Amnesty International USA urges President Trump to raise human rights concerns in Egypt
April 8, 2019
President Donald J. Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20500
Re: Amnesty International urges President Trump to raise human rights concerns in meeting with Egyptian President Abdelfatah al-Sisi on April 9th, 2019
Dear President Trump,
On behalf of Amnesty International USA (“AIUSA”), and Amnesty International’s more than seven million members and supporters worldwide, I am writing to urge you and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to raise the following human rights issues during Tuesday’s visit of Egyptian President Abdelfatah al-Sisi.
At a time when the Department of State’s Human Rights report has documented increasing human rights violations by the Sisi government, we believe a failure to address these issues during this visit will contribute to the further decline and muzzling of Egyptian civil society. As a key partner of Egypt, we hope the United States government will encourage President Sisi to make a priority of building a strong society that is built on universal rights for everyone.
AIUSA’s top concerns relate to the planned constitutional amendments as well as the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression. We recommend that you raise the following crucial human rights issues at every strategic opportunity and meetings whether they be public or private.
AIUSA is greatly concerned about the proposed constitutional amendments that the parliament is currently considering as well as the deteriorating conditions for human rights. If passed, these amendments will undermine the independence of the judiciary, expand military trials for civilians and weaken the rule of law. Further, they would pave the way for worsening the human rights crisis that Egypt is already facing.
The amendments have attracted considerable criticism including from a number of public figures, human rights organizations, political parties and the State Council Judges Club. The authorities have responded by intensifying their crackdown on freedom of expression, targeting people who have voiced opposition to the amendments with arbitrary arrest and detention, defamation and even cyber-attacks.
More than 50 individuals have been arrested so far in 2019 for peacefully expressing their opinions or merely being perceived to do so – at least four of them for expressing their opposition to the constitutional amendments on social media. The figure is likely much higher. Several public figures – including members of parliament – that have expressed their opposition to the amendments have been widely criticized in public and private media and been subjected to smear campaigns. Some opponents have faced homophobic slurs, as well as calls, including from members of parliament, for their prosecution for “treason” and for their Egyptian nationality to be revoked. Amnesty International has also documented a wave of phishing attacks, that likely originated from government backed bodies, targeting independent media organizations and human rights defenders who reported on the government, including the role of the General Intelligence Service in pushing for the constitutional amendments.
Our research on Egypt for 2018 found that the scope of Egypt’s human rights crisis expanded, as the authorities arrested opponents, critics, satirists, current and former human rights and labor rights activists, journalists, presidential candidates and sexual harassment survivors. The authorities also used prolonged pre-trial detention to imprison opponents, and restricted and harassed civil society organizations and staff. The authorities used solitary confinement that amounted to torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance against hundreds of people with impunity, and failed to investigate cases of extrajudicial executions. Civilian and military courts issued mass verdicts after unfair trials and sentenced hundreds of people to death. The authorities prosecuted two women who spoke out against sexual harassment, while discriminating against women in law and practice. People were arrested on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation. The authorities prevented Christians from freely practicing their beliefs and failed to hold to account those responsible for sectarian violence. The armed forces used US-imported banned cluster bombs in an ongoing military operation in Sinai.
AIUSA is calling for you to seek tangible commitments from President Abdelfatah al-Sisi to drop the proposed constitutional amendments, release of all detainees solely detained for peacefully expressing their opinions; halt the criminal investigations into case 173; amend protest laws no. 107/2013 and no. 10/1914 to ensure that they guarantee the rights to freedom of assembly and expression; ensure that prosecutors investigate cases of enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment and bring those responsible to justice; end the use of military courts to try civilians and end the practice of mass trials; and establish a moratorium on the death penalty.
Further, AIUSA asks that you raise the following individual cases with President Sisi:
Malak al-Kashef: transgender woman human rights defender who was arrested on 7 March and detained incommunicado until 10 March. During her detention she was subjected to forced anal examination, which amounts to torture. She is facing unfounded charges and is in pre-trial detention in relation to her call for peacefully protesting. She is currently detained in a solitary cell in an all-male prison.
Hoda Abdelmoniem: Hoda Abdelmoniem is a 60-year-old human rights lawyer who volunteers as a consultant for the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF). In the last five years, Hoda has been documenting human rights violations, including cases of enforced disappearances. She is also a lawyer at the Egyptian Cassation and Supreme Constitutional Courts, as well as a former member of the National Council for Human Rights and of the Egyptian Bar Association. On 1 November 2018, State Security forces broke into the house of Hoda Abdelmoniem in Cairo at 1:30 am and arrested her. Hoda was then forcibly taken to an unknown destination. On 15 January 2019, Hoda Abdelmoniem appeared before a prosecutor and has been in detention over unfounded charges since then.
Rami Sidky: Guitarist accused of “insulting the president” and “membership of a terrorist group” in case 480/2018 because of a song. However, Rami did not take part in the song and was on his way back from a concert in Beirut when he was detained at the Cairo airport in May 2018. His pre-trial detention keeps on being renewed since then.
Thank you for your consideration of these pressing human rights issues. For more information or any questions you may have, please contact Philippe Nassif, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, at 202- 768-5547 or [email protected]
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Washington, D.C. 20003