Silence is not an option: Civil society calls for Human Rights Council to act on Egypt


The UN Human Rights Council must act to address the severe and worsening crackdown on peaceful political activists, human rights defenders and independent journalists in Egypt, say leading NGOs.

(Update - 7 March 2014) - A cross-regional group of 27 States (including Germany, Switzerland, the US, Japan, Turkey and Ireland, among others) responded to the NGO call below by delivering a joint statement to the Human Rights Council on the situation in Egypt today.

The statement expresses 'concern about the restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly, expression and association, and about the disproportionate use of lethal force by security forces against demonstrators which resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries' and calls for proper investigations and accountability in this regard.

The statement also recognises that 'human rights defenders and civil society as a whole have an important and legitimate role in the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law' and 'urges the Egyptian government to end ongoing harassment and threats against those who express dissent and release those arrested for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association.'

The statement was welcomed by members of the NGO coalition which drafted the open letter below.

'For the first time UN member states have used the forum of the Human Rights Council to spotlight the abuses going on in Egypt,' said Human Rights Watch's Geneva Director, Julie de Rivero. 'Egyptian authorities are now on notice that the international community will not ignore their crackdown on dissent and impunity for repeated, unlawful killings of protesters.'


(Geneva) – The UN Human Rights Council should act to address the severe and worsening crackdown on peaceful political activists, human rights defenders and independent journalists in Egypt, a coalition of leading non-governmental organisations said today.

In an open letter to Ambassadors to the UN in Geneva, the coalition said ‘Repression in Egypt has reached levels unprecedented since the 2011 uprising.’

According to the NGOs, ‘The current human rights situation is characterized by repeated excessive use of force, including lethal force, by the security forces, leading to the death of hundreds of protesters; increasingly severe restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, as well as academic freedoms; the arbitrary imprisonment of protest leaders, university students, journalists and others; and a failure to protect vulnerable groups, including minorities.’

The letter further states that ‘women’s rights have been particularly affected’, that ‘high levels of sexual and gender-based violence have been reported’ and that ‘the effective participation of women in the public sphere has diminished due to continued impunity for gender-based violations.’

The NGO coalition, which includes Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Service for Human Rights, is calling for States to mobilise and coordinate for the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution on Egypt in accordance with its mandate to ‘address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations.’

‘The crackdown has led to increasing instability within Egypt, and a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation. In this context the UN HRC should call on the Egyptian government to respect its international human rights obligations, ensure accountability for human rights violations within the country, and act in accordance with democratic principles,’ the letter says.

The letter is also available in French.


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