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Egyptian human rights group wins Norway rights prize

Executive Director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms and Amal Fathi’s husband Mohamed Lotfy looking at his computer during an interview in Cairo. – AFP

OSLO: Norway’s Rafto Prize for human rights was yesterday awarded to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) for their “persistence in bravely resisting Egypt’s state of fear,” the Rafto Foundation announced. Founded by two activists, Mohamed Lotfi and Ahmed Abdallah, after the country’s 2013 military coup, the ECRF documents, reports and raises awareness about human rights violations, with the help of more than 50 researchers and lawyers and 1,000 volunteers.

Working in “extremely harsh conditions”, ECRF uses “the parts of Egypt’s judiciary, which are still functioning, to defend human rights for political prisoners, prosecuted human rights activists and protestors and victims of disappearances and torture,” the Rafto Foundation said. “In this state of fear, the work of ECRF stands out as a beacon of hope for human rights,” it added.

While the Arab Spring had raised hopes for an improvement in 2011, human rights organizations say the situation in Egypt has deteriorated since the army took power in 2013 and general Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi became president the following year. In its country report, Amnesty International noted “a range of repressive measures against protesters and perceived dissidents, including enforced disappearance, mass arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, excessive use of force and severe probation measures, particularly after protests against the president on September 20” 2019.

“Almost 10 years since the Arab Spring, it is more pressing than ever to focus on the alarming state of basic human rights in the Middle East,” the Rafto Foundation said. The Rafto Prize, which comes with a cheque for $20,000 (17,000 euros), will be formally presented in the western town of Bergen on November 8, coronavirus restrictions permitting.

Among previous winners of the Rafto Prize, named after Norwegian historian and human rights activist Thorolf Rafto, are four who have gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, also awarded in Norway: Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-Jung and Shirin Ebadi. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on October 9 in Oslo. -AFP

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