Egypt | Human Rights Council must act to prevent 'annihilation' of civil society


The Human Rights Council must act to prevent the 'annihilation' of civil society in the midst of a human rights crisis in Egypt, a group of 10 of the world's leading NGOs said in a joint letter today. The NGOs are calling for a resolution or, at a minimum, a joint statement on Egypt at the next regular session of the Council in September.

A full copy of the letter and annex is available here, while the text of the letter only is extracted below.



We remain deeply concerned by the human rights crises taking place in Egypt, and strongly urge your delegation to ensure that the situation in the country is addressed by the UN Human Rights Council (the Council) through a resolution, or at minimum a joint statement by States at its 36th session in September 2017.  

The human rights situation in Egypt has deteriorated significantly since the last joint statement was delivered by States at the Council in March 2014 (see annex I). Repression of human rights defenders, journalists and political opposition has reached a level not seen in decades. Egyptian authorities have employed increasingly restrictive tactics to silence legitimate dissent, from legislation effectively banning independent NGOs and censorship of media outlets to enforced disappearances, torture, large-scale arbitrary detention for long periods, and unlawful killings. The Egyptian government has demonstrated a clear disregard for its constitutional and international obligations, across a range of civil, political, economic and social rights. The Egyptian judiciary has largely failed to hold to account those responsible for gross human rights violations in the country. In many cases the courts have served as an instrument of repression for the authorities. On 1 May 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, expressed concern that the severe repression by the Egyptian government, including “a state of emergency, the massive numbers of detentions, reports of torture, and continued arbitrary arrests […] facilitates radicalization."

The deteriorating situation in Egypt meets a number of the objective criteria identified by a cross-regional group of States at the 32nd session of the Council to identify situations that merit the attention of the Council. Egypt has failed to cooperate effectively with the Special Procedures; the government is increasingly obstructing the work of human rights defenders and the media in the country (see annex I); and Egypt has failed to engage with the Council in a meaningful, constructive way on the issue, and has been unwilling to recognize that it faces particular human rights challenges, preferring instead to punish human rights defenders for attending and engaging with its last Universal Periodic Review. The High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Procedures have also expressed serious concern about the situation.

The deterioration of the situation in Egypt highlights the danger of the international community failing to respond to grave human rights violations. The silence of UN bodies like the Human Rights Council appears to have emboldened the Egyptian government in its campaign to silence dissent and crush independent civil society. 

We therefore urge your country to apply meaningful pressure on Egypt to abide by its human rights obligations at the 36th Session of the Council through a resolution, or at minimum a joint statement by States. The survival of Egyptian independent civil society and the possibility for future democratic reform in the country hangs in the balance.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration,

  1. Amnesty International
  2. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  3. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  4. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  5. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  6. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  7. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  8. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  9. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
  10. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Photo: ISHR


  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Egypt