Human rights violations in Egypt must stop

Chairwoman Hautala sent today a letter to the Ambassador of Egypt to EU, condemning continuing reports of torture and pressing the authorities to abide by their human rights obligations during the time of transition to democracy. [:] 

Her Excellency Ms Fatma Elzahraa Etman
Embassy of Egypt to EU
Avenue de l’Uruguay 19
Belgium-1000 Bruxelles

30 May 2011

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you concerning the numerous reports I have received during the last weeks over serious human rights violations occurred following the step down of former President Mubarak, bearing in mind those violations are on going as of today. We already briefly addressed this during our last meeting in Strasbourg, May the 10th. I am highly concerned by the repeated denial of basic civic rights. Allow me to stress some points of concern.

I perfectly understand the critical economic situation Egypt is facing; I am fully aware that with budgetary constraints only some measures can be taken. Thus, I would like to focus on minimum safeguards the Government is required to guarantee to its citizens: these are by no means economically burdensome, and have been constantly asked by your people.

I must begin by expressing my deep concern over restrictions to the right of freedom of assembly. Security and military forces are reportedly using excessive force towards peaceful gathering of people, leading to arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and other ill-treatments of protesters, human rights defenders, activists and representatives of international NGOs. Freedom of assembly is not only foreseen by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Egypt is party, but also by a number of national provisions. Among them, the Minister of Interior’s Decree 139 of 1955 on the Devising of special procedures for public gatherings and demonstrations. According to the information I have been provided with, security forces are not even respecting article 2.3, which sets out the conditions for the use of force and firearms to disperse protests. Similar provisions are set forth in the Ministry of Interior’s Decree 156 of 1964 relating to organization of the use of live ammunition, which impose the obligation to provide an audible verbal warning before using firearms. Although those provisions are reiterated in article 102 of law 109 of 1971 relating to the institution of the police, they are not respected. Let me underline that the above mentioned provisions foresee very minimal guarantees, that haven’t been uphold at all, thus violating not only the right of freedom of assembly, but also the very basic right to life.

I am calling the Egyptian authorities to guarantee that all security forces, including the police, do not use excessive force when policing demonstrations, and to fully comply with the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

There are also several reports over cases of torture. I regret that Egypt has not yet implemented in national legislation the definition of torture as provided for the Convention Against Torture. Additionally, allegations show that torture has been committed not only by armed forces, but also by the State Security Investigation service (SSI). I am strongly asking to instruct the security forces that these abuses will not be tolerated under any circumstances, and that such crime will be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated.

Moreover, I want to address the reported of killings committed in prisons, both where there were break-ins and prisoner escaping and where those were not (as is the case of some prisons in the North of Giza).

Finally, I am glad that the military announced that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court will be ratified, and I am asking you to bring a massage to the military. It is paramount that they uphold their commitment toward their people, given that the statements made by the military are the sole and most important legal bases existing since the suspension of the Constitution. It is fundamental that they respect people’s requests, in order not to frustrate their struggle during the revolution.

A first important step to be taken is to immediately lift the state of emergency and to repeal all provisions of the Emergency Law which entrench human rights violations. In particular, I urge to halt all trials of civilians before military courts and either release them or transfer them to civilian courts for fair trials.
I look forward to your reply.

Respectfully yours,
Heidi Hautala
Chairwoman of European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights