This press release was issued on June 26, 2013, by by 20 rights organizations, through the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, under the headline: One year into Mohamed Morsi’s termManifold abuses and the systematic undermining of the rule of law. We bring here a few key paragraphs from the report, which preceded the coup in Egypt by only a few days:
It was clear from President Morsi’s first day in office that his program for the first 100 days of his term paid little attention to addressing human rights issues and realizing Egyptians’ aspirations for democratization. At the end of the 100-day period, rights organizations issued a report documenting broad assaults on the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly and on religious liberties, as well as the continued harassment of political and labor activists, increasing cases of torture and mistreatment in police stations, and the failure to prevent impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations. The absence of human rights issues in the newly elected president’s political program was not only accompanied by the continuation of abuses and a lack of attempts by the government to stop them, but also by several major crises which demonstrated the authorities’ disregard for judicial autonomy, suspicion of media outlets, and strong desire to contain peaceful protest and social action, as well as the continuation of the smear campaign and criminal prosecution of human rights activists and civil society groups and the pursuit of legislation to clamp down on their activities. The report warned that citizens’ basic rights were liable to be further eroded absent an immediate, thorough review of policies and systematic practices and the presidency’s adoption of a well-studied, comprehensive plan to improve the situation of human rights in the country, uphold the rule of law, and ensure respect for Egypt’s international commitments.
One year after Morsi became president, it is now clear that the priority of the presidency—and, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood —was to firmly establish the underpinnings for a new authoritarian regime in place of the Mubarak regime. It is no surprise, therefore, that the past year witnessed widespread human rights crimes, on a scale that rivaled that under the Mubarak regime. The brutal suppression of political and social protest movements did not cease; indeed, the security forces are no longer the only party to use of excessive force against demonstrators, as MB supporters have also been given free rein to use violence to punish and intimidate their opponents, including through torture and even killings, whether at the gates of the presidential palace, in front of the main MB headquarters in Muqattam, or in squares in other governorates. The situation has recently culminated in the incitement of violence against Shiites and against participants in the protests planned for June 30; the incitement took place at a recent press conference attended by the president, government officials, and leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood. Repercussions of this incitement have already become all too clear – days later, four Shiites were killed by a mob in the village of Abu Muslim in Giza.
The public prosecutor’s office has taken no serious steps to confront abuses, including the beating, torture, and murder of protestors both by police and MB supporters. Just as there has been no justice for the massacres perpetrated under SCAF, there appears to be little hope that accountability will be sought for the second Port Said massacre of January 2013, when more than 40 people were killed, or that the truth will be exposed regarding the murders of revolutionary youth and others, including journalist Al-Husseini Abu Deif.
The human rights abuses which occurred under Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood over the past year include the following issues:
The drafting of the new constitution by the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamist groups coincided with a broad assault on the judiciary and judicial independence, aimed at preventing the Supreme Constitutional Court and the State Council from exercising their prerogatives to rule on the legality of the Constituent Assembly. The president’s constitutional declaration on November 21, 2012—which essentially announced this battle on the judiciary, the rule of law, and the components of the modern democratic state in Egypt—immunized Morsi’s past and future decrees from judicial review until the new constitution could be pushed through. The Muslim Brotherhood then incited its supporters to set siege to the constitutional court for nearly six weeks, thus impeding the court’s work and rendering it unable to resume operations until after the referendum on the constitution. This strategy worked: The court’s recent rulings declaring the constituent assembly invalid are meaningless in light of the fact that the constitution was passed in a referendum, despite the refusal of numerous judges to supervise it. The travesty of the constitution has thus become a done deed.