Egypt’s National Security Agency (NSA), which specializes in policing terrorism and political cases, is increasingly using a well-honed pattern of unlawful summons, coercive questioning that amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and excessive monitoring/probation measures against human rights defenders and political activists, in an attempt to harass and intimidate them into silence, destroying lives.
A new Amnesty International report, “This will only end when you die” documents how the NSA used these measures to control the lives of 21 men and seven women between 2020 and 2021. The activists and human rights defenders said at every summons NSA officers regularly threatened them with arrest and prosecution unless they attended interrogations and raided the homes of those who failed to appear.
At least 20 described how living in constant fear of being detained by the NSA left them anxious and depressed, denied them key rights and severely disrupted their ability to lead a normal life. As a result, many are too scared to express their opinions or participate in political activities and some have been driven into exile.
“This new NSA tactic of persistent intimidation and harassment of activists, lawyers and NGO workers is one that is destroying lives. It prevents them from working, travelling and means they live under constant fear of arrest. NSA officials’ questions and threats reveal one clear objective: to stifle human rights and political activism,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The authorities continued to punish any public or perceived dissent, and severely repressed the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and association. Tens of journalists were detained arbitrarily solely in relation to their work or critical views. The authorities clamped down on reporting that deviated from the official narrative on COVID-19 and detained health care workers who expressed safety concerns. The authorities continued to severely restrict human rights organizations’ and political parties’ freedom of association. Security forces used unlawful force to disperse rare protests, and arbitrarily detained hundreds of protesters and bystanders pending investigations into “terrorism” and protest-related charges.
Thousands of people remained in prolonged pre-trial detention, including human rights defenders, journalists, politicians, lawyers and social media influencers. Conditions of detention remained cruel and inhuman and prisoners were denied adequate health care, which led or contributed to at least 35 deaths in prisons or shortly after release. Fair trial guarantees were routinely flouted. Death sentences were handed down and executions were carried out. Women were prosecuted on “morality” charges for the way they dressed, acted or earned money online. Dozens of workers were arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted for exercising their right to strike.
Residents of informal settlements were forcibly evicted. The authorities arrested and prosecuted Christians, Shi’a Muslims and others for blasphemy. Security forces dispersed protests by refugees over the killing of a Sudanese child with force and subjected them to racial slurs and beatings.
On July 2019, in the middle of the night, heavily armed, masked men entered the apartment of Egyptian-Palestinian human rights defender Ramy Shaath. Without a warrant and offering no explanation, they took Ramy away to detention and ordered his wife Celine Lebrun to leave the country. has been subjected to harassment by the Egyptian authorities for several years due to his activities as a human rights defender. He has been held in pre-trial detention since July 2019, in inhuman conditions.
Help us get 30,000 names on a petition calling for Ramy Shaath’s release, commemorating the second anniversary of his arrest in July 2021.
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