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President Husni Mubarak needs to get serious about addressing Egypt’s most critical human rights problems, and President Bush should publicly urge him to do so when they meet in Crawford, Texas, on Monday, Human Rights Watch said today.

“President Mubarak insists that his government will decide what reforms it will carry out and when, but so far this has been an excuse for preserving his authoritarian rule,” said Joe Stork, acting executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “If reform means anything, it means ending nearly fifty years of emergency rule and addressing the country’s torture epidemic.”

Egypt has been ruled under a state of emergency for most of the last three decades. The Emergency Law allows arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without trial. Human Rights Watch said the emergency law creates an atmosphere of repression and impunity in which torture flourishes. A renewal of the law was rammed through Egypt’s People’s Assembly in 2003.

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and a key U.S. ally.

“President Bush has raised expectations with his call for democracy and more open societies in the Middle East,” said Stork. “The biggest test of whether he means it is his willingness to press Egypt on basic rights issues.”

Ahead of the summit between Presidents Mubarak and Bush, Human Rights Watch outlined Egypt’s most pressing human rights problems, and called on President Mubarak to:

  • Take concrete and verifiable steps to address the problem of torture
  • End emergency rule
  • End impunity of State Security Investigations officials who perpetrate torture
  • Allow non-governmental organizations and associations to function
  • Take steps to protect and advance women's rights
  • Address issues of religious intolerance and discrimination against minorities
  • End the campaign of arrests and prosecutions of men solely for adult, consensual homosexual conduct
  • End arrests and ill-treatment of street children
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