The German Chancellor Angela Markel visits Cairo amid reports of severe human rights violations by the Egyptian Junta led by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who overthrew President Mohammad Morsi, the first democratically President of Egypt in 2013.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Egypt Thursday where she met with e-Sisi before travelling to Tunisia on Friday to meet with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, to discuss how to reduce the flow of refugees to Europe from North Africa.
Over the last 18 months Germany has taken in over one million migrants but as elections approach Merkel’s government are now under increasing pressure to reduce the number of asylum seekers in the country. Berlin has called on Middle Eastern states to make more effort to repatriate asylum seekers who have been rejected from Germany.
Last year Germany rejected nearly half of the 700,000 asylum requests that were made and deported 80,000 people, with those figures set to rise in 2017.
Rather than focusing on migration and counterterrorism, human rights organizations are urging the Chancellor to raise concerns with el-Sisi about his clampdown on civil society organizations in Egypt, which has escalated dramatically since the end of 2016.
Days before the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit, Mohamed Ahmed, an expert at the Amnesty International, said in a press statement that “Egypt is currently facing a severe human rights crisis that can never be compared to the situation during Mubarak’s rule,” referring to former dictator Hosni Mubarak who was toppled after a popular revolt in 2011.
Amnesty International annual report of 2016/2017 said “The authorities used mass arbitrary arrests to suppress demonstrations and dissent, detaining journalists, human rights defenders and protesters, and restricted the activities of human rights organizations. The National Security Agency (NSA) subjected hundreds of detainees to enforced disappearance; officers of the NSA and other security forces tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees. Security forces used excessive lethal force during regular policing and in incidents that may have amounted to extrajudicial executions.”
Criminal courts continued to conduct mass unfair trials involving dozens – sometimes hundreds – of defendants on charges of participating in protests and political violence following the ousting of Mohamed Morsi as president in July 2013, the Amnesty report said addin: In some trials involving defendants who had been subjected to enforced disappearance, courts accepted “confessions” obtained through torture as evidence.
Interestingly, an Egyptian kangaroo court on Thursday (March 2, 2017) acquitted former Egyptian dictator Air Marshal Hosni Mubarak over his involvement in the killings of hundreds of protesters in 2011. The US-client Air Marshal Hosni Mubarak ruled for more than 30 years. In June 2012 he resigned and handed over power to army. Ironically the same Egyptian Kangaroo courts have sentenced hundreds of opponent to the military regime of General al-Sissi, who assumed the title of Field Marshal after jailing the democratically elected of Egypt Al-Morsi.
In addition to dedicated special courts for terrorism-related trials, military courts unfairly tried hundreds of civilians, including in mass trials, the Amnesty report pointed out adding: In August the authorities extended a law vastly expanding the jurisdiction of military courts to include crimes committed against “public installations” for a further five years. Courts tried more than 200 people on charges of taking part in protests against the government’s decision to cede the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, sentencing many to prison terms of between two to five years and heavy fines. Appeals courts subsequently overturned most prison sentences. More than 490 people, including Irish national Ibrahim Halawa, faced charges of participating in violence during a protest in August 2013, in a mass trial which opened in 2014. The charges against Ibrahim Halawa were considered by Amnesty International to be trumped up. On 18 June, a court sentenced ousted president Mohamed Morsi to 25 years in prison for leading a “banned group” and a further 15 years for stealing classified information. The court sentenced six other men to death in the case, including three journalists in their absence.
The human rights expert Ahmed stressed that the intervention of the international community was the “only way” to influence the Egyptian government to halt their crackdown on human rights. He expressed hope that Merkel’s visit would cover various topics on the abuse and torture that are being carried out against Egyptians in general, and against human rights defenders in particular.
According to human rights organizations, more than 1,400 individuals are currently held in prisons without having been placed on trial.
Ahmed added that Amnesty documented many torture cases where detainees face beatings and ill-treatment upon arrest by the security forces. He further explained that the torture methods also included electric shocks, being forced to adopt stress positions and inadequate access to medical care.
Amnesty International has also urged Merkel to pressure Al-Sisi to revoke the restrictions imposed on human rights activists.
Rene Wildangel, an expert on Egyptian affairs, was quoted by the Middle East Eye as saying: “Civil society, media and the political opposition are suffering increasingly under state repression, which often takes place under the pretext of the so-called fight against terrorism.”
Meanwhile, a priest in Germany has criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel for her “passive” position on the human rights situation in Egypt.
Joachim Schroedel, a German priest who has worked in Egypt for over 20 years, expressed his anger towards Merkel’s assertion that Egyptian Copts’ situation is “very good” in Egypt and her description of Egypt as a stabilizing force in the region.
Christians in Egypt have been subject to a series of attacks by extremists, the most recent of which was the bombing of Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December that killed 28 people.
Schroedel told widely circulated Bild newspaper: “What does the chancellor want to accomplish with such genuflection?”
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor, the Journal of America (www.journalof America.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com