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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

EGYPT: Human rights fears raised after Sharm el-Sheikh blast

CAIRO, 25 July 2005 (IRIN) - Leading human rights organisations in Egypt have denounced Saturday’s terrorist attacks on the Sinai holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, also known as the ‘City of Peace’, and called on the government to avoid any excessive security crackdown.

Eight human rights groups, including the al-Nadim Centre, the Egyptian Association for the Elimination of Torture and the Arab Human Rights Information Network, issued a joint statement condemning the attacks.

"Egyptian human rights organisations confirm that terrorism will only lead to more violence and terrorism," the statement read. "These groups will not be successful in imposing their radical approaches on Egyptian society.”

"We severely condemn these criminal terrorist attacks and we cannot find any justification for the targeting of innocent civilians," Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Human Rights Information Network said.

"All terrorist attacks that target innocent civilians are criminal acts,” said Magdy Abdel Hamid, director of the Association for Social Partnership, another group that tries to engage the Egyptian public on human rights issues. “This is regardless of the justifications used by terror groups."

However, human rights activists expressed concern that these attacks could lead to more violations of human rights, amid Arab media reports that Egyptian security forces had arrested close to 100 people since the bombing.

According to Abdel Hamid, such terrorist attacks usually result in increased state oppression and more violations of political freedoms.

"This is a major concern for most human rights activists, especially now since Egypt is currently going through a period of active political movements demanding change and reform," he said.

Three bombs went off in various parts of Sharm el-Sheikh, the world-famous resort on the Sinai Peninsula, early on Saturday morning. At least 64 people died, with 200 others injured, according to the Ministry of Health. Sources at the local hospitals put the death toll closer to 90.

The first blast took place in the old market, according to the authorities. It was followed by two more targeting a parking area and a hotel in the popular holiday resort of Naama Bay, frequented by international tourists.

Tourism is a vital sector of the Egyptian economy, bringing in about US$6 billion a year. Some 8.1 million tourists visited Egypt in 2004, and figures for the first six months of 2005 were already 15 percent up on the same period last year.

But hotel owners in the city say they are already seeing lost business since the weekend blast. In the Kharamana hotel, 200 metres from the bomb site, management reported occupancy to be down by 60 percent.

In addition to condemning the attacks outright, human rights activists called on the government not to violate human rights in addressing such incidents.

"The Ministry of Interior should avoid any random arrests similar to what happened following the Taba attacks last year," Eid said, adding that dozens of citizens had been arrested in Sinai following the bombings.

"In order to fight this phenomenon we should start an intellectual struggle against radical fundamentalist thoughts, so that they do not influence the minds of our youth," said Abdel Hamid.

Fearing that these attacks would give justification to the continuation of the state of emergency in Egypt, which has continued since 1981, Gamal Eid insisted that the emergency laws did not prevent terrorism.

"Freedom, democracy and respect of human rights are the way to limit terrorism," he said.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Human Rights

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This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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