The President Must Take Urgent Steps to Prevent Egypt from Sliding into Civil War

Joint Statement

6 Dec 2012

The undersigned Egyptian human rights organizations express their grave concern regarding the recent developments that are rapidly pushing Egypt toward the brink of civil war, the first signs of which were seen in the street battles and exchanges of violence which occurred yesterday in the area surrounding the presidential palace in Cairo and in a number of other governorates.  These developments took place when the Muslim Brotherhood incited its supporters to attack the demonstrators who were conducting a peaceful sit-in in front of the presidential palace to express their rejection of the constitutional declaration issued on November 22, 2012 and the presidential decree calling for a referendum on the draft of the new constitution to be held in mid-December.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its leaders began calling on supporters to confront the opposition in front of the presidential palace before the abovementioned events by at least a full day.  Therefore, it was expected that the Egyptian president and the relevant security authorities would undertake the necessary measures to prevent the crisis that occurred yesterday and to protect Egyptian lives and property.  However, the president and the security authorities kept total silence.  The state’s institutions and officials were completely absent, thus allowing space for the use of violence as a means of political retaliation.

The events of yesterday demand a serious investigation into the circumstances and causes behind what happened.  The primary responsibility of the investigating bodies should be orienting senior state officials to weed out the motives behind leaving matters until they deteriorated, which is what led to the occurrence of the tragedy.  However, the limiting of investigations by the investigating bodies to only a few of those who were detained during the events entrenches a policy of impunity and blatantly fails to acknowledge the gravity of the crisis, which was premeditated for in advance openly and publicly.

There were both a political and legal responsibility during these events to protect citizens’ lives and property, and senior government officials are those who bear this primary responsibility.  The investigating bodies must also identify the sources of the firearms which were used yesterday as well as how these weapons were used within sight and sound of the security forces which were present in the area surrounding the presidential palace.

The undersigned organizations assert that the precursors of possible civil war currently witnessed by the country are the logical outcomes of decisions and policies that have completely disregarded channels of dialogue with Egyptian society.  As a result, the door was left open to the use of violence to resolve political matters regarding the progress of the country, as the political means to do so through dialogue and negotiation were not available, particularly when it came to the process of drafting a constitution representing the views of different segments of society in a balanced way, rather than representing one dominant group or specific political faction.

The undersigned organizations affirm that the president must immediately shoulder his responsibility to preclude the risks that threaten to provoke civil strife in Egypt by taking immediate measures to create an environment of national dialogue in order to move the country safely through this critical juncture.  These measures must include:

1. The opening of investigations regarding the political and legal responsibility for the tragic events which occurred yesterday in the area surrounding the presidential palace;
2. The repeal of the constitutional declaration issued by the president on 22 November, 2012;
3. The immediate end to all measures related to the referendum on the draft of the new constitution, including the voting by Egyptians residing abroad, which is scheduled to begin on 8 December, 2012;
4. The formation of a new constituent assembly to draft a constitution, ensuring an equitable balance of all segments of society, and including strong representation of experts of constitutional law and human rights.

1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
2. Arab Program for Human Rights Activists
3. Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
4. Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners
5. Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services
6. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
7. New Woman Foundation
8. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
9. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
10. Human Rights Legal Aid Group
11. Land Center for Human Rights
12. Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights
13. Andalus institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
14. Habi Center for Environmental Rights
15. Hisham Mubarak Law Center
16. Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development
17. Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination
18. Arab Penal Reform Organization
19. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
20. Nazra for Feminist Studies
21. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights