HomeMiddle EastEgyptEgypt Urged: Free Activists, Probe Abuses Amid Palestine Solidarity Protests

Egypt Urged: Free Activists, Probe Abuses Amid Palestine Solidarity Protests

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Cairo, Egypt – Egyptian authorities face mounting calls from Amnesty International and local human rights organizations to immediately release over 123 individuals detained for their peaceful activism in solidarity with Palestinians or for criticizing the Egyptian government’s closure of the Rafah crossing.

In addition to the demand for their unconditional release, there are also urgent calls for investigations into allegations of sexual assault and other abuses against some detainees in police custody.

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A Crackdown on Solidarity

In the past seven months, numerous arrests have been documented by Amnesty International and prominent Egyptian human rights groups such as the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Freedoms (EIPR) and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF).

The crackdown has targeted individuals expressing solidarity with Gaza by peacefully protesting, posting comments online, hanging signs, or writing slogans on walls.

These actions have resulted in at least 95 individuals remaining in pre-trial detention, facing charges related to terrorism, spreading false news, or illegal assembly.

“The Egyptian authorities have continued with their zero-tolerance for peaceful protest or independent activism that is not officially authorized, even when it’s to show solidarity with Palestinians, which state officials have themselves expressed,” stated Sara Hashash, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“They have particularly clamped down on any criticism of the government’s policies in the armed conflict in Gaza, making it very clear that not all expressions of solidarity with Palestinians are accepted unequivocally.”

Reports of Abuse and Sexual Violence

Amid these detentions, allegations of sexual violence and other abuses have emerged. In April, a group of released women protesters filed a complaint of sexual violence against the police. However, prosecutors have yet to initiate investigations into these serious allegations.

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Human rights lawyer Mahinour El-Masry and activist May El-Mahdy recounted instances of abuse, stating that police used plainclothes officers to violently disperse protests, detain women without allowing communication with their families, and subject them to harassment during detention.

Arbitrary Arrests and Incommunicado Detention

Amnesty International’s report highlights several incidents where activists were arbitrarily arrested. For instance, students Mazen Daraz and Ziad Basiouny were detained by security forces on May 8 and 9, respectively. They were accused of “joining a terrorist group” and “publishing false news” due to their involvement in a student group supporting Palestine.

They were held incommunicado for four to five days before being brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP). Basiouny reported being blindfolded and handcuffed at an unknown National Security Agency (NSA) facility, subjected to repeated interrogations without legal representation.

Further arrests occurred after criticism of Egypt’s role in keeping the Rafah crossing closed. Six individuals in Alexandria were detained from their homes on April 28 after they hung a banner reading “Break Palestine siege, release detainees and open the Rafah crossing” and posted a photograph of it on Facebook. They were held incommunicado in undisclosed locations before being brought before the SSSP.

Repression of Peaceful Protests

On March 8, six individuals, including a child, were arrested in Dar El-Salam, Cairo, for writing slogans on a bridge in solidarity with Palestine and against President Sisi.

Reports indicate that detainees were beaten and held incommunicado before being presented to the SSSP, which opened investigations on charges of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news.

Women’s rights defenders also faced severe repression during a peaceful protest in front of the UN Women’s office in Cairo on April 23. Around 20 women, including human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers, were violently dispersed, with several detained and subjected to harassment.

Despite their release on bail, the women filed a complaint on May 23 about sexual assaults during body searches and harassment in detention. The Public Prosecutor referred the complaint to the SSSP, which has not yet initiated investigations.

Calls for Accountability and Justice

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations are urging Egyptian authorities to respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

They emphasize the need for independent and impartial investigations into all reports of abuse, including sexual violence, and to hold accountable those responsible for these violations.

“The authorities must immediately release all those arbitrarily detained in the crackdown on pro-Palestine solidarity. These are people who are simply exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The authorities must also open independent and impartial investigations into reports of sexual violence by women detainees and hold those responsible accountable,” Hashash reiterated.

Broader Implications for Human Rights in Egypt

The current wave of arrests and the Egyptian government’s response reflects a broader pattern of repression against civil society and dissent.

Human rights defenders, journalists, and activists have long faced harassment, arbitrary detention, and prosecution under broadly defined anti-terrorism laws.

The targeting of pro-Palestinian solidarity protests further underscores the government’s intolerance of any form of independent activism or criticism.

EIPR and ECRF, which have been at the forefront of documenting these abuses and providing legal representation to detainees, continue to advocate for the release of all those arbitrarily detained.

Their efforts, however, are met with significant challenges given the pervasive climate of fear and repression.

International Reactions and Pressure

The international community, including various human rights organizations, continues to monitor the situation in Egypt closely.

There are calls for increased diplomatic pressure on the Egyptian government to adhere to international human rights standards and ensure the protection of fundamental freedoms.

“The ongoing repression of peaceful activists and the failure to investigate credible reports of abuse cast a dark shadow over Egypt’s human rights record,” said a spokesperson for Amnesty International.

“The international community must hold Egypt accountable for its obligations under international law and ensure that justice is served for the victims of these abuses.”

Moving Forward

As the situation unfolds, the resilience of activists and the steadfast support of human rights organizations remain crucial in the fight for justice and accountability in Egypt.

The voices of those detained and abused must not be silenced, and their demands for freedom and dignity must be met with action and solidarity.

For now, the international human rights community continues to stand in solidarity with the detained activists and calls on the Egyptian authorities to uphold the principles of justice, freedom, and human dignity.

The struggle for human rights in Egypt remains an urgent and ongoing battle, with the hope that the voices of those fighting for justice will ultimately prevail.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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