The human rights landscape in Egypt has suffered tremendously since the 2013 coup. Today, Egyptians face serious restrictions on citizens’ political and social rights. The U.S. State Department’s 2017 Human Rights Report details a consistently troubling series of systematic human rights abuses throughout Egypt. These abuses pervade every facet of the state, from the prison system, to the judiciary, to codes regulating civil liberties. There are significant restrictions on the exercise of civil liberties and person freedoms, including but not limited to restrictions on freedom of speech, association, and assembly. The NGO Freedom House evaluates the press and Internet as “not free” in Egypt. Media outlets that do not support Sisi and the military are shuttered, and self-censorship has increased as a response to this reality.
In Egypt, the use of arbitrary detention, political imprisonment, and forced disappearances are a fundamental tool by which the state cracks down on domestic dissent. Arbitrary detention is one of the most pervasive gross violations of human rights in Egypt under the Sisi government. Activists claim that as many as 60,000 political prisoners may be jailed. Egyptian citizens and foreigners alike are detained for a broad range of allegations and alleged offenses. Several dozen journalists are in Egyptian jails, as well as a host of others who have been detained for political speech or political gatherings, or simply their relations to certain people.
Many human rights violations occur in Egyptian prisons. Detainees and rights groups report cramped, filthy prison conditions; little or no access to clean water, medications, or food; the systemic use of physical and psychological torture by security forces; the denial of family visits and access to legal counsel; and the pervasiveness of indefinite detention without charge. Egyptian security forces act with virtual impunity, despite repeated accusations of the use of excessive force in the execution of their duties. And there have been reports of multiple cases of detainees being tortured to death in state prisons.
A politicized judiciary helps facilitate these illegal practices. There is extensive reporting on the lack of due process surrounding the judiciary and prison systems and the unwillingness or inability of the judiciary to enforce laws guaranteeing due process. Warrantless arrests, the excessive use of pretrial detention, and the trials of civilians by military tribunals have all been identified as areas of concern by the international community. There are also indications that the judiciary operates outside of the rule of law, coming to conclusions that display the influence of political incentives.