The Universal Periodic Review of Egypt took place in the midst of unprecedented and ongoing repression. The serious concerns raised by many participants reflected the gravity of the crisis. But since the UPR, the government has perpetrated more human rights violations, and its responses to recommendations made during the UPR offer little hope of progress.
The government of Egypt pledged to ensure that all those detained are protected against torture, but the government’s own figures show that at least 90 people died in police stations in Greater Cairo in 2014, a 40 percent increase over the year before. Human Rights Watch has documented many other cases of torture.
Egypt committed to combat impunity for violence by the security services, but it dismisses as “lacking precision” a very clear recommendation to ensure thorough, independent, and impartial investigations into the worst mass killing in its modern history, in Rab’a Square in 2013.
Egypt pledged to cooperate with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms and with Special Procedures but failed to commit to invite key special rapporteurs any time soon.
Egypt noted recommendations to release those detained for politically motivated reasons but denied that there are any. In fact, authorities arrested at least 41,000 people since July 2013, many solely for being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as secular and leftist activists. The government has never provided a full accounting of the number of people arrested, convicted, and sentenced.
Finally, Egypt committed to repeal its protest law, to review its civil society law, and to strengthen its cooperation with civil society. But many of those who have challenged the protest law – which essentially outlaws peaceful demonstrations – have been imprisoned, and others have been killed. Yara Sallam, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Alaa Abdel Fattah, a liberal blogger; and Ahmed Maher, a founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, have all been imprisoned under the anti-protest law.
In September 2014, the government issued a law imposing life imprisonment for anyone who receives foreign funding for the purpose of harming Egypt’s “national interest” or “unity.” Although the Social Solidarity Ministry did not enforce its own 10 November ultimatum for all nongovernmental organizations to register under the existing law governing civil society, the government has indicated that those who do not register could face consequences. As a result, many groups have simply halted important programs for fear of being punished.
The Egyptian government made many promises. But when put to the test, it showed little sign of progress. How many more human rights defenders and peaceful activists need to leave the country or be silenced before the Human Rights Council tells Egypt to stop this crackdown?