[JURIST] The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein [official profile] said Monday that Egypt’s recent security measures have been encouraging the very radicalization they were trying to control. In a press conference [Reuters report] in Geneva, al-Hussein criticized the increased security measures Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi [BBC profile] has instituted since the bombings of Christian churches last month. While condemning the attacks, al-Hussien said that al-Sisi’s declaration of a three-month state of emergency was only going to increase radicalization. Al-Hussein said that the state of emergency was leading to “massive numbers of detentions, reports of torture, and continued arbitrary arrests” which will “facilitat[e] radicalization in prisons.” Al-Hussein continued that “the crackdown on civil society through travel bans, freezing orders, [and] anti-protest laws” is not “the way to fight terror.” Al-Hussein finished by saying that “national security … must be a priority for every country, [but not] at the expense of human rights.”
The Parliament of Egypt in April gave its unanimous approval [press release] to a three-month state of emergency in response to two deadly Christian church bombings in the Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria. The Islamic State (IS) [BBC backgrounder] took credit for the bombings. The threat to Christians in the Middle East has heightened in past years as radical extremists have increasingly targeted attacks this religious group. In February 2016, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned [JURIST report] the beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya by IS, characterizing the acts as “vile crime[s] targeting people on the basis of their religion.” The Egyptian Christians were abducted in two separate incidents, and a released video showed members of IS beheading the captives on a beach. Islamist extremists are believed to be behind attacks [CNN report] such as the burning of churches and property owned by Christians, along with the displacement of Christian citizens. Coptic Christians comprise roughly 10 percent of the country’s 85 million people. These citizens have become a scapegoat for the ousting of Egyptian ex-president Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile], and recent attacks are widely seen as retaliation from Morsi supporters, the Muslim Brotherhood [BBC profile].
Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.