Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Crackdown time?

Is the Mubarak government starting another campaign of massive detention of political opponents? Six leading human rights organizations in Egypt believe so. The six -- the Egyptian Association against Torture Arab Organization for Criminal Reform, Nadim Center for rehabilitation of victims of violence, Arab network for human rights information, Human Rights Association for Assistance of Prisoners, Hisham Mubarak Law Center Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression and the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid -- issued a statement today asking "Do Egyptian prisons have enough place for 70 million Egyptians?"

The statement notes that the heaviest burden is falling on the Muslim Brothers, but that the campaign isn't limited to Islamists. "If today's detentions involve the brotherhood more than anybody else, we should not forget that yesterday's detentions involved others who supported the judges' movement for the independence of the judiciary, and those who struggle for democracy and against rigged elections and the constitutional changes which ensure the maintenance of the state of emergency and torture. ...

"And away from the circles of politics, the Egyptian ministry of Interior used its detention plicy against street children, after the disclosure of the what has come to be known as the "turbine gang" and instead of the Egyptian government bearing its responsibility towards those children who are victims of the existing social and economic conditions, instead of dealing with them as children in danger, the Ministry of Interior chose to treat them as potential causes of danger and organized a campaign to arrest them from the streets and allies to put them in police stations under the mercy of police officers and their assistants.

"Also less than a week ago, Miss Howeida Taha, correspondent of the Qatar-based El Jazeera satellite channel spent two days at the state security prosecution where she was interrogated regarding her coverage of torture stories and citizens' complaints of the bad treatment they receive in police stations. The assistant to the Minister of Interior does not stop threatening Egyptian bloggers concerning what they publish on the net concerning torture crimes.. and the threat of imprisonment continues to follow Egyptian journalists who cross 'the red lines'. Only recently, during the strike of railway drivers, the photographer of El Masry El Yom daily newspaper was threatened by detention because he was doing his job."

Others are taking note. I refer everyone to this week's Economist, which notes the rising dissatisfaction with the slow pace of political and human rights reform. The article is by subscription only, but you can get a snippet here.

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