How Egypt’s New Regime is Silencing Civil Society

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Somewhere in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak must be smiling, knowing that three years after his downfall, he has won after all.

After three decades of muzzling civil society, of harassing, detaining and torturing political activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers, doctors and regular citizens of all stripes, Mubarak never was able to accomplish what the new regime has achieved in a matter of months.

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UPDATE: Formal Ruling on Egypt’s Mass Death Sentences Set for Tomorrow

Relatives of the defendants react after an Egyptian court sentenced 638 Morsi backers to death in a mass trial in Egypt (Photo Credit: Ahmed Ismail/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

Relatives of the defendants react after an Egyptian court sentenced 638 Morsi backers to death in a mass trial in Egypt (Photo Credit: Ahmed Ismail/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

Lives are always at stake when the death penalty is involved. But when the new el-Sisi government is preparing to execute 683 Egyptians, something even more is at stake: the future of the Egyptian judiciary.

On Saturday, an Egyptian court will formally rule on the initial 683 death sentences handed out in April in a case involving the death of a police officer in the August 2013 protests that followed the removal of President Muhamad Morsi. The sentence followed only by a matter of days a second, similar case in which 528 Egyptians were given the death penalty.

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5 Things You May Be Missing About Egypt’s Judicial Crisis

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There’s a new hanging judge in Egypt, and he’s casting a chill upon the declining hopes and vision for human rights that came out of the 2011 uprising.

It’s been one month since the judge sentenced 528 people – alleged supporters of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi – to death. On Monday, the judge returned to the case, confirmed 37 death sentences and gave the remaining 491 people life in prison.

At the same time, he sentenced 683 more people to death in a trial that news reports stated lasted just minutes. Both cases have to do with deaths of Egyptian policemen during violence that arose in August 2013 following Morsi’s removal from office.

The two cases stand as a mockery of justice, death sentences issued on an industrial scale. The size of the injustice is raising outrage around the world, but beneath the headlines, there are important human rights messages to be learned.

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What’s Ten Attack Helicopters Between Friends?

In 2013, Amnesty International documented the use of attack helicopters by Egyptian security forces for surveillance against crowds and protesters. Now, the Obama administration is selling 10 Apache military helicopters to the country (Photo Credit: Ken Ishii/Getty Images).

In 2013, Amnesty International documented the use of attack helicopters by Egyptian security forces for surveillance against crowds and protesters. Now, the Obama administration is selling 10 Apache military helicopters to the country (Photo Credit: Ken Ishii/Getty Images).

By Nate Smith, Chairperson – Military, Security and Police Transfers Co-Group, Amnesty International USA

When a government violates human rights on a mass scale – jailing opposition activists and journalists on trumped up charges, arresting hundreds of protesters at once, passing draconian laws to suppress public opinion – they should be held accountable. It’s not always a clear-cut or simple task for the international community, but we must identify some simple dos and don’ts.

Do: Provide support for human rights and government accountability.

Don’t: Sell advanced, highly lethal killing machines to a government engaged in a crackdown on personal freedoms.

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URGENT: 528 Men Sentenced to Death in Mass Trial

Egyptian relatives of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi cry sitting outside the courthouse after the court ordered the execution of 529 Morsi supporters after only two hearings (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images).

Egyptian relatives of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi cry sitting outside the courthouse after the court ordered the execution of 529 Morsi supporters after only two hearings (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images).

An Egyptian court has shocked the world by issuing a mass death sentence to 528 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi for their alleged role in a riot last July that turned violent.

This is the largest number of death sentences handed down in one case Amnesty International has seen in recent years.

This is not justice. It’s the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and it could be an attempt to wipe out political opposition. But the Egyptian authorities may yield to local and international pressure to overturn the convictions.

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Little Known Link Between Militarism and Violence Against Women

Faced with a spike in sexual violence against female protesters, Egyptian women are overcoming stigma and recounting painful testimonies to force silent authorities and a reticent society to confront “sexual terrorism” (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images).

Faced with a spike in sexual violence against female protesters, Egyptian women are overcoming stigma and recounting painful testimonies to force silent authorities and a reticent society to confront “sexual terrorism” (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images).

By Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA Co-Chair, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

It took Miriam Isaura López Vargas several weeks to piece together what happened to her after she was tortured and raped by Mexican soldiers. On February 2, 2011, the 30-year-old mother of four had just dropped three of her children at school in the city of Ensenada, in northern Mexico, when two men wearing balaclavas forced her into a white van and took her away.

“They tortured me. They repeatedly put wet cloth over my face and poured water over it so I couldn’t breathe. They gave me electric shocks,” she explained.

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Peace in the Home and Peace in the World: Help End Violence Against Women!

By Tarah Demant, Co-Chair of Amnesty International USA Women’s Rights Co-Group

A life free from violence is a fundamental human right, yet daily, women and girls are targeted specifically because of their sex or gender, and violence in communities often affects women disproportionately. Violence against women is a global epidemic; no country or community is immune.

Violence against women is used as a tool of discrimination, control, and intimidation, and it restricts women’s choices and increases their vulnerability to further injustices. 1 in 3 women will be raped, beaten, or abused in her lifetime, yet violence against women affects us all. Consider the following cases:

  • In Sudan, women can be can be stopped by the police, arrested, jailed, and even sentenced to public flogging for nothing more than wearing pants or leaving her hair uncovered.
  • In Egypt, women protesters have faced harassment and assault while Egypt’s political leaders have remained silence about the rampant sexual violence and discrimination.
  • In Syria, more than 2 million people have fled the armed crisis, and now tens of thousands of women and girl refugees in Jordan risk further violence simply because they have no safe access to a toilet.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, often ranked the worst place in the world to be a woman, women human rights defenders provide grassroots assistance to civilians, yet they themselves face intimidation, attack, rape, and sexual violence for their efforts.
  • In Bangladesh, women human rights defenders work for the rights of indigenous people throughout the country, yet 17 years after the disappearance of a high-profile Pahari activist, her family and community still waits for justice.
  • In Honduras, women human rights defenders are threatened with sexual violence for championing human rights throughout the country.
  • In Mexico, Miriam López Vargas and hundreds of other women wait for justice after torture and rape by Mexican soldiers.

What these cases have in common is a global culture of discrimination and violence against women as well as impunity for those who commit gender-based violence. And this year’s theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women highlights the relationship between heightened militarism and communal and interpersonal violence.

Despite a culture of violence and discrimination women around the world are raising their voices against violence and discrimination, demanding their basic human rights, and standing against intimidation and fear. Today, what unites women internationally is their vulnerability to the denial and violation of their fundamental human rights, and their dedicated efforts to claim those rights.

You can join them this 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence as we join activists worldwide from Nov. 25 – Dec. 10 to help end violence against women. This year, we’re highlighting the seven cases above – in each instance, you can learn more, take action, and stand with women demanding their rights!

Imagine a world without violence against women. Join us this 16 Days to make that vision a reality.