For Immediate Release
Issues to Raise with Egyptian Military Leadership: A Statement by the Working Group on Egypt
WASHINGTON - The arrival of an Egyptian military delegation in Washington to discuss military assistance presents U.S. officials and members of Congress with a timely opportunity to raise concerns about several recent actions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The SCAF’s July 20 statement rejecting international monitoring of the upcoming parliamentary elections comes amid other negative developments including defamatory attacks on political activists and journalists, failure to respond to widespread demands for an end to military trials of civilians, and the failure to investigate military abuses against protestors and civilians. In discussions with the visiting military delegation this week, U.S. policy-makers should raise all of these issues, noting that they call into question whether Egypt is on a sound path to democratization. In particular, we urge U. S. policymakers to raise the following concerns:
1. International monitoring of elections:
U.S. policy-makers should strongly encourage the SCAF to grant domestic as well as international monitors full access to all aspects of the polling process. The SCAF’s claim that international monitoring would undermine Egyptian national sovereignty is troublingly reminiscent of arguments made by former President Hosni Mubarak’s government. Far from being limited to Western countries, international monitoring is a well-established practice globally in countries that hold free elections, including many of Egypt’s Arab neighbors. With Morocco, Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, Iraq, and most recently Tunisia all welcoming international monitoring missions, Egypt risks becoming a regional outlier.
As leading Egyptian human rights organizations pointed out in a statement issued in Cairo on July 24, international election monitoring does not impair national sovereignty. Responsibility for the supervision of the electoral process remains fully in the hands of the sovereign government. Furthermore, Egyptian civil society organizations have pointed out that Egyptians themselves have participated in many internationally-organized missions and that the revised Law on Political Rights (No. 46/2011) grants the Supreme Electoral Commission, not the SCAF, the authority to regulate the work of domestic and international observers.
It is widely recognized, including in international instruments endorsed by the Egyptian government, that the integrity of electoral processes is improved by involving international observers and monitors. African Union Guidelines, adopted by the organization of which Egypt is a member in 2002, note that:
“International, regional and national observers have come to play important roles in enhancing transparency and credibility of elections and democratic governance in Africa and the acceptance of election results throughout the continent. Electoral observation and monitoring missions can also play key roles in diminishing conflicts before, during and after elections.”
The SCAF’s latest decision to bar international monitors needlessly jeopardizes the credibility and transparency of the upcoming elections and thereby damages the prospects for a successful democratic transition. The Working Group on Egypt urges U.S. officials to stress in conversations with Egypt’s military leaders that allowing international monitors would not only assist Egypt in meeting the task of staging elections that are likely to see the highest turn-out by far of any in Egyptian history, but demonstrating to the world its commitment to a democratic future.
2. Attacks and defamatory statements against political activists and journalists:
In military statements over the last several days, the SCAF has, for the first time, singled out the April 6 Movement in Egypt as “instigators of tumult.” These statements accused them of receiving money from abroad and focused on April 6 members who received training in Serbia by “foreign agencies”.
The statements appear designed to intimidate the April 6 Movement, in response to its organization of a march to SCAF headquarters from Tahrir Square on July 22.
These attacks on civil society groups appear to be an effort by the SCAF to continue Mubarak-era practices of discrediting critics and seeking to tightly control the operation of civil society groups.
3. Military trials of civilians, continuing state of emergency, and impunity for military abuses:
One of the most important tools of repression used by the Mubarak regime was the Emergency Law (Law No. 162 of 1958), which allows authorities to detain people without charge and to try them in special security courts that do not meet international fair trial standards, provide no right of appeal, and have been notorious for relying on confessions obtained under torture. Yet the SCAF has yet to repeal the Emergency Law as it has promised, and instead has recently applied it: On June 4, in the first outright use of the Emergency Law since the revolution, the public prosecutor referred 48 suspects arrested after the sectarian violence at a church in Imababa, Cairo, on May 7, to an Emergency High State Security Court.
Moreover, even if the SCAF has applied the Emergency Law less frequently than the previous government did, it has continued similar practices by trying civilians in military courts that do not provide due process. Since coming to power, the transitional government has relied on military courts to sentence 10,000 civilians. Those tried by the courts include not only Egyptians charged with ordinary criminal offenses, but also protesters and journalists.
Finally, the SCAF has failed to investigate allegations of torture and virginity testing at the hands of the military since it took power. These include allegations that military officers tortured detained protestors in Cairo on March 6, in Lazoughli Square, and on March 9, in the grounds of the Egyptian Museum, adjacent to Tahrir Square.
The Working Group on Egypt is a nonpartisan initiative bringing substantial expertise on Egyptian politics and political reform, and aimed at ensuring that Egypt’s elections are free and fair and open to opposition candidates.
Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.