March 17, 2021
Joint letter: Egyptian Human Rights Lawyer Hoda Abdel Moneim At Grave Risk During Pandemic
Dear Special Procedures Mandate Holders Ms Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and Ms Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights,
The undersigned organisations write with great concern about the severely deteriorating health and well-being of 62-year-old Hoda Abdel Moneim Abdel Aziz Hassan, a prominent Egyptian lawyer and human rights defender. She is facing imminent threats to her fundamental rights to humane treatment and health. Therefore, we urge you to call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release her, in order to prevent an irreparable damage to her health, and potentially to her life.
Prior to her arrest, Mrs. Abdel Moneim was a lawyer at the Egyptian Court of Cassation and Supreme Constitutional Court. She formerly served as a member of the Egyptian Bar Association, Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights and the Egyptian Parliament from 2012- 2013. Additionally, she was a legal counselor at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a Cairo-based non-governmental organisation which provides legal advice to families of victims of enforced disappearance and documents cases of violence against women as well as legal adviser to the International Islamic Council for Call and Relief.
On 1 November 2018, Mrs. Abdel Moneim and Mr. Mohamed Abu Hurriyra, both lawyers and members of ECRF, were arrested in their homes. They were taken to the State Security Building, which is notorious for being a place of extrajudicial detention and torture.
Throughout the 21 days of secret detention, Mrs. Abdel Moneim was interrogated frequently in the middle of the night and without any access to legal counsel. Her family was never informed of her whereabouts despite several telegrams sent to the Public Prosecutor and the Ministry of Interior inquiring about her fate, as well as visits to different police stations. All these instances denied knowledge of her whereabouts.
On 21 November 2018, she was brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) –charged with “joining and funding a terrorist organisation”, as well as “incitement to harm national economy”, under article 12 of the Anti-Terrorism Law (Law No. 94 of 2015) and article 86 of the Penal Code. Such charges are routinely brought against human rights defenders, politicians, and peaceful activists in Egypt.
Since 30 January 2019, Mrs. Abdel Moneim has been held in Al Qanater Female Prison, deprived of visits by her relatives or her lawyer. The prison authorities’ responses to her family’s enquiries as to why their visits are being denied are that these are ‘’orders of the state security agency’’. All complaints and pleas to the Public Prosecution, Ministry of Interior and several courts, have been disregarded.
At Al Qanater prison, Mrs. Abdel Moneim is kept in inhumane conditions: she is being confined for 23 hours a day with seven other inmates in a small unsanitary cell, with no access to natural light, clean water or adequate nutritious food. The cell overlooks a garbage site emanating bad smell. She is forced to spend her one hour of outside-cell time alone in a narrow corridor between cells, with no access to sunlight.
Prior to her arrest, Mrs. Abdel Moneim suffered from hypertension, deep vein thrombosis, tricompartmental knee osteoarthritis and has a history of kidney stones, conditions that require regular medication. In January 2020, she suffered a suspected heart attack in prison. Her treatment was inadequate and her transfer to the hospital was delayed despite the seriousness of her symptoms. Furthermore, she was denied urgent examination recommended by a doctor and was instead rushed back to prison. In February, she was transferred to court in an ambulance, placed in a separate courtroom and banned from attending her court hearing, thus unable to raise her conditions of detention and the denial of medical care with the judge.
Despite her lawyer’s numerous complaints to the Public Prosecutor and to the judge about her physical condition, she continues to be held in the same deplorable detention conditions. She keeps being deprived of many of her rights as a detainee, including family visits, proper exercise time, regular check-ups in prison by a medical specialist to ensure adequate monitoring to her serious illnesses to prevent complications and any access to her medical records, which hinders her family from consulting a doctor outside prison and have a clear understanding of her current medical state.
In October 2020, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights requested the Egyptian authorities to provide Mrs. Abdel Moneim with access to necessary medical care and family visits, and to improve her conditions of detention. In addition, the Commission called upon the Egyptian authorities to investigate the allegations of incommunicado detention and illtreatment. Egypt failed to comply with this request.
On 29 November 2020, Mrs. Abdel Moneim’s family received information from a co-detainee that Mrs. Abdel Moneim suffered sharp pain. She was transferred to Manyial Hospital and told by doctors that she suffers from kidney failure and was immediately returned to prison.
On 6 December 2020, Mrs. Abdel Moneim appeared in court, transported in an ambulance, walking on crutches, looking pale, weak, and in pain. She complained to the judge of pain, distress and fatigue caused by her medical problems, and the fact that doctors told her she was suffering from kidney failure. Her family has never been informed about her deteriorating medical condition, her hospitalisation, any tests results or the treatment she received or needs to receive. To date, her family continue to be denied access to her medical documents.
On 7 December 2020, her lawyer filed a complaint before the Supreme State Security Prosecution, outlining the medical negligence Mrs. Abdel Moneim was being subjected to in January and December 2020, urgently requesting her release before she suffers from further damage to her health, as well as to have access to her medical file. He explained her preexisting serious medical conditions, including the pulmonary embolism she suffered prior to her arrest, and the repeated failure to receive urgent medical attention, which has put her health and life at great risk. Moreover, her age and preexisting vulnerabilities, the severe deterioration of her health, in addition to inhumane conditions of detention, increase her chances of exposure to the significant consequences of COVID-19.
Finally, her lawyer brought to the attention of the SSSP that Mrs. Abdel Moneim has been under pre-trial detention in State Security Case No. 1552/2018 for over two years and that the continuation of her detention violates article 143 of Criminal Procedural Law, stipulating that pre-trial detention should not exceed two years. Her lawyer did not receive a reply from the Public Prosecutor in respect of all the above complaints.
The disregard of the aforementioned complaints, Mrs. Abdel Moneom’s inhumane conditions of incarceration and the denial of adequate medical care and family visitation, evidence a deliberate emotional and physical punishment for her work as a lawyer and human rights defender.
It is clear that the detention of Mrs. Abdel Moneim and other Egyptian human rights defenders is part of a systematic policy of the Egyptian authorities against all peaceful dissidents1. Anyone who is critical of the Egyptian government and its serious and gross human rights violations is likely to be detained indefinitely and subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
The treatment endured by Mrs. Abdel Moneim whilst in prison amounts to violations to her fundamental rights, including the right to dignity and the right to life. Due to her medical condition and her age, Mrs. Abdel Moneim is exposed to an increased risk of severe consequences of a potential infection with COVID-19. The Egyptian authorities have a duty to care for her and protect her health and well-being in prison.
We therefore urge you to call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mrs. Abdel Moneim. And until she is released we also urge you to call on Egypt to immediately allow her family to visit and to provide her with swift access to adequate medical attention.
1) Article 19 Eastern Africa
2) Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
3) Freedom Initiative (Washington DC)
4) International-lawyers.org (INTLawyers)
5) International Services For Human Rights (New York, Geneva)
6) The Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana
7) MENA Rights Group (Geneva)