28 April 2016

Egypt: hundreds of peaceful demonstrators arrested and detained in renewed wave of repression

Men are holding placards reading "Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian"Credit photo: Daily News Egypt The transfer of two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia has been the subject of considerable criticism in Egypt. On 15 April 2015, few days after the announcement of this deal between the two countries, Egyptians peacefully gathered to protest against it. Although people initially took to the streets to express their discontent over the planned handover, many slogans were directed against the increasingly authoritarian drift of the regime and the state security apparatus. Similar peaceful protests were held on 25 April 2016 across the country.

These demonstrations were met with excessive and unnecessary force used by security forces and the police. It was indeed reported that despite the peacefulness of the protests, the police resorted to teargas and rubber bullets against demonstrators. It should be recalled that according to the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, the use of force against a person can only be resorted to "in self-defence or in the defence of others".

Additionally, on 15 April, 141 individuals, including bystanders, were arrested, among whom 25 are still in custody to date. The crackdown continued on 25 April when at least 423 people, including 47 domestic and foreign journalists, were arrested. Although 38 journalists have been subsequently released, most people arrested on that day are still currently detained.

They are being accused of “illegal gathering and illegal demonstration” under restrictive law n°107 of 2013 for “organizing the right to peaceful public meetings, processions and protests”, which allows the Ministry of interior to ban, forcefully disperse protests and arrest participants on vague grounds such as “impeding citizens’ interests”. In a communication addressed to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly (SRFPAA) Alkarama expressed deep concerns over the adoption of the bill in November 2013 for placing unduly restrictions on the right to demonstrate and protest peacefully in Egypt.

In practice, the present “protest law” has led to grave abuses perpetrated by the Egyptian authorities. In fact, it has been used to arrest tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators in the past years; the majority of whom are still imprisoned to date. Many of them were sentenced to death following unfair mass trials that were criticised by the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, as well as by the rest of the international community.

The large-scale arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Egypt is a concerning development, particularly when taking into account recent events in the country. The current authorities have shown that they do not hesitate to have recourse to lethal means of repressing peaceful demonstrations and we are afraid that in the current situation, such dramatic events could occur again”, said Rachid Mesli, Alkarama Legal Director.

It is the first time indeed that Egyptians have taken massively to the streets since the events of August 2013, which have led to the death of thousands of protestors on Raba’a Al Adawiya and El Nahda Squares in what was characterised as a crime against humanity. Hence, Alkarama is deeply concerned about the ongoing repression targeting peaceful critics of the government and journalists. It invites the Egyptian authorities to release all individuals who have been arrested for participating in peaceful demonstrations and calls upon the international community to take action regarding the continuous deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt.

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Dir: +41 22 734 1008).

Egypt - HR Instruments

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

ICCPR: Ratified on 14.01.1982
Optional Protocol: No

State report: Overdue since 01.11.2004 (4th)
Last concluding observations: 28.11.2002

Convention against Torture (CAT)

CAT: Accessed on 25.06.1986
Optional Protocol: No
Art. 20 (Confidential inquiry): Yes
Art. 22 (Individual communications): No

State report: Due on 25.06.2016 (initially due in 2004)
Last concluding observations: 23.12.2002

International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)


Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Last review: 02.2010 (1st cycle)
Next review: 2014 (2nd cycle)

National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)

National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) – Status A

Last review: 10.2006
Next review: Deferred