Governments should sanction them; international groups should shun them.
(Washington D.C., Thursday, June 10, 2021) – Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) unmasked today the role of 28 Egyptian and Saudi officials responsible for arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearance and due process abuses against peaceful rights activists, political opponents, journalists and scholars.
DAWN will update its online "culprit gallery" regularly and use the information to shame abusive officials and call for governments to impose individual sanctions on them.
"No tyrant can implement tyranny against an entire country on his own," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN. "It's time these enablers of the autocratic Egyptian and Saudi governments pay a reputational price for abusing the people they are supposed to serve."
Thousands of senior government officials in the Middle East and North Africa commit monstrous crimes in their official capacities but manage to evade consequences for their actions. Some of these government officials try to keep their jobs secret, sometimes going to great lengths to hide their identities, even assuming fictitious names in the workplace. Others hide in plain sight, even leaving a paper trail detailing their human rights violations.
Egyptian Prosecutor General Hamada El-Sawy presides over a public prosecution system that systematically rounds up rights activists, journalists, political opponents, and others, often through his subordinate, top Supreme State Security Prosecutor Khaled Diaa el-Din. Diaa el-Din prosecutes so-called security cases such as that of Haithem Mohamedain, a labor and social justice activist whom prosecutors have unlawfully kept in pretrial detention for more than two years for "crimes" such as "spreading false news." Elsawy refuses to investigate credible claims of torture and forced disappearance of political detainees, and his prosecutors routinely abuse Egyptian domestic law to keep activists in seemingly endless pretrial detention.
Other culprits are officials who fail in their duty to investigate and address human rights abuses. Former Saudi Human Rights Commissioner Amal al-Moallimi – now the Saudi ambassador to Norway – failed in her duty to investigate credible claims of torture by women's rights defender Loujain Alhathloul, whom Saudi officials forcibly disappeared, tortured and sexually assaulted. Al-Moallimi is now the Saudi ambassador to Norway, and on international women's day, in March 2021, she sent chocolates to female Norwegian parliamentarians, praising the Saudi government's actions to promote women's rights.
DAWN is asking governments to sanction these officials; institutions to refrain from including them in visits and events, unless the events address their human rights record; and social media users to publicize the abuses these officials perpetrate. DAWN's culprit gallery includes social media information for each official. Countries should also consider imposing individual sanctions on them.
"The United States and other governments should freeze these culprits' assets and ban them from receiving visas, where appropriate," Whitson said. "It's the least that can be done on behalf of the people they have abused."
Photo Credits: Illustratuion by DAWN.