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EGYPT: USCIRF Condemns Terrorist Attack at Coptic Cathedral; Urges Protection for Community and End to Impunity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2016
 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the brutal attack at Cairo’s main Coptic Orthodox Cathedral.  Twenty-four worshippers were killed and 49 wounded: many of those murdered were women and children. USCIRF sends condolences to the family and friends of the victims and wishes those wounded a speedy recovery. 

“USCIRF calls on the Egyptian government to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous act, and immediately provide increased protection to members of the Coptic community, especially given the upcoming Coptic Christmas holiday,” said USCIRF Chair Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J.  “The Egyptian government must respond to this attack against the Coptic community, the deadliest in recent memory, differently than it has in the past, where, in too many instances, there has been inadequate accountability fostering a climate of impunity.  At the same time, we caution the government not to allow this attack to be used to justify further restrictions on civil society.”

Most perpetrators from past large scale incidents that targeted Copts and took place between 2011 and 2013, and even before that, have not been prosecuted.  In addition, repressive laws and discriminatory policies against Copts remain in place.  

The continued existence of these laws and policies and the climate of impunity resulting from the lack of accountability are taking place against a backdrop of deteriorating human rights conditions. These factors mitigate the positive steps the Egyptian government has taken in recent years to address some religious freedom concerns.     

For more information on Egypt, please see USCIRF’s 2016 Annual Report chapter (in English and in Arabic).

To interview a Commisisoner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0615. 

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