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Egypt's Lost Revolution


A Fleeting Affair with Democracy

Egypt is one of the world's oldest civilizations and until very recently it was one of the world's oldest democracies. In its recent past it has had but a fleeting affair with democracy, but has now once again returned to oppressive rule by a military regime, although this time under Field Marshall Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi, now President, it has become far more brutal and destructive than the days of Hosni Mubarak. The aspirations of the revolutionaries have gone. The revolution is over.

Egypt once again presents a political conundrum for the international community, and one that is in danger of overshadowing the real issues in the country. The international community wants to see democratic progress. It wants to see economic development. It needs a strategic Middle East partner to address the conflicts on Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

It is not down to coincidence that certain members of the international community, namely the United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia and European Union appear to be turning a blind eye to the very clear human rights violations that occur daily with complete abandon, whilst Egypt continues to be seen as strategic importance in the region.

The EU High Commissioner, Catherine Ashton, congratulated Sisi on his election. The U.S. has unfrozen military aid. The UK has been shamefully silent on human rights violations.

It is not through coincidence, but it is certainly oxymoronic that Egypt, and in particular Sisi, is being congratulated on its transition to democracy when in reality the fledgling Government was elected with no opposition (given that any dissenting voice was silenced), and were only in a position to be elected having overthrown the legitimate Government of the Freedom and Justice Party by force and imprisoning its leadership.

An important question now presents and that is whether the international community's adopted position of willful blindness will be forced to change given the recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report into the 2013 Rabaa massacre, and the recent report by the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR), entitled ‘The Blood: Political Detentions in Egypt Post-Military Coup’ which examines countless, varied human rights violations by the Military Regime.

It is expected that these two reports will weigh heavily on the minds of the UN Member States during the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of Egypt in November 2014 given the level of atrocities committed by the Sisi Regime against the civilian population that is comprehensively and compellingly documented in the two reports.

The report by the AOHR is wider in scope than that of HRW. It documents testimony from over 80 victims of political imprisonment, torture and arbitrary detention at the hands of the El-Sisi Military Regime. The report also documents compelling first hand witness accounts of extra judicial killing of civilians by the Military Regime.

It is important to stress that the El-Sisi regime is a brutal force stamping out any form of descent. The international community is quite right to welcome reform and a return to democracy.
It is precisely this sort of documentation that has arguably been lacking when discussing the very clear human rights violations in Egypt over the past fourteen months. The criticisms being made over the past year are of course obvious, and the allegations levied at the Military Regime are clear; however, much of these have been anecdotal and with no obvious coherence. The AOHR report however joins together numerous testimonies and verifiable evidence from victims, showing the systematic approach taken by the Military Regime when dealing with any individual or group they deem to have criticized their rule, or seen as a potential threat to their rule.

The AOHR report demonstrates the systematic approach being taken by the Military Regime, and it is here that Egypt mirrors the autocratic and dictatorial rule of his military predecessor Hosni Mubarak. In many ways the level of brutality displayed by the El-Sisi regime overshadows the days of Mubarak and is more akin to that of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, albeit with fewer victims and less international condemnation. It is expected that the number of victims will continue to rise and it is also to be hoped that the level international scrutiny will also increase exponentially.

It is important to stress that the El-Sisi regime is a brutal force stamping out any form of descent. The international community is quite right to welcome reform and a return to democracy. What is quite clear however is that Egypt will not see any return to freedom and democracy under the current regime. Rather than congratulating Sisi on his election victory and enforcing the revolutionary aspirations of the people of Egypt, the EU, UK and USA need to bring an end to the hypocrisy and ensure that democracy is everyone's right, not just for the privileged few.

It is clear that there was dissatisfaction with the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership President Mohamad Morsi, but political change must come from the ballot box and not the barrel of a gun. The Muslim Brotherhood was democratically elected following a free election on the back of the 2011 revolution. They were invited in from the cold, given a seat of power and then thrown back into the wilderness by an aspiring military leader.

Egypt under the El-Sisi Regime has come full circle. The fleeting affair with democracy has been replaced with paranoia and punishment. Every day we see human rights violations committed on the civilian population with increasing regularity. Fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of liberty and security, freedom of assembly and the right to protest, and a free media are but a distant memory. Any dissent is characterized as acts of terrorism and protesters are labelled as members of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood. Spurious allegations are promptly brought and trials adjudicated by judges in dark glasses that amount to a mockery of justice. The right to a fair trial is absolute.

Freedom from torture, the prohibition on arbitrary detention and the right to a fair trial are absolute. Whilst certain human rights can be restricted or limited in times of emergency - these rights cannot. It is regrettable that the El-Sisi has shown a complete lack of respect for any international criminal justice standards.

The self-appointed leader of the Egypt only gains legitimacy through instability in the Middle East, most notably in Palestine, Syria and Iraq.
The position is aggravated further in that the Military Regime does not even respect the Constitution that it drafted and ensured was enacted. The constitution enshrines fundamental principles such as fair trial guarantees, it enshrines the right to liberty and the right to life, so even before we consider whether there has been a breach of international law, the regime does not even adhere to the law it created.

Egypt is far from a democracy. Its fleeting affair was short lived and has become a distant memory. Those international state actors who have shamefully supported the current autocratic government, if one can call it as such after having stolen the revolution, must now reconsider their position and move away from political and economic alliances for the good of the Egyptian people.

As noted above, the Universal Periodic Review is fast approaching and it is hoped that the publication of the AOHR report can generate momentum. Momentum that the international community must now take notice of and thereafter take a stand against Egypt, no matter its purported strategic importance in the region.

Egypt under El-Sisi feeds on regional instability. The self-appointed leader of the Egypt only gains legitimacy through instability in the Middle East, most notably in Palestine, Syria and Iraq.

The seat of power in Cairo is no broker of peace. The international community must wake up to that realization.

The central purpose of the UPR is to examine a country’s human rights performance. It is there to enable issues to be examined, and for States to ask questions and make suggestions of the State under review. It is an inter-state review process aimed at the improvement of the human rights situation in the country under review. It is therefore the ideal time to start the process of accountability and change.

Egypt has an obligation to adhere to international standards, and the international community has an obligation to both reinforce this and hold those who violate such principles to account, the culture of impunity must end.

The UPR process at the UN Human Rights Council has been compared to the Eurovision Song Contest, with friendly States block voting. It is time for the process to establish a certain amount of credibility. Naturally, one is to expect Sisi's autocratic allies such as Russia, China, Syria and North Korea to vote favorably. However, now is the time for those States that preach as to the importance of human rights, democracy and accountability to stand and be counted.

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