Generation Jail: Egypt’s Youth Go From Protest to Prison

June 29, 2015

Generation Jail: Egypt’s Youth Go From Protest to Prison

A continuing onslaught against young activists by the Egyptian authorities is a blatant attempt to crush the spirit of the country’s bravest and brightest young minds, and nip in the bud any future threat to their rule, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

Generation Jail: Egypt’s Youth Go From Protest to Prison focuses on the cases of 14 young people who are among thousands who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and jailed in Egypt over the past two years in connection with protests. The briefing shows that the country has reverted fully to being a police state.

“Two years after the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, mass protests have been replaced by mass arrests. By relentlessly targeting Egypt’s youth activists, the authorities are crushing an entire generation’s hopes for a brighter future,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“After the 2011 uprising, Egypt’s youth were lauded as a beacon of hope by the country’s military leaders and its international partners alike. It was their idealism and commitment to calls for ‘bread, freedom and social justice’ that proved a crucial driving force for change. Yet, today, many of these young activists are languishing behind bars, providing every indication that Egypt has regressed into a state of all-out repression.”

Amnesty International again strongly denounced yesterday’s killing of public prosecutor Hisham Barakat in a bombing in Cairo, which it called "a despicable, cowardly and cold-blooded act of murder.” If the rule of law is to prevail in Egypt, judges and prosecutors must be free to do their job without the threat of violence.

The organization has urged the authorities not to respond to the killing with further repression targeting peaceful protesters and activists, expressing concern over the numbers now held as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

More than a year after he came to power, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has shown no sign of easing its repressive rule. The crackdown has seen more than 41,000 people arrested, charged or indicted with a criminal offense, or sentenced after unfair trials, according to the last available estimates by Egyptian human rights activists.

“The scale of the crackdown is overwhelming. The Egyptian authorities’ have shown that they will stop at nothing in their attempts to crush all challenges to their authority,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“Those behind bars range from internationally lauded youth movement leaders, to human rights defenders, to students arrested for wearing T-shirts with anti-torture slogans.”

The Protest Law, passed in November 2013, enables the authorities to arrest and prosecute peaceful demonstrators on a whim, and criminalizes the very act of 10 or more people taking to the streets without prior authorization. It also grants the security forces free rein to use excessive and lethal force against peaceful protesters.

“The Protest Law has become a fast-track to prison for peaceful demonstrators, who are being treated like criminals. It must be scrapped immediately,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

A crackdown that began with the arrests of Mohamed Morsi and his supporters, including senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, in July 2013 has rapidly expanded to encompass the whole of Egypt’s political spectrum.

Among the youths who have found themselves arbitrarily imprisoned are prominent activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel from the “6 April Youth Movement,” Ahmed Douma a well-known blogger and protester, as well as Alaa Abd El Fattah, a blogger and a vocal critic of the authorities who spent time in prison under Hosni Mubarak as well as the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

They also include prominent human rights defenders Yara Sallam and Mahienour El-Massry.