A new Amnesty International report catalogues the failures and brutalities of Egyptian justice
A year after the Muslim Brotherhood was banned and elected Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi deposed by an army coup following widespread protests against his rule, newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has presided over a ‘catastrophic decline in human rights’, according to an Amnesty International report.
A report by the human rights group released on July 3 describes “a surge in arbitrary arrests, detentions and harrowing incidents of torture and deaths in police custody.”
The international spotlight has recently been on the Egyptian regime with the arrests of three al-Jazeera journalists in December 2013. Australian reporter Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian acting bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were subsequently sentenced to seven and 10-year sentences on June 23.
The final sentences were handed down after a trial lasting five months and described as a “sham” by human rights groups including Amnesty.
Official figures compiled by Associated Press estimate that at least 16,000 people have been arrested in the past year as part of widespread crackdowns against groups and individuals accused of links to the Brotherhood or other dissenting factions. At least 80 of those detained have died in custody.
The Amnesty report presents a series of harrowing testimonies, including that of a 23 year-old student held for 47 days, during which time he was tortured and raped.
The UK and US governments have spoken out to condemn the verdicts against Creste, Fahmy and Mohamed. US Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue with President Sisi in a planned state visit on June 22, calling the sentences “chilling and draconian.”
The President himself told Egyptian media outlets on Sunday July 6 that the journalists should never have been tried, finally acknowledging the damage the cases have done to Egypt’s international reputation.
President Sisi has previously said he would not interfere in court proceedings, despite having the power to overturn verdicts.