Egypt’s young activists have been facing “continuing onslaught” from Egyptian authorities with thousands arbitrarily arrested, detained and jailed over the past two years in connection with protests, according to Amnesty International.
“Two years after the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, mass protests have been replaced by mass arrests,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International is publishing a new briefing titled “Generation Jail: Egypt’s youth go from protest to prison” focusing on 14 cases of young people who were arbitrarily arrested and detained. The briefing arrives to the conclusion that “the country has reverted fully to being a police state”.
Among those arrested and detained for defying the protest law are human rights defenders, students, youth movement leaders and prominent activists. They include Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel from the 6 April Youth Movement, well-known blogger and protester Ahmed Douma, as well as Alaa Abd El-Fattah, Yara Sallam and Mahienour El-Masry.
This occurs amidst a crackdown that has witnessed more than 41,000 people arrested and charged with criminal offences while facing unfair trials, based on estimates by Egyptian human rights activists.
The Protest Law was passed towards the end of 2013 under former interim president Adly Mansour during a series of violent protests launched by pro-Muslim Brotherhood supporters after former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July.
Morsi supporters had staged demonstrations in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Squares immediately following his ouster, demanding his reinstatement. Eventually, the sit-ins were forcibly dispersed on 14 August by security forces, resulting in mass arrests and the killings of 726 in Rabaa Al-Adaweya alone, and 21 in Al-Nahda Square, according to the Forensic Authority’s death toll.
However, Wiki Thawra,a website dedicated to documenting the Egyptian revolution, put the death toll of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal at 969, and that of Al-Nahda Square at 96. Human rights organisations have condemned the excessive use of violence practiced by security forces during the dispersals, labelling it as a “collective punishment”.
While reports investigating the deaths that occurred have been made by both governmental and non-governmental bodies, amidst demands to address violations by security forces during the dispersals, no security forces members were held accountable for the violence.
According to Amnesty International, the crackdown had begun with the arrest of Morsi and his supporters, along with senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders in July 2013. However, it later expanded to include “the whole of Egypt’s political spectrum”.
The human rights organisation addressed Egypt’s international partners, warning them not to “sacrifice human rights in their talks with the authorities”. It further urged the Egyptian authorities not to use the rise in political violence as a pretext to disregard human rights.
The protest law has been widely criticised by local and international human rights organisations for violating the constitutional right to freedom of assembly and expression, with all calling for its amendment or cancelation. The law’s constitutionality is currently being contested before the Supreme Constitutional Court as hundreds serve prison sentences due to protest charges.