There's untold oppression and violation of basic rights and freedoms in Egypt despite President Hosni Mubarak's call for reforms. This assertion is confirmed by news of the arrest and detention of Amnesty International's staff member (UPDATE. 04/02/2011: Two staff members) in Cairo this morning by the notorious Egyptian police.
According to a first-hand account from Amnesty International workers on the ground in Egypt, the arrest took place at the office of Hisham Mubarak Law Centre (HMLC), a local human rights organization. Police raided the office in a building which is also home to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights and rounded up human rights activists.
An email from Amnesty International USA this evening titled: "BREAKING: Amnesty delegate detained in Egypt!" reveals that a delegate from Human Rights Watch - another prominent international human rights organization - was also arrested during the raid. Worst of all, the email states that "we do not know their current whereabouts."
This is frightening because President Mubarak's security agents are famous for torture and brutality which sometimes results to serious bodily harm or death. This should not happen to the human rights observers in question.
It is worth recalling that in June 2010, 28-year-old Khaled Mohammed Said was brutalized to death by police in Alexandria. Five months later, another young Egyptian - 19-year-old Ahmed Shaaban - disappeared in police custody and allegedly met his end in the hands of President Mubarak's "no-nonsense" security agents.
News of the arrest of human rights observers in Egypt is therefore disturbing, and of course a blow to human rights and the rule of law.
Human rights observers should be allowed to monitor the situation on the ground without government interference. If the government cracks down on international human rights observers, it is hard to imagine what is in store for the voiceless citizens with no international backing.
Amnesty International urges supporters to TAKE ACTION to secure the release of it's staff and other human rights workers. Please heed the call to take action, here.
Amnesty International is a organization campaigning to end human rights violations around the world.
UPDATE. 05/02/2011: The arrested activists have been freed. Thanks to all who took action.
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