Egypt: Human Rights Council must act to end civil society repression


Member States of the UN Human Rights Council must act to address the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation and promote accountability for past human rights violations in Egypt, a global coalition of non-governmental organisations said today.

(Geneva) - Member States of the UN Human Rights Council must act to address the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation and promote accountability for past human rights violations in Egypt, a global coalition of non-governmental organisations said today.

In an open letter to Ambassadors representing their countries at the United Nations in Geneva, the coalition said, 'we urge your delegation to ensure that the Human Rights Council adopts a resolution that clearly and unequivocally condemns the ongoing crackdown and increasing restrictions to basic freedoms in Egypt and calls upon the Government of Egypt to fully respect its human rights obligations and to ensure accountability and justice for past and ongoing gross human rights violations.'

The letter expresses serious concerns at the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, the promulgation of mass death sentences in trials that are manifestly unfair, the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders, the de-registration of non-governmental organisations, and ongoing attacks against journalists reporting on these issues.

'The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Council's independent experts, and leading journalists and NGOs have all documented, exposed and condemned the human rights situation in Egypt,' said Phil Lynch, Director of the International Service for Human Rights. 

'Despite this, the Human Rights Council itself has repeatedly failed to address the situation in Egypt. States with a serious commitment to human rights, democracy, accountability and the rule of law must not stand idle. Member States of the Human Rights Council have both a moral and legal obligation to ensure the Council acts in relation to this grave situation,' Mr Lynch said.

The joint letter, which was supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ISHR and other leading international and regional human rights organisations, calls on States to support the adoption of a resolution on Egypt to:

  • Condemn continued restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and urge security forces to end all use of disproportionate and other unlawful force and to act at all times in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms;
  • Condemn indiscriminate attacks and bombings by armed groups and others, and remind the Egyptian government of their duty to protect all those in its territory in a manner consistent with international human rights standards;
  • Urge the Government of Egypt to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, including those detained solely for membership in the Muslim Brotherhood; end the torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including solitary confinement of all detainees, including human rights defenders and persons detained for political reasons; allow detainees requiring urgent medical attention to be transferred to appropriate medical facilities; and revoke the protest law and release all those detained under it;
  • Condemn the use of mass trials, which in practice have undermined the right to a fair trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, ensure that the prosecution establishes and proves individual criminal responsibility and that courts and the office of the public prosecutor are not instrumentalized to abrogate the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of association, and the right to freedom of assembly;
  • Urge the Government of Egypt to reform the legal system and bring it into compliance with international standards, and to conduct a review to ensure detainees are afforded their full due process rights, regular access to counsel and family visits, and the opportunity to review evidence and mount a meaningful defense;
  • Urge the Egyptian government to cease ongoing harassment against human rights defenders and civil society organizations, including withdrawing the 45-day ultimatum given to non-governmental organisations to register under the deeply restrictive Law No. 84/2002, retracting the draft Law on Associations presented by Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity on June 26, and enacting new legislation on associations in line with international standards and the guarantees safeguarding the right to association enshrined in the Egyptian Constitution;
  • Urge the government of Egypt to ensure thorough, independent, and impartial investigations into the unlawful use of force by security forces, including those responsible in the chain of command, in incidents of mass killings since June 30, 2013, such as the August 2013 Raba’a and Nahda Square dispersals in which at least 1,000 protesters were killed, and make public the findings and recommendations of the post-June 30 fact-finding commission in addition to the findings and recommendations of the 2011 and 2012 fact-finding commissions, and ensure that those responsible are held accountable, If the government continues its failure to carry out credible investigations into the illegal killings over one year later, the Human Rights Council should call for an international inquiry into grave violations committed since January 2011.

Signatories to the joint letter:

  • Amnesty International
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  • Centro de EstudiosLegales y Sociales (CELS)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  • Conectas Direitos Humanos
  • East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defender’s project
  • Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
  • Human Rights First
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Commission of Jurists
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • Pan-African Human Rights Defenders’ Network
  • Partnership for Justice - Nigeria
  • Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC) - Mexico

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights, on or + 41 76 708 4738


  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Egypt