Our Voices

Egypt Must Allow Its Civil Society to Flourish

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) condemn the actions of the Egyptian government taken to suppress peaceful protests planned for April 25 across Egypt, including government raids on the homes of activists and human rights defenders, arbitrary arrests, and the violent dispersal of protests by security forces.

On April 15, of Egyptians took to the streets to reject the recent agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia that incorporated the islands of Tiran and Sanafir into Saudi Arabia’s maritime borders. After security forces arrested dozens and fired tear gas to disperse the peaceful demonstrations, organizers set April 25 as the date for a second wave of protests.

In the days leading up to the scheduled protests, security forces arrested at least 90 people in eight different governorates, many of them from local coffee shops. Additionally, the prosecution issued a lengthy list of arrest warrants for human rights defenders and activists, including prominent human rights lawyer Malek Adly who has been integral in representing detained protesters.

On April 25, a heavy security and military presence prevented many of the scheduled peaceful demonstrations from taking place. Meanwhile, pro-government rallies were allowed to occur without interference. The few peaceful protests that went forward and were critical of the government were violently dispersed with teargas. Other large gatherings of activists were raided. Throughout the day, at least 33 foreign and domestic journalists were temporarily detained while covering the demonstrations. At least 239 civilians were reported detained or arrested across the country. While the charges against these persons have yet to be made public, the Egyptian authorities have, in the past, exploited vague and problematic provisions of the Protest Law, Counterterrorism Law, and Penal Code that violate Egypt’s domestic and international obligations to uphold the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

As a vibrant civil society is a necessary element of a true democracy, Egypt must allow its civil society to flourish and ensure that its citizens enjoy their fundamental rights without question. We call upon the Egyptian authorities to immediately release all peaceful protesters and human rights defenders detained in the events since April 15 and to halt the continuing crackdown.

This statement is also posted on the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy’s website here.