An Egyptian Court has sentenced a policeman to a life term for the fatal shooting of a tea vendor in April of this year.
The unnamed policeman was found guilty on Wednesday of having shot three people over an argument about the price of a cup of tea, the vendor fatally. The verdict has surprised rights groups who have grown used to a system that typically allows security agents to act with impunity. “The vast majority of incidents in which security force have used excessive force have gone without investigation,” Nicholas Pichaud, an Egypt researcher at Amnesty International told the New York Times.
The shooting sparked widespread riots throughout the city, with crowds denouncing the security services and the Ministry of the Interior for their extensive use of violence.
According to Human Rights Watch, (HRW) individual rights in Egypt remain in “crisis”. According to the group, “Authorities have effectively banned protests, imprisoned tens of thousands—often after unfair trials—and outlawed the country’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood…. National Security officers commit torture and enforced disappearances, and many detainees have died in custody from mistreatment.”
While severe economic difficulties have forced the government of Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to loosen its economic grip in a bid to secure a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, there is little sign that the government is also relaxing its grip on civil and political society.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the Egyptian Parliament had given the green light to a bill determining how nongovernmental organisations operate within Egypt that could effectively outlaw their work. Quoting the executive director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, Sarah Leah Whitson the paper reported that should the bill receive final approval it could mark, “the legal death of independent civil society and human rights groups in Egypt.” Moreover, the new law, “should dispel any illusion that Egypt’s government intends to allow the kind of open society that international allies and donors seem to expect.”