Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s term as African Union chair, came to an end. Taking over the duties of the AU is Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Chairmanship is rotated between the five regions of the continent.
Amnesty International expressed some concern with el-Sisi taking over. “During his time in power President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has demonstrated a shocking contempt for human rights. Under his leadership the country has undergone a catastrophic decline in rights and freedoms,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa Campaigns Director.
“There are real fears about the potential impact his chairmanship could have on the independence of regional human rights mechanisms and their future engagement with civil society.”
Since 2015, Egypt has orchestrated a vicious and sustained political attack against the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the mechanism that aims to monitor African states’ human rights records. Dozens of cases alleging serious human rights violations have been lodged against Egypt at the ACHPR.
The Egyptian authorities have carried out mass killings of protestors, widespread enforced disappearances, and sentenced hundreds to death following unfair trials. The authorities have also orchestrated the worst crackdown on freedom of expression in the country’s recent history.
The Egyptian parliament is currently considering a number of proposed constitutional amendments that would expand the scope of military trials, undermine judicial independence and allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to potentially stay on as a president until 2034.
“The African Union member states must ensure that Egypt, as political head of the organization for 2019, upholds the African Union’s values and principles, including respect for human and peoples’ rights”, said Najia Bounaim.
Amnesty International also called on Egypt to ratify key African Union human rights treaties including the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.