Amnesty urges Biden to call out human rights abuses in Egypt

Amnesty International’s MENA advocacy director has called on US President Joe Biden to denounce human rights in Egypt and demand change.

“Tens of thousands of people have been swept up and detained in Egypt, and Amnesty International has called it the world’s largest open-air prison,” Philippe Nassif told Today News Africa.

“Our concern is that the US government had continued to sell arms to Egypt and provided them with political cover. We made that very clear to Congress and the Biden administration,” he continued.

Biden has famously promised that he wouldn’t issue any more blank cheques for Trump’s “favorite dictator” after the former American president maintained a close relationship with the Egyptian dictator despite the fact that human rights abuses have risen dramatically.

However, in February Biden drew widespread condemnation when his administration authorized the sale of $200 million worth of weapons to Egypt.

Earlier this week, criticism was renewed after the US president upheld former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi’s immunity following a lawsuit filed by ex-political prisoner Mohamed Soltan in Washington DC which held Beblawi responsible for the torture he was subjected to during his incarceration in Egypt.

Last Thursday the Justice Department submitted a formal declaration urging a federal court to dismiss Soltan’s case.

Nassif’s comments follow the release of Amnesty International’s annual report on human rights, which documents violations committed in Egypt in 2020.

Authorities punish public or perceived dissent, the report says, and detains journalists in retaliation for their critical views including over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Hundreds of protesters and bystanders are being investigated for “terrorism” related charges whilst fair trial guarantees are regularly flouted.

Women are prosecuted on “morality” charges for the way they dress, and authorities have arrested and prosecuted Christians, Shia Muslims and others for blasphemy.

More opponents on terror list

The Egyptian regime on 6 April added the names of 51 more opponents to its terror list.

In March 2020, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi approved amendments to the law of terrorist entities, approved in 2015, to enable his regime to expand measures such as confiscations and freezing of assets of those listed as “terrorists”.

By having their names added to the terror lists, the 51 persons are automatically banned from travelling, and their assets are confiscated by the regime.

Since Al-Sisi, then military chief, led a coup that toppled late President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the government has launched an unprecedented crackdown on dissidents which has seen tens of thousands detained or forcibly disappeared.