Egypt’s New President Mohamed Morsi Must Make Firm Commitment to Human Rights

Press Release
June 29, 2012

Egypt’s New President Mohamed Morsi Must Make Firm Commitment to Human Rights

Human Rights Organization Presents Key Human Rights Priorities to New President, Ahead of Swearing In

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) -- Amnesty International today called on Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi, to break the cycle of human rights abuses perpetuated under Hosni Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The organization urged Morsi to take decisive action in his first 100 days to put Egypt firmly on the path toward the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Amnesty International said it will monitor whether Morsi is serious about delivering human rights change, and will take note of his human rights achievements during this critical time for reform.

Ahead of Morsi's swearing-in ceremony, the organization presented him with a memorandum detailing what it considers the key human rights priorities for Egypt (list below).

Sanjeev Bery, Amnesty International’s U.S.-based advocacy director for the Middle East, said: “Egyptians deserve a leader who will confront the terrible abuses of Mubarak’s regime, take steps to restore the rule of law and underscore a commitment to human rights for all. Anything short of this will only continue to dash the hopes for change that protesters fought for in Tahrir Square.”

Amnesty International said key priorities include ending the military's power to police civilians, reforming the security forces, launching independent investigations into violations of the past – both under Mubarak and the subsequent SCAF rule – and putting in place measures to stop discrimination against women and religious minorities.

But the organization warned that the road to human rights will be made difficult by the army's attempts to hold on to its powers and to remove itself from civilian oversight.

The commitment of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which Morsi chaired until recently, to human rights remains unknown. The FJP was the only major party not to sign Amnesty International’s Human Rights Manifesto for Change ahead of parliamentary elections last year, giving no indication of which elements they could support. Morsi has, however, now formally resigned from his position from both the FJP and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Amnesty International is urging the following steps:

END ARMY POWERS

As a first step, Amnesty International urged the new president to release all prisoners of conscience. The organization is further calling on the president to ensure that thousands of civilians imprisoned by military courts are either released, or charged with recognizable criminal offenses and given fair trials before civilian courts.

Amnesty International called on the President to immediately end the power of the military to arrest, detain and try civilians.

The organization said the army's powers to arrest, detain and investigate civilians, and its refusal to put its forces under civilian oversight, are the most urgent threat to the rule of law.

REFORM SECURITY FORCES

Amnesty International called on President Morsi to take two immediate steps to reform the security forces. The organization is calling for the creation of an independent body with the power to investigate allegations of abuses by the security forces and to oversee their vetting. Secondly, the organization is urging Egypt's president to make public the structure of the security forces, as well as the orders which govern their use of force.

INVESTIGATE ABUSES

Independent and impartial investigations must be made into the human rights violations that marked the 31-year rule of Hosni Mubarak and the 16-month rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Mubarak was this month sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the killing of protesters in the "January 25 Revolution." But victims of prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment during his rule have yet to see any semblance of truth, justice or reparation.

The SCAF did nothing to challenge the legacy of Hosni Mubarak. Instead, their rule has been marked by a sustained and often brutal crackdown on human rights. To date, army investigations have not succeeded in holding a single member of the armed forces to account for abuses.

UPHOLD FREEDOMS OF EXPRESSION, ASSOCIATION AND ASSEMBLY

Amnesty International said urgent measures are needed to end systematic restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, imposed in crackdowns under both Mubarak and the SCAF.

Journalists, bloggers and others who speak out against repression have faced arbitrary arrest and prison terms. Egyptian human rights organizations have also faced reprisals, including a government-ordered criminal investigation into their registration and funding. Protesters calling for an end to repression have been brutally dispersed in a series of lethal crackdowns.

END DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN AND MINORITIES

Egyptian law continues to discriminate against women in terms of personal status, and does not punish crimes like marital rape. Sexual harassment remains widespread and often goes unpunished. Only a handful of women were elected to the now-dissolved parliament.

Amnesty International called on President Morsi to end discrimination against minorities in Egypt, including Coptic Christians. Copts continue to be under-represented in relation to appointments to high public offices, positions of university presidents, as well as key security positions, including at the level of the National Security Agency or the General Intelligence.

HOUSING

Many of Egypt's 12.2 million slum-dwellers live in fear that the authorities will forcibly evict them from their homes, a common practice. Many slum-dwellers are left homeless, or are resettled far from their homes, families and livelihoods.

Amnesty International called on the new president to end the policy of forced evictions.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.