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Political Developments - 2015

According to its constitution, Egypt is a republic governed by an elected president and a unicameral legislature. Domestic and international observers concluded the presidential election that took place in May 2014 was administered professionally and in line with the country’s laws, while also expressing serious concerns that government limitations on association, assembly, and expression constrained broad political participation. The constitution granted the president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, legislative authority until the election of the new parliament.

Parliamentary elections occurred in several rounds from 17 October through 02 December 2015, and the new parliament was scheduled to hold its first session on January 10, 2016. Domestic and international observers concluded that government authorities administered the parliamentary elections professionally and in accordance with the country’s laws. Observers expressed concern about restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression and their negative effect on the political climate surrounding the elections. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The 2015 parliamentary elections consolidated the position of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who assumed office in June 2014. They were the first to be held since the July 2013 uprising that ousted the previous President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The country had been without a functioning parliament since June 2012.

"In Love of Egypt" (Fi Hob Misr), a 10-party coalition formed in February 2015 in response to President Al-Sisi's call for a unified front in parliament, won all 120 seats under the proportional representation system. The parties in the In Love of Egypt coalition also took around 60 of the 448 seats filled under the majority system. In addition, over 70 independent candidates are allied with the coalition. With over 250 seats, the In the In Love of Egypt coalition became the largest force in the new unicameral 596-member House of Representatives, which also includes 28 presidential appointees.

Only three parties outside the In Love of Egypt coalition took more than ten seats. The Republican People's Party, led by Mr. Hizb al Shab al Gomhory, includes former ministers and members of the National Democratic Party (NDP) from the time of the former President Hosni Mubarak. El Nour, a Salafist party led by Mr. Younis Makhyoun, joined Mr. Al-Sisi and other forces in removing former President Morsi from office in July 2013. The third party to win seats outside the In Love of Egypt coalition was the Guards of the Homeland party (Homat Al Watan).

Both phases of the elections saw low voter turnout: 28.27% in the first phase and 29.83% in the second phase. During the election campaign, many candidates focused on economic development, the minimum wage, medical care and education. In all, 75 women were elected, a record in Egypt. On 31 December, President Sisi appointed 28 parliamentarians, including 14 women, bringing the total number of women in the House of Representatives to 89. The House also comprises 173 members below 45 years old, including 16 young people (those between 25 and 35 years old). The convening of the newly elected House of Representatives on 10 January 2016 marked the end of the transitional roadmap started in 2013.

The most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties. Excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture. Due process problems included the excessive use of preventative custody and pretrial detention, the use of military courts to try civilians, and trials involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis. Civil liberties problems included societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and the press, as well as on the freedoms of assembly and association.

Other human rights problems included disappearances; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; a judiciary that in some cases appeared to arrive at outcomes not supported by publicly available evidence or that appeared to reflect political motivations; reports of political prisoners and detainees; restrictions on academic freedom; impunity for security forces; harassment of some civil society organizations; limits on religious freedom; official corruption; and limits on civil society organizations.

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings while making arrests, dispersing demonstrators, or holding persons in custody. There were also reports of civilians killed during military operations in the Sinai. Impunity was a problem.

The government used force, and at times used excessive force, to disperse both peaceful and nonpeaceful demonstrations. According to local media reports, on January 23, security forces shot and killed 17-year-old Sondos Reda Abu Bakr during clashes with Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-affiliated protesters in Alexandria. According to the Ministry of Health, fighting between police and protesters killed 23 persons, including 17 protesters, three “militants,” and three police officers during the fourth anniversary of the January 25 revolution There were instances of persons tortured to death and other allegations of killings in prisons and detention centers. The El Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence reported 37 deaths due to torture during the year. The government charged, prosecuted, and convicted perpetrators in some cases.

There were also reports of suspected terrorists and other suspected criminals killed during security raids conducted by police. In each instance the Ministry of Interior claimed the suspects had been killed after opening fire on police officers. Rights groups claimed these shootings might have amounted to extrajudicial killings. In some of these cases, media reported that family members said there was evidence that police detained and tortured the suspects before killing them.

Citizens expressed their views on a wide range of political and social topics. The government investigated and prosecuted critics for alleged incitement of violence, insults to religion, or insults to public figures and institutions, such as the judiciary and the military. Individuals also faced societal and official harassment for speech viewed as sympathetic to the MB, such as using a hand gesture showing four fingers, a reference to the 2013 security operation to disperse the sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

According to press reports and local and international human rights groups, state and nonstate actors arrested and imprisoned, harassed, and intimidated journalists. A local media observation group reported 18 incidents against journalists covering parliamentary run-off elections on October 27-28. The violations included prohibiting journalists from covering the polling process, arrests, damaging journalists’ equipment, and verbal assault.

The government did not generally restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, albeit with some exceptions. The government attempted to disrupt the communications of terrorist groups operating in northern Sinai by cutting telecommunication networks: mobile services, internet, and sometimes landlines. Cuts continued on an average from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Networks were again fully accessible at approximately 8 p.m. and sometimes later. This tactic disrupted operations of government facilities and banks.

Thousands of persons remained imprisoned who were arrested during 2013 and 2014 due to their participation in demonstrations (some of which were peaceful). Authorities held such individuals under charges of attending an unauthorized protest, incitement to violence, or “blocking roads.” Human rights groups claimed authorities inflated or used these charges solely to target individuals suspected of being members of groups in opposition to the government or those who sought to exercise the rights to free assembly or association. According to a local rights group, authorities arrested 761 students and expelled 281 students during the 2014-15 academic year.

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, although verifiable estimates were not available. The government claimed there were no political prisoners and all persons in detention had been or were in the process of being, charged with a crime. Human rights groups and international observers maintained the government detained or imprisoned as many as several thousand persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs or opposition to the government. A local rights group considered any persons arrested under the 2013 demonstrations law to be political prisoners. In their view these persons were political prisoners or detainees because authorities held them based on laws that restricted the exercise of a human right, because charges were false or inflated motivated by the individual’s political opinion or membership in a particular group, or because some individuals faced unduly harsh and disproportionate treatment due to their political opinions or membership in particular groups.

Security forces killed civilians during operations in other parts of the country. On September 13, air force units mistakenly attacked a tourist convoy near the Bahariya oasis in the western desert while in pursuit of an armed militant group. The attack resulted in the death of 12 persons, including eight Mexican citizens.

Terrorist groups, including Da'esh Sinai Province (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis) and Ajnad Misr, among others, conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets throughout the country, including schools, places of worship, and public transportation. On June 29, terrorists killed the prosecutor general, Hisham Barakat, with a car bomb that targeted his motorcade in Cairo. According to local media, the attack also injured nine persons, including two drivers and five members of the security forces. On July 11, an improvised explosive device exploded in front of the Italian Consulate in Cairo, resulting in the death of one civilian and the injury of eight civilians. Da'esh Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack.

On October 31, Metrojet flight 9268 crashed in the Sinai after departing from Sharm el Sheikh airport killing all 224 individuals on board. Wilayat Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack; official investigations to determine the cause of the crash continued at year’s end.

There was no published official data on the number of victims of terrorist violence during the year. According to local media reports, during the year terrorists killed hundreds of civilians throughout the country. In Sinai alone, militant violence killed at least 260 civilians and 190 security-force members (police and military) violence in the region, according to publicly available information.

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