On March 28, 2019, Alkarama has submitted its shadow report ahead of Egypt’s upcoming third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the UN Human Rights Council that is scheduled in November 2019. The UPR, which is held every four to five years, is a peer-review mechanism during which UN Member States assess each other’s human rights records and make recommendations based on the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Ahead of the review, non-governmental organisations are invited to provide information which can be referenced by any of the states partaking in the interactive discussion. In its report, Alkarama assesses the implementation of recommendations accepted by Egypt during its previous UPR, and also reflects on the significant deterioration of human rights in the country since 2014.
Alkarama’s report focuses on the systematic practices of arbitrary detention and torture, and also highlights the reoccurrence of the crime of enforced disappearances. In addition, the report denounces the vague and flawed 2015 anti-terrorism law which allowed the for systematic repression of human rights activists, journalists, and peaceful opponents. Lastly, Alkarama raised concerns over the use of death penalty as a mean to crackdown on dissenting voices and persons making use of their fundamental right to freedom of expression.
Failure to ratify important human rights instruments and reprisals against those cooperating with UN human rights mechanisms
Alkarama’s report expresses concerns over Egypt’s failure to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPPED), and the optional protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) allowing individual complaints to be filed with the Human Rights Committee and on the abolition of the death penalty. Egypt also failed to ratify the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture (UNCAT) on establishing a national preventive mechanism, nor has it ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Moreover, the report documents acts of reprisals and intimidation by the government against activists, journalists, lawyers or individuals who cooperate with UN independent experts.
Death penalty and extrajudicial killings
The report also highlights the severe violation to the right to life of Egyptian citizens. Alkarama argues that the death penalty is also used to crackdown on peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and journalists. Alkarama has documented numerous cases of death sentences and summary executions issued flowing heavily flawed trials during which confessions extracted under torture were admitted as evidence. Moreover, Alkarama is concerned about the more than 1,500 individuals sentenced to death who are currently on the death row.
In addition to that, the report raises the issue of extrajudicial killings practiced by governmental forces against peaceful protesters or following enforced disappearances, which are committed in a climate of complete impunity.
Reoccurrence of enforced disappearances
The report raises concerns over the reoccurrence of enforced disappearances since 2015 as Alkarama has submitted dozens of cases to the UN Working Group on Involuntary and Enforced Disappearances (WGEID). The report highlights several cases of individuals who were abducted by the security forces and placed in secret detention, who then appeared in courts with signs of torture, while the dates of their detention have been altered for the purpose of hiding the occurrence of enforced disappearance. Other individuals have been found dead allegedly during counter-terrorism operations, when they had actually been enforcedly disappeared.
Despite concerns raised by the WGIED on the systematic and widespread nature of enforced disappearances in Egypt, the government continues to deny the existence of such practice. Thus, investigations are never opened and the perpetrators never brought to account.
Systematic practice of torture and arbitrary detention
Alkarama report brings the attention of the Human Rights Council to the systematic character of the practices of torture and arbitrary detention which are used to crackdown against peaceful dissidents and silence anyone calling for reforms or raising human rights violations.
Furthermore, Egypt is denying the widespread and systematic practice of torture, and has not implemented any of the recommendations issued by the UN Committee against Torture in 2017 following its confidential inquiry. Egypt has failed to implement recommendations made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which has issued numerous Opinions calling on the immediate release of dozens of arbitrarily detained individuals.
Anti-protest, anti-terrorism and NGO laws
Since last UPR in 2014, Egypt introduced several laws that severely infringe the rights of its citizens. First, the anti-protest law hinders the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association through the imposition of severe restrictions such as the notification system designed to impede demonstrations, as well as the overly broad power given to the executive to suspend, cancel or postpone protests. Moreover, power is given for security services to use force against peaceful protestors. Second, the NGO law put severe restrictions on the work of national and international NGOs in Egypt as official confirmation is required for publishing any study or finding on Egypt. Finally, the anti-terrorism law was introduced in 2015 and is used to crackdown on peaceful dissent through its vague provisions.
In its report, Alkarama formulated a total of 24 recommendations, among which a call to ratify the ICPPED, OPCAT, OP1 and OP2 of ICCPR, and the Rome Statute, facilitate the work of Special Procedures, and submit its overdue reports to the Treaty Bodies. Moreover, Alkarama recommended the abolition of the death penalty and the enforcement of the absolute prohibition of torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, and to open investigations into all cases brought to its attention. Lastly, Alkarama called on Egypt to amend its anti-terrorism, anti-protest and NGO laws which severely infringe the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association of Egyptian citizens.