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Rights Groups Urge Egypt to Halt Persecution of Activists


FILE - Egyptian activists are seen through the mesh of a courtroom cage in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 23, 2015.

FILE - Egyptian activists are seen through the mesh of a courtroom cage in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 23, 2015.

The United Nations and rights groups called on Egypt Wednesday to stop the crackdown on rights activists and drop all impediments to their work.

Fourteen international organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international, said Egyptian authorities should stop calling rights activists in for questioning, banning them from travel and attempting to freeze their personal funds and family assets.

“The authorities should halt their persecution of these groups and drop the investigation, which could threaten human rights defenders with up to 25 years in prison,” the organizations said in their statements.

Rights groups have repeatedly accused Egypt's security services of carrying out illegal detentions, forced disappearances of activists and torture of detainees.

Activists hold placards that read, among others, "Giulio, one of us and killed like us," during a memorial for Giulio Regeni outside of the Italian embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2016.

Activists hold placards that read, among others, "Giulio, one of us and killed like us," during a memorial for Giulio Regeni outside of the Italian embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2016.

"The Egyptian authorities have moved beyond scaremongering and are now rapidly taking concrete steps to shut down the last critical voices in the country's human rights community," said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program, said "Egypt's civil society is being treated like an enemy of the state, rather than a partner for reform and progress."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week there was a "deterioration in the human rights situation in Egypt in recent weeks and months."

His Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, countered the criticism, saying authorities support civil society in the country and reject "tutelage" over human rights from other countries.

The United States and European countries have condemned the treatment of human rights defendants and have evacuated several citizens who were threatened with arrest.

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