Last updated: 29 June, 2012

Amnesty urges new Egypt leader to champion rights

Amnesty International urged incoming Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi on Friday to break the cycle of abuse under Hosni Mubarak and put the country on the path to the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Since the 2011 uprising that ousted the former president, “Egyptians have heard many promises that their demands would be listened to and that things would change, but so far their hopes have largely been frustrated,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary general.

“We hope, as they do, that this stage of the transition might herald a turning of the corner.”

“It will be important to scrutinise the early months of the new president, and hold him to account for the actions he takes, or does not take, to get to grips with the pressing human rights priorities in Egypt.”

Ahead of Morsi’s swearing-in on Saturday, the London-based organisation said it had presented the former Muslim Brotherhood official with a memorandum of what it considers the key human rights priorities.

These include ending the military’s power to police civilians, reforming the security forces, launching independent investigations into violations of the past — both under Mubarak and the military that replaced him — and putting in place measures to stop discrimination against women and religious minorities.

Amnesty also said urgent measures are needed to end systematic restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

With journalists, bloggers and others who spoke out against repression having been arbitrarily arrested and jailed, the group pointed out that Egyptian human rights organisations have also faced reprisals.

“As recognition of the vital role played by human rights organisations, all impediments to their activities in law and practice should be immediately lifted,” Shetty said.

However, Amnesty warned that the “road to human rights will be made difficult by the army’s attempts to hold on to its powers and to remove itself from civilian oversight.”

He also said the commitment to human rights of the Freedom and Justice Party, which Morsi chaired until he was elected, remains unknown.