Three urgent UN appeals addressing the Egyptian government based on complaints submitted by “Committee for Justice”Shimaa elbanna
The appeals warn of the continued arrests and enforced disappearances, with the absence of a climate of safety in Egypt.
Demands by the UN to stop the use of anti-terrorism legislation as a means for retaliation against rights activists and journalists.
Broad UN attention to the cases of Ezzat Ghoneim, Mohamed Ramadan, Huda Abdel-Moneim and Malak Al-Kashif
We value the UN’s engagement and stress on the importance of ceasing all violations as well as the initiation of a comprehensive dialogue, by the Egyptian government, that embraces the foundations of transitional justice.
Committee for Justice
Geneva, 6 August 2019
Committee for Justice values the UN’s responsiveness to its work related to safeguarding human rights in Egypt, which was reflected through the recent adoption of three urgent appeals addressing the Egyptian government by prominent Special Rapporteurs and UN Working Groups. Such appeals were based on detailed and precise complaints submitted by CFJ regarding violations related to the arrests of rights activists from the Egyptian coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), rights lawyer Mohamed Ramadan and rights activist Malak Al-Khashef.
The three appeals affirmed that enforced disappearance, regardless of its duration, as well as torture and ill-treatment constitute grave violations of international human rights principles, especially that the crime of enforced disappearance could pave the way to other violations such as torture, harassment, and extrajudicial killing. The appeals also condemned the use of arbitrary arrests and conducting searches without official warrants as a tool for framing human rights defenders in Egypt.
In their appeals, the UN rapporteurs stressed that while Egypt faced a danger infringing on its national security, relevant legislations and anti-terrorism laws must not be used as a pretext to target and silence the opposition, human rights defenders, civil society organizations and journalists. They added that using those legislations, in such an illegitimate form, aimed at fabricating crimes for individuals and organizations because of exercising their rights.
The three appeals also echoed all our fears regarding the current situation in Egypt, as they expressed serious concerns about the alarming climate in Egypt, where civil society organizations, human rights defenders and journalists try to overcome the clearly imposed siege by the government. The appeals also stressed that the defamation campaigns targeting organizations which cooperate with the UN as well as reprisals against such organizations must cease immediately and be investigated.
“Such engagement by the UN with our efforts to protect human rights in Egypt, and to restore the path of the Egyptian State towards ending all violations, in addition to initiating a comprehensive dialogue that embraces the foundations of transitional justice affirms the need for the Egyptian authorities to review their hostile and unjustified stance towards human rights, as a way forward towards stability and preservation of the Egyptian State,” said Ahmed Mefreh, Executive Director of CFJ.
On May 28, 2019, six UN Special Rapporteurs and two UN Working Groups released the first appeal, which the Egyptian government still hasn’t responded to. Contributors to the appeal included the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Working Group on Enforced or
Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The urgent appeal reflected deep concerns over what it described as the “deliberate targeting” of the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), especially members of its board of directors, including Huda Abdel-Moneim, Aisha Al-Shater, and Mohammed Abu-Huraira, as well as its executive director, Ezzat Ghoneim, where all those mentioned were subjected to enforced disappearance and were charged with joining a terrorist organization, and receiving funds designated for committing terrorist activities.
The appeal called on the Egyptian government to clarify its position regarding all violations committed against human rights defenders and to investigate and redress the harms inflicted as well as to provide appropriate compensation for the destruction and theft of personal properties which took place during the arrests.
The second appeal was sent to the Egyptian government on May 6, 2019, regarding the case of human rights lawyer Mohamed Ramadan, through six UN Special Rapporteurs and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The appeal constituted a positive response to the efforts of our team in documenting the ongoing violations committed against Mr.Ramdan, which included continued harassment following his arbitrary arrest, being subjected to medical neglect, as well as the use of anti-terrorism legislations in the investigation process, confusing his legitimate human rights work with other matters such as terrorist acts or threats to national security. As such, the appeals highlighted the need for an immediate investigation of those violations and to hold the perpetrators accountable if proven true.
The UN mechanisms also adopted a third urgent appeal on the basis of a complaint submitted by CFJ, which was sent to the Egyptian government on 20 March 2019 for the case of the transgender rights defender, Malak Al-Kashef, which has significantly contributed to her release on 15 July 2019.
The appeal was issued through the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.
The UN urgent appeal expressed concern over the arrest of Malak Al-Kashef, as well as her continued detention in isolation from the outside world as a result of her work in defending the rights of transgenders. It also expressed concern over the violations she endured in her imprisonment which included forced anal examinations, verbal sexual assaults and sexual violence related to her sexual identity. The appeal noted the need to respect Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Egypt has ratified.
“This UN support for our team’s work represents a moral tribute to our efforts, which continue amid extreme conditions for human rights work in Egypt. It also strengthens our journey of defending the human rights of the Egyptian people, and pushes us towards renewing our call to the Egyptian State to start a comprehensive dialogue that embraces the foundations of transitional justice,” said Shymaa Aboelkhir, advocacy officer at CFJ.