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Pattern of abuses continues in Egypt despite leadership changes

The fall of Hosni Mubarak raised hopes for a democratic transition in Egypt, but these hopes have been dashed by successive governments. Human rights abuses increased during the interim rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), persisted under the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi, and have continued since the military-backed government of Adly Mansour took power on July 3.

In the past month, Egypt's democratic institutions have suffered a significant decline, according to Freedom House's Egypt Democracy Compass.

The following timeline of events in Egypt shows repeated incidents in which violence, and often brutal force, was used against antigovernment protesters. In addition, harassment of journalists and opposition activists has been a common feature of all post-Mubarak governments, and impunity has remained the norm for officials responsible for the use of excessive force against Egyptian citizens.

Karen Marcus and Geysha Gonzalez/Freedom House

Click here to view the full version of the timeline.

A more detailed list of human rights violations in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak is available here.

There are three key lessons to be drawn from this sad record of human rights abuses in Egypt:

  1. Governments backed by both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood have shown their disregard for fundamental rights. They cannot be expected to lead Egypt to democracy on their own. The best chance for Egypt to make headway is through an inclusive and transparent political process to revise the constitution and prepare for elections.
  2. Elections and constitutional revisions are necessary but insufficient to bring about positive change. Human rights abuses have persisted in Egypt because the country’s institutions, such as the security establishment, have remained unreformed since the Mubarak era. These institutions must be overhauled.
  3. While the U.S. government has criticized the worst abuses in Egypt, it never let them get in the way of building friendly relations with whichever Egyptian government was in power. It thus failed to persuade either the SCAF or President Morsi to respect the rights of Egyptians. It is far more likely to have a positive effect if it makes U.S. support for the Egyptian government contingent on respect for human rights, institutional reform, and demonstrable progress toward a democratic transition.

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