Saturday, May 21, 2011

Torture and imprisonment of Egypt protesters still rife, says human rights activist

Heba Morayef is an Egypt-based researcher for Human Rights Watch
Heba Morayef, The Guardian, May 20, 2011

Heba Morayef
Human rights activist Heba Morayef says despite Mubarak’s removal protesters are still being tortured and imprisoned. Photograph: Guardian
The most worrying development of the past few months has been the detentions and trials conducted by the military. It’s a very worrying precedent at the very time when people are looking to see how Egypt is going to manage the transitional process in terms of issues of justice and accountability.

The army is presenting itself as taking a strong hand against criminals and thugs, and that resonates with people, but historically this is exactly the kind of rhetoric Mubarak’s police state depended on. We need a shift from whoever is governing the country towards the strict application of the rule of law, and that hasn’t happened extensively yet.

On certain points there has been progress but the picture is always mixed. The interim government, for example, has allowed the formation of independent trade unions but at the same time we’ve seen a draft law banning strikes and protests, which is very problematic. There’s also been a liberalisation of the political parties law, allowing new parties to be created, and that freedom of association is an essential prerequisite to fair elections later this year. But for elections to take place you also need an environment which respects freedom of assembly and freedom of expression; the draft law contravenes that freedom of assembly, and when it comes to freedom of expression the military has been setting red lines regarding what is acceptable criticism of the country’s current rulers and what isn’t.

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