Egypt: Watchdogs urge Gov. to investigate Sinai’s extrajudicial executions & improve rights ahead of dialogue

While some rights organizations called for an investigation into videos of extrajudicial executions in North Sinai, others demanded human rights improvements ahead of the national dialogue.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) two days ago urged Egyptian authorities to investigate videos showing the Egyptian army and its affiliated bedouin militias committing three extrajudicial executions in North Sinai.

The videos and images, which circulated in July and August 2022 in the militias’ social media groups, show executions of shackled or wounded men in custody, which would, according to HRW, violate international humanitarian law and amount to war crimes.

“Army-affiliated militias in Egypt’s North Sinai have been circulating videos apparently to brag about executing shackled men in captivity,” said Adam Coogle, HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

“The pervasive lack of accountability for largely lawless military operations in North Sinai over the past decade have fostered such atrocities.”

Ahmad Salem, the executive director of the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, stated in a separate analysis, saying:

“The execution of apprehended and bound individuals who pose no threat to life shows a glimpse of the horrible crimes committed by military forces and militias supporting them in North Sinai.”

“Despite the big media blackout, the few instances of abuse documented in Sinai in the past years give an idea of the absolute absence of the law and the prevalence of cruelty.”

In addition to calling for an investigation into the atrocities and accountability for the perpetrators, HRW urged Egypt’s partners to “suspend their security and military assistance because of the government’s failure over many years to provide accountability for grave abuses until such abuses end and perpetrators are held accountable.”

National dialogue?

In the same context of human rights violations in Egypt, five Egyptian rights groups, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, have issued a list of demands that the regime must meet before the national dialogue begins.

Authorities have been clear that Egypt’s 2014 constitution will serve as the basis for the dialogue. Yet the organizations—echoing a group of legal rights activists earlier this month—argue that the regime has effectively instituted an “undeclared suspension of the constitution’s rights and liberties provisions” and called on authorities to uphold those constitutional guarantees ahead of the dialogue. “It does not entail renegotiating these rights and freedoms anew at the dialogue,” they added.

Their demands include immediately releasing all prisoners of conscience, ending all forms of torture and referring the perpetrators to trial, stopping media censorship, and lifting travel bans and asset freezes on human rights defenders.

They also call on authorities to disclose the fate of Egypt’s forcibly disappeared. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor noted yesterday that during her mandate, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has had to send more communications to Egypt (seven) than to any other country.

The groups added that “if they are invited to take part in the national dialogue, they could find no one to better represent them than the human rights defenders currently in prison,” including Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed El-Baqer, and Ziad el-Elaimy.

“Meeting these demands would foster a political climate conducive to serious dialogue and contribute to rebuilding citizens’ eroded trust in the authorities, state institutions, the constitution, and the rule of law,” they concluded.

The next meeting of the dialogue’s board of trustees will take place on September 5, during which the trustees will select the directors and assistant directors for each of the dialogue’s committees and subcommittees. One trustee said that he expects the dialogue itself to kick off by the end of September.