Annual Report: Egypt 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Egypt 2011

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  • Khaled Said was severely assaulted by two police officers in plain clothes in front of witnesses at an internet café in Alexandria on 6 June, apparently causing his death. The case provoked a public outcry and two police officers from Sidi Gaber police station were charged with unlawfully arresting and torturing him, although not with direct responsibility for his death. Their trial, sessions of which were attended by Amnesty International observers, was continuing at the end of 2010.
  • In November, the family of Ahmed Shaaban, aged 19, accused police at Sidi Gaber police station of torturing him to death and then dumping his corpse in a canal to suggest that he had committed suicide. The prosecuting authorities closed the case on grounds of insufficient evidence and an autopsy report that stated that he had died of asphyxiation.

Freedom of expression

The authorities maintained curbs on freedom of expression and the media. Politically sensitive reports were suppressed. Candidates for parliamentary elections using slogans deemed to be religious were disqualified. Government critics faced prosecution on criminal defamation charges. Independent TV channels and programmes that criticized the authorities were taken off the air or suspended. Books and foreign newspapers were censored if they commented on issues that the authorities considered sensitive or threatening to national security.

In October, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) told organizations using SMS services to send bulk messages to their subscribers that they must obtain a broadcasting licence. The authorities said this was necessary to "better regulate" the service but their action was widely interpreted as intended to curtail the use of mass messaging by government opponents in the lead-up to the November elections. A day before the election, an administrative court annulled the NTRA's order.

  • Hamdi Kandil, spokesperson for the National Association for Change, a grouping of people calling for constitutional and political reform, was charged with criminal defamation in May after he criticized the Minister of Foreign Affairs in an article in Al-Chorouk newspaper. He was referred to the Giza Criminal Court for trial, accused of insulting and libelling a public servant. His trial began in November.

Freedom of assembly and association

The authorities maintained legal restrictions and other controls on political parties, NGOs, professional associations and trade unions. Some were denied legal registration. The Muslim Brotherhood remained outlawed but operated openly. Police disrupted and violently dispersed campaign rallies by the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition parties and arrested many of their members and supporters, particularly in the run-up to elections.

The One Homeland for Development and Freedoms NGO was denied legal registration and several charitable organizations in Beni Souef were accused of breaching the restrictive NGO law and closed down.

In March, the government said that a new draft NGO law had been devised to replace Law No. 84 of 2002; if implemented, this will further restrict NGOs, including by making them answerable to a new umbrella organization partly comprising presidential nominees.

Discrimination against women

Women continued to suffer from discrimination, violence and sexual harassment. In slums, women were also discriminated against in the allocation of alternative housing during evictions; when a male spouse was absent, local authorities required women to produce proof of their marital status or face possible homelessness.

In its concluding observations in February, the CEDAW Committee urged the government to lift its reservations to Articles 2 and 16 of the Convention, to review and promptly reform laws that discriminate against women, and to strengthen the legal complaints system to allow women effective access to justice. The Committee also urged the government to adopt a comprehensive law criminalizing all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, marital rape and crimes committed in the name of "honour". However, no steps to implement these recommendations were taken.