Are Egyptian Human Rights About To Reach Their Darkest Hour In 35 Years?

Zachary Volkert

Since the Arab Spring first began to gain traction in Egypt in January 2011, the country has attracted the close watch of foreign human rights activists. Its offerings to a more progressive approach to the modern relationship between government and its people have left much to be desired.

According to Egypt's human rights activists, that trajectory is about to hit a 35-year low. A new law that will more liberally allow life sentences if they "harm the national interest," "compromise national unity," or "breach security or public peace." They fear that military-backed president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, will use to the new power to even further restrict free speech, human rights lawyer Ragia Omran told the New York Times.

"Everyone in civil society is panicking."

Minister of social solidarity Ghada Waly, however, has assured citizens that the law is in place only to combat problems of terrorism facing the country. It is not a battle, she notes, that the United States is immune to criticism in either.

"What seems to be general to the general public is not general to a court of law... Every country has its laws and its procedures. For instance, in the U.S., you cannot smoke in a hospital. Is this personal freedom? Is this a human right or not? This is a rule and you have to respect it."

Earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a little bit of insight into how concerned the United States is about human rights in Egypt. In a visit to the country in September earlier this year, Kerry was questioned by Reuters reporter Jason Szep about the U.S. government's response to the detention of several Al Jazeera journalists, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.

"You keep raising human rights issues and Egypt's leaders keep disregarding you, most notably when three Al Jazeera journalists were jailed a day after you called for their release. Isn't it clear the Egyptians are disregarding your concerns because they understand you want their cooperation in counterterrorism?"

John countered the sharp question by reaffirming that human rights, in Egypt or elsewhere in the Middle East, are always a priority for U.S. foreign policy.

"Look, let me be clear. The United States doesn't ever trade its concern for human rights for any other objective. It is always a concern. It's an honest concern. And we had a frank discussion today about the concerns that have been expressed..."

Do you think human rights are sliding in Egypt?

[Image via Flickr]