Briefing Paper on Recent Human Rights Developments in Egypt: Signs for Optimism or Another Trick from the Authoritarian Playbook?

Egypt recently launched numerous human rights-related measures, including its first National Strategy for Human Rights. Yet, a mere three months after the Strategy was released, the Egyptian State Security Emergency Misdemeanor court sentenced human rights activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, human rights lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer, and blogger Mohamed Ibrahim on politically-motivated charges of “spreading false news” – all of which cannot be appealed.

The criminalization of human rights defenders in Egypt is nothing new. Human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, and activists in Egypt face extreme restrictions in performing their work and exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of association, expression, and assembly. While the State’s recent measures may seem promising against Egypt’s bleak human rights history, activists remain critical due to the State’s contradictory actions and continuing repressive civic space. Egypt is most likely engaging in these tactics to appease an international audience following increasing criticism of the country’s targeted actions against human rights defenders, including concerns raised by the United States—a major donor and key military ally of Egypt. While steps taken by the Egyptian government to genuinely improve human rights should be welcomed, one cannot merely praise human rights developments if they do not offer meaningful on-the-ground change.

To better understand these developments, this briefing paper assesses these latest measures amidst Egypt’s overall civic space and concludes with recommendations for the Egyptian and United States governments to improve the human rights situation in Egypt.

Read the briefing paper here.

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