For Immediate Release: November 23, 2011
New York City – In the midst of a week of tumultuous protests in Egypt, Human Rights First today issued a blueprint outlining goals and recommendations for Egypt’s transition to democracy. The report, Blueprint: Promoting Reform in Egypt, offers recommendations for both the Egyptian and United States governments and This update to its April 2011 blueprint How to Seize the Moment in Egypt, reflects the rapidly changing situation in Egypt, including yesterday’s resignation of the cabinet.
The excessive use of force by Egyptian security forces against protesters in Cairo beginning on Friday, November 18, and resulting in the deaths of at least 35 people and many hundreds of injuries has put into sharp focus the fact that Egypt’s February “revolution” is incomplete as long as absolute power is exercised by an unelected group of military officers accountable to no one but themselves. The mishandling of the protests has demonstrated that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and the anti-democratic military rule it represents, is now an obstacle to Egypt’s peaceful transition to democratic rule.
“The military must immediately turn over power to an interim authority of civilians in order to ensure the elections be held in an atmosphere of peace with respect for basic rights and freedoms,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks, author of the blueprint. “For democratic transition to move forward Egypt must return to civilian rule and respect for rule of law.” Hicks is a member of the Working Group on Egypt, a nonpartisan group of former officials, policy makers, and human rights advocates that has pressed Egypt toward democratic reform since well before the overthrow of President Mubarak.
Today’s blueprint includes the following key recommendations for U.S. policy:
- The U.S. should demand an end to the use of excessive force against unarmed protesters.
- The U.S. should take a clear public stand that further delays in the timeline for Egyptian elections and the transition to civilian rule would be damaging to good relations between the two countries.
- The U.S. military and the Department of Defense should clearly communicate that the quality for U.S. relationship with Egypt will be determined by the progress Egypt makes towards democratic governance.
- The U.S. should maintain its strong commitment to programs that support human rights and democracy in Egypt, including direct financial support for independent civil society organizations, in accordance with international human rights standards.
- The U.S. government should support all calls for a credible independent inquiry into the October 9 “Black Sunday” events of October 9 in Cairo, during which state-controlled television incited violence against Coptic Christian protestors.
- The U.S. government should urge the Egyptian government to move forward with reform in laws governing the Internet and telecommunications sector.
It also highlights the following recommendations for the Egyptian authorities:
- The SCAF should indicate its willingness to definitively release its grip on executive power by a certain date, no later than June 2012.
- The SCAF should immediately end the trial of civilians by military courts and the use of other exceptional courts. Those convicted by unfair trials in military courts must be retried in civilian courts.
- The SCAF should revoke its decree expanding and enacting the Emergency Law so that elections can take place in an atmosphere in which basic political rights and freedoms are protected by law.
- The government should end its campaign of defamation against independent civil society organizations.
- The government must step up its efforts to protect religious minorities, especially the Christian community. Acts of violence that have occurred against Christians and community property must be investigated and perpetrators held accountable.
“The SCAF have shown themselves to be a continuation of the old Mubrak order, under a different name,” concluded Hicks. “The U.S. government cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. A return to military backed authoritarianism would be a disaster for Egypt and the United States.”