THE CONDEMNING HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH 2012 REPORT ON THE ABUSE OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE COPTS BY THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF ARMED FORCES (SCAF)
Human Rights Watch, which is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, has just published its World Report, 2012: Events of 2011. Human rights Watch, created in 1978, is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organisation, which its headquarters at New York, is respected world-wide, though its reports are not always taken into account. Furthermore, they are at times controversial; except on Egypt at least for sure: its report is based on accurate fact-finding, impartial reporting. And this year, its report on Egypt which covers the events of the 2011 year – the year of the 25 January Revolution – is condemning. Its 2012 Report can be accessed here:
As always, the annual reports by Human Rights Watch cover so many countries across the globe. The part that deals with Egypt takes some eight pages of it (pp. 545-552). It summarises Egypt’s human rights records: “Overall, there was no improvement in human rights protections in Egypt (since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] took over power from ex-president Mubarak on 11 February 2011)”.
Whether on police violence and killing of unarmed protesters, torture and excessive use of force by military and police officers, freedom of expression and association, freedom of religion and sectarian violence, refugee and migrants’ rights, labour rights, or women’s rights, the SCAF has been found wanting. The failure of the SCAF has affected all Egyptians, of all backgrounds, and of all religions. But as always in Egypt, while the general population is abused, Copts often get double the dose of the oppression, with their share of suffering out of proportion to their numbers and with vicious, selective targeting by the authorities and the mob that often work in tandem with the government. We shall focus on what Human Rights Watch have to says about the Copts; however, that must not be construed in any way that we don’t care about the abuse of human rights of other Egyptians.[ii]
On torture and excessive use of force by military and police Officers, the Report says:
The military used excessive force and carried out arbitrary mass arrests in various cities to disperse demonstrations and sit-ins on numerous occasions — February 25, March 9, March 23, May 16, July 22, and August 1— beating and tasering those arrested… On October 9, during the dispersal by military police and riot police of a protest of Coptic Christians in front of the state TV building in Cairo, at least two military vehicles ran over and killed 13 protesters and a further 24 were killed by live ammunition. Military prosecutors are overseeing the investigation into the incident, a conflict of interest likely to reinforce military impunity.[iii]
On freedom of expression and association, it talks about the long detention of Maikel Nabil:
News media enjoyed greater freedom in the aftermath of the ouster of Mubarak on all issues except those concerning the military. As of September the military prosecutor under the SCAF had summoned at least nine activists and journalists for questioning on charges of “insulting the military,” but released most without charge. An exception was blogger Maikel Nabil, whom a military tribunal in April sentenced to three years imprisonment for “insulting the military” and “spreading false information” on his blog. At this writing Nabil remained in prison while awaiting his retrial, scheduled for November 27.[iv] [v]
On freedom of religion and sectarian violence, it details the attacks and massacres on the Copts:
Incidents of sectarian violence continued throughout 2011. In the early hours of January 1, 2011, a bomb went off in a church in Alexandria, killing 23 people. The prosecutor opened an investigation but had not charged anyone in connection with the attack at this writing. On March 8, Christians in the eastern Cairo suburb of Muqattam protested the burning of a church four days earlier in Atfih, 13 miles south of Cairo, and clashed with Muslims. Twelve people died in the ensuing violence and shootings, and several Christian homes and businesses were torched. The prosecutor has yet to investigate the incident.
In May sectarian violence outside a church in Imbaba, a neighborhood of Cairo, left 12 dead. On July 3, the trial of those arrested in connection with the violence opened before an Emergency State Security Court. On September 30, a mob burnt down the Mar Girgis church in Marinab, in Aswan, but local authorities and prosecutors failed to investigate instead insisting on a settlement. The prime minister ordered an acceleration of the drafting of a new law to facilitate the renovation and construction of churches, a long-standing demand of Christians, who face discrimination in this respect.[vi]
[i] For more on Human Rights Watch and its 2012 Report, visit: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/01/22/world-report-2012
[ii] The Report says under “women’s rights”: “Egypt’s Sharia-based Personal Status Law—which discriminates against women in family affairs—apples only to Muslims, while Copts are governed by church regulations that prohibit them from divorcing, except in cases of adultery. Some Copts grew more vocal in their demand for a civil law that would give them the right to divorce.” (p. 551) Coptic Nationalism does not understand the inclusion of this matter in a report like this – it does not ignore the problem, and will discuss it in a different article.
[iii] Human Rights Watch 2012 Report; p. 548.
[v] Human Rights Watch 2012 Report; p. 548.
[vi] Human Rights Watch 2012 Report; p. 549-450.