Investigate Criminal Violence; Detain Only Based on law
(New York) – Egypt’s military-installed government should end its arbitrary acts against the Muslim Brotherhood and the news media, Human Rights Watch said today. Since Defense Minister General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi announced the removal of President Mohamed Morsy from power on the night of July 3, the authorities have detained Muslim Brotherhood leaders, apparently solely on the basis of their membership in the group, sealed off Brotherhood buildings, and closed down its TV station and other stations sympathetic to the organization.
The military has also arrested the deposed president himself and at least ten members of his team and kept them in incommunicado detention for four days, unable to speak with their families or lawyer. The military has not confirmed where they are currently held, nor formally charged them with any recognizable offenses or brought them before a judge. The military should release the former president and his aides unless prosecutors have evidence that they committed a cognizable crime under Egyptian law, Human Rights Watch said. Any such charges should not contradict the internationally recognized rights to free expression and peaceful association.
“Both General al-Sisi and interim President Adli Mansour promised that the political transition process would be inclusive , but these violations of basic political rights will mean the Muslim Brotherhood and others will be shut out of political life,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Without strict respect for the rule of law and basic rights from the start there will be no political freedom.”
Security officials have so far arrested at least six other members of the ousted ruling Freedom and Justice Party, and prosecutors have ordered their detention on charges of incitement to violence and others with insulting the judiciary. Prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for hundreds of other members of the group.
The Egyptian authorities should immediately announce that they – and all state officials, including members of the army and security forces – will be bound by the existing law, and respect basic rights of all Egyptians, Human Rights Watch said.
Just moments after al-Sisi’s July 3, 2013 speech announcing the army’s ouster of Mohamed Morsy as president of Egypt, security agencies halted the broadcast of five TV stations and arrested the journalists on site. The journalists were released over the next two days but the stations remain shuttered.
In a July 6 interview with the state Middle East News Agency, Social Affairs Minister Nagwa Khalil said that with the constitution suspended her ministry had the authority to order the closure of nongovernmental groups. She said she had instructed her ministry to study dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood, which is registered under Law 84 as a nongovernmental organization, on the grounds that it has a “militia wing.” On July 7, the Freedom and Justice Party issued a news release stating that security forces had sealed off its offices in downtown Cairo without a court order. The action was a blatant violation of freedom of association, Human Rights Watch said.
Prosecutors have told Egyptian media that they are investigating members of the Muslim Brotherhood for their role in the deaths of anti-Morsy protesters in clashes outside the Brotherhood party headquarters in Moqattam on June 30, the clashes near Cairo University on July 2, the clashes outside Ettihadiya in December 2012, as well as the January 2011 prison breaks in which Morsy and other Brotherhood leaders fled detention.
Egypt is in desperate need of justice for past crimes but investigations should be independent of any political interference or the appearance of partiality, Human Rights Watch said. Anyone who has committed serious crimes, whether police, military, or Brotherhood should be held accountable.
With Egypt’s constitution suspended, there is a vacuum when it comes to the protection of fundamental rights. But Egypt is not under a state of emergency, and has not derogated from any of its international obligations. As a result, authorities are bound to respect fully the right to freedom of association and speech, and due process rights that protect against arbitrary arrest, Human Rights Watch said. Authorities should not act as if they have been given new powers to interfere with basic rights.
The Egyptian daily Al Shorouk reported that Mansour will issue a new constitutional declaration in the coming days. It is vitally important for this declaration to bind the government and all state officials to respect completely all rights that apply in Egypt, Human Rights Watch said.
“After a year of protracted struggle between the judiciary and the Muslim Brotherhood, the last thing Egypt needs is the appearance of arbitrary and partisan arrests and prosecutions,” Stork said. “Prosecutors should be doubly careful to avoid that perception, be transparent about the evidence they have to issue arrest warrants, and ensure that due process rights are respected.”
Arrests and Criminal Investigations of Brotherhood Leaders
The military is detaining at least 10 members of Morsy’s presidential team at the presidential guard quarters in Cairo, relatives and friends told Human Rights Watch. The military has not made public the legal basis for their detention, nor whether they have been charged with anything. A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Gehad al-Haddad, who has not been detained, tweeted on July 4 that President Morsy had been separated from the rest of his team and was being held at the Defense Ministry. Those being detained include Essam al-Haddad, who had been an assistant to the president; Khaled al-Qazzaz, who had been secretary for international affairs; Ayman Ali; Ahmed Abdelaty and at least six others.
On July 4, Al Ahram reported that the Office of the Public Prosecutor had issued arrest warrants for 300 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. To Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, police have thus far arrested six leaders of the group and prosecutors have ordered their pretrial detention and interrogated them on charges of inciting violence. Assistant Prosecutor Adel al Said told the Egyptian daily Al Tahrir that the public prosecutor had placed 35 Muslim Brotherhood leaders on a travel ban list on charges of inciting violence. He was reported to have said that those on the list included Morsy; the deputy Brotherhood guide Khairat al Shatir; Mahmoud Ghozlan, and former members of parliament Essam el Erian, Sobhi Daleh, and Saad al- Hosseini, among others.
On July 5, the military spokesman issued a statement claiming that, “The armed forces have not arrested or detained any individual in Egypt for political reasons” and calling on Egyptians to “exercise caution when spreading information about the military since this can be sold internationally” and “exploited for political reasons to tarnish the situation of freedoms in Egypt.”