Action for Egyptian human rights defenders

December 2, 2020

The undersigned organisations strongly condemn the persecution of employees of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and Egyptian civil society by the Egyptian government. We urge the global community and their respective governments to do the same and join us in calling for the release of detained human rights defenders and a stop to the demonisation of civil society organisations and human rights defenders by government-owned or pro-government media.

Since November 15, Egyptian authorities have escalated their crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organizations. On November 19, Gasser Abdel-Razek, Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) — one of the few remaining human rights organisations in Egypt — was arrested at his home in Cairo by security forces. One day prior, EIPR’s Criminal Justice Unit Director, Karim Ennarah, was arrested while on vacation in Dahab. The organization’s Administrative Manager, Mohamed Basheer, was also taken in the early morning hours from his home in Cairo on 15 November. 

All three appeared in front of the Supreme State Security Prosecution where they were charged with joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media, and were remanded into custody and given 15 days of pre-trial detention.

The interrogations of the security services and then the prosecution of the leaders of the EIPR focused on the organisation’s activities, the reports issued by it, and its efforts of advocating human rights, especially a meeting held in early November by EIPR and attended by a number of ambassadors and diplomats accredited to Egypt from some European countries, Canada, and the representative of the European Union.

The detention of EIPR staff means one thing: Egyptian authorities are continuing to commit human rights violations with full impunity. This crackdown comes amidst a number of other cases in which the prosecution and investigation judges have used pre-trial detention as a method of punishment. Egypt’s counterterrorism law was amended in 2015 under President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi so that pre-trial detention can be extended for two years and, in terrorism cases, indefinitely. A number of other human rights defenders — including Mahienour el-Masry, Mohamed el-Baqer, Solafa Magdy, Alaa Abd El Fattah, Sanaa Seif, and Esraa Abdelfattah — are currently held in prolonged pre-trial detention. EIPR researcher Patrick George Zaki remains detained pending investigations by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) over unfounded “terrorism”-related charges since his arrest in February 2020. Amnesty International has extensively documented how Egypt’s SSSP uses extended pre-trial detention to imprison opponents, critics, and human rights defenders over unfounded charges related to terrorism for months or even years without trial. 

In addition to these violations, Gasser Abdel-Razek told his lawyer that he received inhumane and degrading treatment in his cell that puts his health and safety in danger. He further elaborated that he was never allowed out of the cell, had only a metal bed to sleep on with neither mattress nor covers, save for a light blanket, was deprived of all his possessions and money, was given only two light pieces of summer garments, and was denied the right to use his own money to purchase food and essentials from the prison’s canteen. His head was shaved completely. 

The manner in which Egypt treats its members of civil society cannot continue, and we, an international coalition of human rights and civil society actors, denounce in the strongest of terms the arbitrary use of pre-trial detention as a form of punishment. The detention of EIPR staff is the latest example of how Egyptian authorities crackdown on civil society with full impunity. It’s time to hold the Egyptian government accountable for its human rights abuses and crimes. Join us in calling for the immediate release of EIPR staff, and an end to the persecution of Egyptian civil society.

Signed,

Access Now

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

ARTICLE 19 

Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM)

Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)

Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Center for Democracy & Technology

Committee for Justice (CFJ)

Digital Africa Research Lab

Digital Rights Foundation

Egyptian Front for Human Rights

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Elektronisk Forpost Norge (EFN)

epicenter.works — for digital rights

Fight for the Future

Free Media Movement (FMM)

Fundación Andina para la Observación y el Estudio de Medios (Fundamedios)

The Freedom Initiative

Fundación Ciudadanía Inteligente

Globe International Center

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Homo Digitalis 

Human Rights Watch

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)

Index on Censorship

Independent Journalism Center Moldova (IJC-Moldova)

International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos-Nigeria

International Press Institute (IPI)

Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey (IFoX)

International Free Expression Project

Masaar — Technology and Law Community

Mediacentar Sarajevo

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) – Zimbabwe

Mnemonic

Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO)

Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA)

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

PEN Canada

PEN Norway

Public Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech (Adil Soz)

R3D: Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales 

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF)

Scholars at Risk (SAR)

Skyline International Foundation

Social Media Exchange (SMEX)

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Statewatch (UK)

Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

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