Repressive Laws Remain After Insufficient Step Towards Religious Freedom
11/10/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi lifted the nation’s state of emergency on October 25, which had been in effect since April 2017. However, the lifting is insufficient to address the ongoing human rights abuses committed by the government, particularly the unjust jailing and detainment of human rights and religious freedom advocates who remain in prison.
Detained citizens should no longer be tried under emergency courts with the lifting of the state of emergency. And yet, many activists who were imprisoned prior, still face the same trials. This includes Coptic Christian, Patrick Zaki, who authorities have detained for 21 months over an article he posted detailing his own experience as a Copt living in Egypt. He faces charges of “spreading false news” and is set to appear before an emergency court on December 7, whose verdicts are not subject to appeal. To make matters worse for Zaki, authorities recently notified him that he will be transferred to a new prison shortly, potentially deteriorating his living conditions.
Zaki, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), remains detained along with EIPR’s director and founder Hossam Bahgat. Other employees of the human rights organization have also been targeted. Emergency courts tried at least 146 cases since April 2017 and it is estimated that some 60,000 regime opponents are behind bars. Former parliamentarian Zyad El-Elaimy, politicians Hisham Fouad and Hossam Moanis, and human rights lawyer Hoda Abelmoneim are among other prisoners of conscience who face unjust trials in the emergency courts.
Egyptians lived under a state of emergency since 1981, with short respites from 2012 to 2017, leaving many citizens inexperienced with life outside of the emergency law. El-Sisi enacted the most recent nationwide state of emergency in April 2017 after several church bombings and renewed every three months. Under the law, security powers receive additional, unchecked powers, such as monitoring communication, banning gatherings, seizure of property, and detaining suspects.
Even with the recent lift, Egyptians are still subject to repressive laws such as the anti-terrorism law of 2015 and the anti-protest law of 2013. With these repressive laws still in place, Christians and human rights activists face potential persecution and discrimination. The fact that Zaki and many others remain imprisoned suggests that the state of emergency lift does little to change the status of human rights and the lives of Egyptians. The removal of the state of emergency provides opportunities for change, but in itself is insufficient to address the critical state of human rights in Egypt. Without addressing deeper issues, the minority Christian community will continue to be suffocated.
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