Egypt’s human rights crisis: Rights group accuses gov of withholding documents of dissidents abroad

Egyptian authorities are systematically denying identity documents to dissidents, journalists, and activists living abroad, in an attempt to pressure them to return to the country, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The rights group interviewed 26 Egyptians living in Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, Qatar, and other African and Gulf countries between June and December 2022, who were unable to obtain birth certificates or renew passports or ID cards. This has resulted in restrictions on their access to rights and the risk of deportation back to Egypt.

The report stated that the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was punishing and silencing dissidents abroad after crushing domestic opposition and public dissent through mass arrests, unfair trials, and rampant torture in detention. Interviewees in Turkey said the Egyptian consulate only accepted requests for documents through its Facebook page, requiring applicants to fill out unofficial, extralegal forms in which they were required to provide private details such as links to their social media accounts.

The report added that in recent years, Egyptian dissidents based in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Kuwait, and Malaysia have been extradited, some of whom were later sentenced to years in prison. The report noted that some of the interviewees were considering attempting to migrate irregularly from Turkey to Europe to apply for political asylum.

Egypt’s human rights crisis

Since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in 2014, his government has overseen a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of people. Authorities have targeted not only Islamist political opponents but also pro-democracy activists, journalists, and online critics. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Egypt third, behind China and Turkey, in detaining journalists.

Egypt’s human rights crisis is nothing new and the alarming trajectory of human rights violations in the country has caught the attention of more than 30 countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Despite the government’s opaque nature, reports of enforced disappearances and torture by Egyptian security forces have surfaced, leading to grossly unfair mass trials and hundreds of death sentences since 2014. The NSA’s practice of “rotation” allows for the indefinite detention of individuals without trial, even after prosecutors and judges order their release. Additionally, a new law has expanded the regulation of social media accounts, further limiting independent journalism in the country.

Egypt has increased the number of death sentences in 2022, according to the Egyptian Front for Human Rights. The group claims that 538 death sentences were handed out, an increase from the previous year. Of those sentences, 28 were executed in political cases and 510 in criminal cases.

In 2021, Egypt was ranked the third highest executioner, following China and Iran damaging Egypt’s human rights crisis. The Court of Cassation and Military Appeals also upheld the death sentence against 39 people in 2022, according to the human rights organization.

Image Credit: AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File

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