Annual Report: Egypt 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Egypt 2013

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  • Prisoner of conscience Maikel Nabil Sanad was released on 24 January as part of a wider pardon by the SCAF. A blogger, he had been imprisoned in April 2011 following an unfair trial by a military court for criticizing the army and objecting to military service.
  • In August, El-Dostor newspaper editor Islam Affifi was tried for publishing false information “insulting the President”. The trial was ongoing at the end of the year.
  • In October, television personality Tawfiq Okasha was fined and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for “insulting the President”. He remained free pending appeal.
  • Prisoner of conscience Alber Saber Ayad was arrested on 13 September after people surrounded his home accusing him of promoting the controversial film Innocence of Muslims. In December he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “defamation of religion” on the basis of his videos and internet posts, but bailed pending appeal.
  • In February, the trial began of 43 staff members of five international organizations for allegedly accepting foreign funding without government permission and operating illegally. Most were tried in their absence and the trial continued at the end of the year.

Women’s rights

The new Constitution prohibited discrimination between Egyptian citizens, but did not explicitly prohibit discrimination against women, referring instead to their duties as homemakers. Women were marginalized in the new political institutions. They occupied only 12 seats out of 508 in the People’s Assembly, before its dissolution. Only seven women were included in the second Constituent Assembly. Women were largely excluded from the Egyptian Cabinet appointed by President Morsi and none were appointed to the role of governor. Women also continued to face exclusion from serving in the judiciary. Discriminatory laws and practices relating to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance were not addressed.

Several women were reported to have been sexually harassed or assaulted during mass protests including in Tahrir Square. In June, a march in Cairo against sexual harassment was attacked by men who sexually harassed and assaulted the participants. In September, a man shot dead a woman in the street in Asyut, reportedly after she resisted his sexual harassment. After the Eid holiday in October the authorities announced they had received over 1,000 complaints of sexual harassment. No members of the security forces were held to account for sexual or gender-based violence against women detainees following anti-SCAF protests in 2011.

  • In March, a military court acquitted an army doctor in relation to forced “virginity testing” of women protesters in March 2011.

Discrimination

The new Constitution did not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, potentially affecting minorities such as Nubians.

The Constitution guaranteed freedom of religion but limited it to religions officially recognized as “heavenly”, potentially affecting Baha’is and Shi’a Muslims. The Constitution provided for separate personal status laws for Christians and Jews, as well as the right to regulate their religious affairs and leadership, but not for other religious minorities.

Egyptian law made it difficult for Coptic Christians to build or repair churches as it required hard-to-obtain official authorization. Some church-building works were obstructed by neighbouring Muslims, sometimes causing communal violence. In such cases, security forces generally failed to protect Copts from attacks.