice president of the Egyptian Council of State, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that the government had “made a commitment before parliament to use the emergency law only for terrorism and drug-related crimes and it has only implemented the rules of the emergency law in these cases.” In August 2009, President Mubarak told the US television host Charlie Rose that Egypt “confines [its] recourse to the emergency law, to terrorist crimes. Otherwise it is the rule of law under the normal laws.”

Despite these repeated claims, authorities have continued to use the emergency law to detain dissidents such as the blogger Hany Nazeer, who linked to his blog a controversial book that some in his village considered insulting to Islam. The government told Human Rights Watch that it imprisoned Nazeer “to protect [his] life in light of the anger and the strong uprising of the Muslims in Abu Tesht in Qena caused by his blog.” State Security Investigations has detained Mus’ad Abul Fagr, a novelist and rights defender who had been outspokenly critical of the violation of the rights of Sinai Bedouin, under successive emergency law orders since February 15, 2008. Other political prisoners include the student activist Tarek Khedr and several persons detained solely on the grounds that they are members of the banned opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

The restriction to counter-terrorism and drug-related crimes was this time included in the text of the law renewing the state of emergency. The state newspaper Al Ahram announced in the top story on its front page on May 11 that “for the first time a clear legal guarantee will be attached to the extension of the state of emergency, since in previous years there was only a political commitment from the prime minister to the People’s Assembly.” Human Rights Watch said if a verbal commitment from the government to the legislature was not enough to ensure compliance by state security, putting it in writing was unlikely to change things.

“If the Egyptian government is serious about sharply limiting its use of the emergency law it should immediately free people like Hani Nazeer and Mus’ad Abul Fagr,” Stork said.

The government also announced that there would be full judicial review of detention orders under the emergency law, but security forces have routinely disregarded court orders for the release of such detainees. The Interior Ministry has detained Nazeer under six successive emergency law orders for the past 19 months despite five court orders for his release, most recently on April 3. Abul Fagr remains in prison under a 13th emergency law order despite several court orders for his release.

“The cases of Nazeer and Abul Farag show how worthless government statements about judicial review really are,” Stork said. “Security officials don’t care about the law and have repeatedly ignored court orders for their release.”

A May 11 government news release also stated that the government would no longer “exercise the following extraordinary powers previously available under Paragraphs 2,3,4 & 6 of Article 3 of the Emergency Law, among them: The monitoring of all forms of communication; the monitoring, censoring, and confiscation of media and publications, and the ordering the closure of publishing houses & broadcasters; the confiscation of property; the regulation of the hours of operation of commercial activities and the evacuation and isolation of certain areas.”

But lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told Human Rights Watch that the authorities do not use these provisions of the emergency law so that this is a meaningless concession. The government instead uses other laws for these purposes, such as provisions under the Press Law and Penal code to censor publications.

Emergency law provisions that remain in place include Paragraph 1 of Article 3, which empowers the Interior Ministry to “arrest and detain suspected persons or those who endanger public order or security.” Provisions for arrest without warrant, detention without charge or trial, searching private homes without warrant, and banning demonstrations at will all remain in force. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called for the government either to release or to charge with a criminal offense all of the estimated at least 5,000 people being detained without charge.

The official news release fails to note that amendments to Article 179 of the constitution in 2007 effectively waive constitutional guarantees of the rights to privacy and to due process in cases the government designates as terrorism-related, and grant security forces unfettered authority to detain persons, search homes and monitor communications without a judicial warrant.

“Actually ending Interior Ministry monitoring of communications without judicial warrant would be an important step,” Stork said. “The government should repeal the amendments to Article 179 of the constitution so that the same thing doesn’t happen if the government does pass a counter-terrorism law.”

Security officials frequently use the emergency law to justify crackdowns on demonstrations. On April 6, a group of young activists organized a demonstration to demand an end to 29 years of the state of emergency and constitutional changes to allow for open and inclusive presidential elections. The Interior Ministry refused permission for the demonstration. A group of around 70 demonstrators nevertheless managed to congregate briefly and peacefully chant slogans. Security officials arrested more than 100 demonstrators and persons they suspected of intending to join
the demonstration that day, detained them for at least 10 hours, and then brought 33 before the public prosecutor. The prosecutor charged them with “participating in a demonstration to overthrow the regime” and “participating in a group whose goal is to resist the basic principles upon which the regime is based, incite hatred against it, and show contempt for it.” The prosecutor then ordered their release. Security forces released all the protestors remaining in detention over the following days.

“Egyptians who wish to demonstrate peacefully know they will probably be arrested for a few hours or days, beaten up, and eventually released,” Stork said. “These incidents are never properly investigated, and security officers continue their violent repressions of demonstrations with impunity.”

The emergency law also allows for trials of civilians before military tribunals and special state security courts, which lack basic due process protections. Human Rights Watch has monitored a number of trials before state security courts. Judges in these courts routinely fail to investigate allegations of torture properly, dismiss confessions obtained under torture, and do not allow defendants adequate access to lawyers outside the courtroom. For instance, the ongoing trial of 25 defendants accused of membership in a terrorist organization in the so-called “Zeitoun Trial” has been marred by the incommunicado detention of the defendants, lack of access to counsel until the second session of the trial, and confessions allegedly obtained under torture.

The Human Rights Committee, the expert body that monitors state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2002 expressed concern that Egypt’s “military courts and State security courts have jurisdiction to try civilians accused of terrorism although there are no guarantees of those courts’ independence and their decisions are not subject to appeal before a higher court,” as required by the ICCPR.

“The government has come to rely on state security courts to ensure a decision in line with security agencies’ needs,” Stork said. “All ongoing trials before state security courts should immediately be transferred to regular criminal courts.”

In his speech before parliament on May 11, Prime Minister Nazif was clearly aware of Egypt’s international obligations. He said that “today the government restates [its] commitment to the representatives of the nation to lift the state of emergency as soon as a balanced law is adopted that does not permit the use of extraordinary investigation measures unless necessary to counter terrorism, and then only under complete supervision by the judiciary.”

During the Human Rights Council’s review of Egypt’s human rights record, the government repeatedly stated that it would end the state of emergency as soon as drafting of the counterterrorism law was completed. When Human Rights Watch met with Mufid Shehab, the
Minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils, in December 2007, he said that the draft of the counterterrorism law was nearly complete. To date the government has not made public any draft of the counter-terrorism law.

“No law takes four years to draft,” Stork said, “There is clearly a lack of political will to end the state of emergency, which seems to suit those in charge of Egypt’s security services.”

As a party to the ICCPR, Egypt is obliged under article 9 to ensure that there is no arbitrary deprivation of liberty and to provide an effective remedy for violations. Under article 19, it is bound to protect freedom of expression. Limited derogations from these articles are allowed in a state of emergency, but the state of emergency in Egypt does not meet the applicable criteria under international law. In a report on his 2009 visit to Egypt, Martin Scheinin, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said that the emergency law that has been “almost continuously in force for more than 50 years in Egypt is not a state of exceptionality; it has become the norm, which must never be the purpose of a state of emergency.”

In its interpretation of Article 4 of the ICCPR, which sets out permissible derogations in times of emergency, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that“[m]easures derogating from the provisions of the Covenant must be of an exceptional and temporary nature” and be “limited to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.” Egypt’s official National Council for Human Rights said in May 2008 that “nothing any longer justifies the extension of the state of emergency, all the more so as Egypt is experiencing a period of stability.”

Egypt emergency law linked to poll abuse

May 13, 2010

Middle East Online, May 13, 2010

Some 10,000 people are being held under the emergency law

Rights groups warn Egyptian emergency law may be used to influence outcome of elections.

CAIRO – Egyptian human rights groups on Thursday protested over the renewal of a decades-old emergency law, fearing it could be used to influence the outcome of elections in Egypt over the next two years.

The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights and the Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary, in a joint news conference, condemned parliament’s renewal of the law in a government-backed vote on Wednesday.

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Pavement is home for angry Egyptian protesters

May 4, 2010

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-05-04

Some of them have gone unpaid for four months

Dozens of civil servants, labourers have been camping outside parliament for weeks demanding better working conditions.

By Mona Salem – CAIRO

Mervat Rifai, a 34-year-old mother of three, has like dozens of other civil servants and labourers been camping outside Egypt’s parliament building for weeks demanding better working conditions.

She, like her fellow campers who have made the pavement their home, is determined not to leave until her voice is heard.

Rifai left her children with family and neighbours in her small town in the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira to join the sit-in.

“They totally ignore our claims. But we will stay here, because after all this I refuse to go home empty handed,” said Rifai, who works for an organisation affiliated to the agriculture ministry.

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April 30, 2010

from the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, New York City

We are writing to extend our heartfelt solidarity and support to you, Egyptian workers, who in recent months have been courageously demanding that your government address your desperate economic conditions. The American press has been shamefully muted about the grim economic and political realities of life for people in Egypt, a key strategic U.S. ally in the Middle East. But in an eye-opening article in The New York Times of April 28, 2010, “Labor Protests Test Egypt’s Government,” by Michael Slackman, the curtain was lifted, for a moment at least. The article says,

CAIRO — Day after day, hundreds of workers from all over Egypt have staged demonstrations and sit-ins outside Parliament, turning sidewalks in the heart of the capital into makeshift camps and confounding government efforts to bring an end to the protests.

Nearly every day since February, protesters have chanted demands outside Parliament during daylight and laid out bedrolls along the pavement at night. The government and its allies have been unable to silence the workers, who are angry about a range of issues, including low salaries.

Using an emergency law that allows arrest without charge and restricts the ability to organize, the Egyptian government and the ruling National Democratic Party have for decades blocked development of an effective opposition while monopolizing the levers of power. The open question — one that analysts say the government fears — is whether the workers will connect their economic woes with virtual one-party rule and organize into a political force.

This week, with blankets stacked neatly behind them, at least four different groups were banging pots, pans and empty bottles and chanting slogans. There were factory workers, government workers, employees of a telephone company and handicapped men and women. The group of handicapped people said they had been there for 47 days, demanding jobs and housing….

The government has tried to define workers’ complaints as pocketbook issues, analysts said, hoping that if specific demands are met, workers will disband without blaming those in charge and without adding political change to their list of priorities.

Try as the Egyptian government might to define your complaints as simply narrow “pocketbook issues,” divorced from democratic rights to protest, assemble, and assert labor’s interests in the political arena, the distinction won’t hold. They are inextricably linked, and this is true today in Egypt, Iran, China, the Philippines and everywhere else. Egyptian workers must have the right to freely assemble, protest and strike, and to form independent trade unions and political parties.

As Americans, we repudiate the hypocritical policy of the United States, our own government, which turns a blind eye to human rights abuses on the part of its allies, such as Egypt, while decrying such transgressions by governments that defy U.S. power. The Campaign for Peace and Democracy firmly believes that a just and peaceful world must be based on respect for human rights.

We salute you in your brave struggle. We understand that the Mubarak government, which heads a de facto one-party state, is contemplating a crackdown on labor protesters. We will do all in our power to mobilize here in the United States and in countries around the world to prevent this from happening.

In peace and solidarity,
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
New York City
Web: Email:

Hezbollah: Egyptian jailings ‘unjust and politicised’

April 29, 2010

BBC News, April 30, 2010

Hassan Nasrallah, pictured on 13 March 2009

The convictions were a “badge of honour” Mr Nasrallah said

The leader of the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah has strongly criticised the Egyptian courts for jailing men accused of working for the group.

Hassan Nasrallah said the judgement by the Security Court in Cairo was “unjust and politicised” in an interview with an Arabic TV station.

He said he would seek “political and diplomatic means” to get their release.

The 26 men were sentenced by the court for planning terrorist attacks on ships and tourist sites.

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