UN concerned about prolonged detention and torture of 12 human rights defenders in Egypt
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva, 15 August 2021
UN experts stated that 12 human rights defenders in Egypt have been subjected to allegations of serious ill-treatment and poor conditions of detention, and that three of them have been targeted because of their cooperation or attempt to cooperate with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, and that they are accused of committing crimes that carry long prison terms.
Egyptian laws are incompatible with international humanitarian law:
The experts explained in a memorandum sent to the Egyptian government on June 16, 2021, which has not yet been responded to, that there are concerns that the various provisions and penalties contained in the Egyptian Penal Code of 1937, the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2015, and the Anti-Cybercrime Law of 2018, are incompatible with international humanitarian law.
The UN memo also mentioned the following cases of human rights defenders:
(Muhammad Ramadan, Muhammad Al-Baqer, Izzat Ghoneim, Aisha Al-Shater, Muhammad Abu Huraira, Hoda Abdel-Moneim, Ibrahim Ezz Al-Din, Ibrahim Metwally, Rami Kamel Saeed Salib, Mahinour Al-Masry, Amr Imam and Walid Ali Salim Muhammad Hamada).
Using the Anti-Terrorism Law to Punish Activists:
The experts expressed their grave concern that the allegations against these defenders represented the current and ongoing systematic use of Egypt’s criminal law and counter-terrorism frameworks to punish the legitimate act of defending human rights through the criminalization and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders, and that this legislation is being used to impinge impermissibly on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The experts also expressed their concerns in particular about the heavy sentences, in some cases up to life imprisonment or the death penalty, that rights defenders may face, and their grave concern about the application of anti-terror laws and Egyptian criminal laws, while promoting that the defense of human rights falls within a terrorist activity.
The experts also expressed their concern about the extremely long periods of arbitrary pre-trial detention of the above-mentioned human rights defenders, along with allegations that such periods of detention have been arbitrarily extended through the inclusion of human rights defenders in new cases where they face charges similar to those brought against them initially.
UN demands from Egypt:
The experts called on the Egyptian authorities to provide detailed information on the factual and legal grounds for the charges brought against the above-mentioned human rights defenders in each individual case, as well as on orders relating to their preventive detention, including an explanation of the consistency of these charges with the rules of law and international human rights standards.
The experts also requested Egypt to provide detailed information on any current or past restrictions on receiving family visits or legal assistance, which may have been imposed in the case of any of the human rights defenders mentioned above, as well as the legal and factual basis for any of the restrictions and information regarding their compliance with the law and international human rights standards.
The experts also called on Egypt to provide specific information on the conditions in which each of the above-mentioned human rights defenders are being held, as well as how these conditions comply with international standards, and include information on measures that have been put in place to ensure that everyone has access to adequate and appropriate medicine and health care, and information on the updates of the health status of: Hoda Abdel-Moneim, Aisha Al-Shater, and Rami Salib, and details of any investigations conducted regarding allegations of torture and enforced disappearance in relation to: Aisha Al-Shater, Muhammad Abu Huraira, Ibrahim Ezz El-Din, Ibrahim Metwally, and Walid Ali Salim Muhammad Hamada.
Finally, the experts emphasized their requests from Egypt to provide information on any specific measures it has taken to ensure that human rights defenders in Egypt are able to carry out their legitimate work in the field of human rights in a safe and enabling environment without fear of acts of intimidation, harassment or reprisals.