Human Rights Watch: Hundreds Still Held Over Gaza Protests

A statement from Human Rights Watch: Egyptian authorities should immediately charge or free Diaa Eddin Gad, a blogger held since February 6, 2009, Human Rights Watch said today. Gad is among a number of bloggers and activists arrested in relation to protest in Egypt since the beginning of the Gaza offensive in late December 2008. Apparently it’s not enough for the Egyptian government to imprison its own critics,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It is now intent on silencing Egyptians who criticize Israel as well…

The Egyptian authorities have had little tolerance for any form of criticism over its stance on Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The government also has been under a great deal of international pressure to control the smuggling trade through the tunnels at Rafah. It has cooperated with Israel’s 20-month-long closure of Gaza by keeping its Rafah crossing closed for most of that time.

With the disproportionate powers granted to them under an emergency law, the SSI have arrested a number of bloggers and activists who have been critical of the war in Gaza and the closing of the Egyptian  border with Gaza, among other things.

The Muslim Brotherhood, technically a banned organization, organized the largest of the street demonstrations, especially those outside of Cairo, in Alexandria and Tanta. Muslim Brotherhood representatives told Human Rights Watch that 711 of their members arrested since the start of the Gaza conflict remain imprisoned.

Public protests are illegal under the Egyptian emergency law. But a blanket ban on demonstrations is incompatible with Egypt’s obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

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