For Immediate Release: July 7, 2011
Washington, D.C. — Street protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt scheduled for July 8 under the name of Persistence Friday seem set to be the biggest seen in the country since the overthrow of President Mubarak. Since the Muslim Brotherhood has dropped its opposition to the protest, members of the brotherhood will join activists from across the political spectrum in calling for the fulfillment of the goals of the February revolution.
“Recent incidents of police violence as well as the ongoing lack of accountability for members of the Mubarak regime who ordered attacks on protesters in January and February are bringing people to the streets,” said Neil Hicks of Human Rights First. There is a nagging fear that all the sacrifices of recent months may not result in lasting changes to Egypt’s oppressive, authoritarian system of government,” added Hicks.
These fears and uncertainties present dangers for the transition that Egypt’s military rulers need to address if the country is to avoid a summer of repeated clashes, protests and unrest that would undermine economic recovery and erode public confidence. To promote a successful transition to democracy in the months leading up to the elections scheduled for September the military council should:
- Break with its habit of unilateral decision making and commit to preparing for the September elections as openly and inclusively as possible. This means setting out a realistic timetable; finding a compromise to the divisive Constitution First or Elections First dispute; and consulting regularly and openly with political factions and civil society.
- Proceed expeditiously with the prosecution and trial of members of the security forces implicated in killing and attacking protesters in January and February.
- Send a clear signal that the military will relinquish its exceptional powers and privileges in a democratic Egypt by operating under a transparent budget and being publicly accountable to civilian authorities. The military should immediately discontinue its practice of trying civilians before military courts. All of those convicted by such courts should have their convictions reviewed by civilian courts in fair proceedings.
U.S. policy makers should be using all of their influence with Egypt’s military leaders to encourage urgent action in these priority areas.
Despite mixed signals and understandable uncertainty, Egypt has made important strides forward in recent months: there have been great advances in the freedom of the press, including in widely watched television broadcasts as well as print journalism and online news sites; political parties and civil society organizations are proliferating and very active; there have been promising advances in judicial independence with the appointment of Hossam al-Gheriany as President of the Court of Cassation, and the dissolution of the local councils, which were a major pillar of the former regime is another highly promising recent development.
These and other positive steps will not be sufficient to satisfy the demands of protesters. Egypt’s leaders must:
- Make an unequivocal commitment to institutional change leading to democratic government and full respect for international human rights standards; and
- Set out a credible plan for how these sweeping changes will be implemented in the coming months.