Egypt

 

  • ‘The democratic revolution is currently in hibernation; from a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate Egypt’s democracy as below zero’

    Ahead of the publication of the 2018 State of Civil Society Reporton the theme of ‘reimagining democracy’, we areinterviewing civil society activists and leadersabout their work to promote democratic governance, and the challenges they encounter in doing so.CIVICUS speaks to Mohamed Zaree, a human rights activist and legal expert, andthe Egypt Country Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). Following the crackdown on Egyptian human rights organisations, CIHRS was forced to relocate its headquarters to Tunis, and Mr Zaree is currently being prosecuted for his human rights advocacy. He risks life imprisonment if convicted. In October 2017 he was awarded the annualprize of the Martin Ennals Foundation for his contribution to promoting human rights amid the government’s escalating harassment and intimidation of activists.

    1. How would you describe the state of democracy in Egypt? What happened to the democratic resurgence of 2011?

    There is no democracy in Egypt. It is obvious to everyone here that this is a dictatorship: there is no rule of law, there is a lack of an active civil society and political parties, and the space for civil society (civic space) is closing. Even if there is an appearance of democratic institutions, including parliament, there is no democracy of any kind. Institutions are controlled by the security apparatus. Even the elections for parliament have not been a competition among political parties as much as a competition between security apparatuses, so members of parliament don’t represent the people as much as they represent the security apparatus. This situation is reflected in all the laws that have been recently enacted, including the infamous NGO (non-governmental organisation) Law (also known as Law 70) that has been widely criticised.

    So I wouldn’t like to say that the 2011 democratic revolution has been defeated, but at least we must acknowledge that it has been momentarily set back. We put high expectations on the 25 January Revolution, and it gave us some hope, which still lives on. But technically, nothing is left from the revolution except for the benefits for the army, the police and the judiciary – there have been no gains for the people who participated in or led the revolution. Many people who took part in it are now in jail or in exile. But it is still not over yet; even if we are going through the hardest of times, a step was taken on 25 January 2011 that is very difficult to erase. So I would rather say the revolution is in hibernation right now.

    1. What do you see as the minimal conditions for a functioning democracy, and what should be the role of civil society in it?

    Elections are a very important democratic procedure, but at the end of the day they are just a procedure. The practice of democracy is the art of compromise among different opinions; it involves the peaceful coexistence of diverse views and requires a dynamic and lively society. So democracy means a free media, free civil society and free political parties, or, in other words, the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

    Elections are therefore necessary, but they are not enough. To fulfil their purpose, elections need to meet a number of conditions that cannot be taken for granted. In the upcoming presidential elections, to be held in early 2018, we are supposedly going to vote for a president, but the election could easily become a referendum on the incumbent president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, since there is no democratic atmosphere that can guarantee that there is a meaningful competition among candidates for office. We are currently living under a state of emergency, with military courts and military trials for civilians, and a potential presidential candidate is facing a politically motivated trial; if convicted, he would be prevented from running.

    The highly repressive NGO law that was passed earlier this year cripples the ability of civil society organisations (CSOs) to monitor the elections. The 1914 Assembly Law and the 2013 Protest Law severely restrict the ability of citizens to gather and demonstrate. The state and the security agencies control the media, even nominally private channels, so there is no chance for a variety of opinions to be heard. So the elections are likely to turn into a referendum.

    1. How far is Egypt from achieving a functioning democracy, and what should the government do in the short term towards that end?

    From a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate Egypt as below zero. So for starters, for the upcoming elections to be actual elections, some changes should take place immediately: the state of emergency and the Assembly and Protest Laws should be repealed so that candidates are able to organise assemblies and run their campaigns. Political activists and media workers who are in jail should be released. An independent entity should oversee the media in order to guarantee a fair coverage for all candidates, instead of the ongoing disproportionately negative coverage of opposition candidates on state-owned media. Media channels should be open to all citizens. And for civil society to be able to play its role, the NGO Law should be repealed.

    1. 4. What do you think the government was trying to achieve with the NGO Law? What restrictions does the new law impose on the activities of civil society?

    The government was, and is, trying to close civic space completely. Or rather, the president along with the security apparatus is, and not necessarily the government, since the president is in practice ruling alone.

    The NGO Law is clearly not an isolated piece of legislation; it fits perfectly within a wider strategy to restrict civil society. It is not targeted specifically at human rights organisations, but encompasses all of civil society, including charity and developmental organisations. Under the new law, a CSO can be fined and its director can be jailed for up to five years for conducting a poll or publishing a report that has not been approved by the government, or for hiring a foreign worker. A sentence of two years in prison can be imposed for merely changing the organisation’s headquarters without notifying the authorities.

    Similar to the National Security Council provided for in the constitution, which is responsible for identifying ways to secure the country and respond to crises and disasters, the bill provides for an entity known as the National Agency for the Regulation of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations. To be constituted by presidential decree, the agency will consist of representatives from three security bodies, as well as representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, International Cooperation, the competent ministry for civic associations, the Central Bank, the anti-money laundering unit, and the Administrative Control Authority. Under the law, this agency will determine all matters related to the affairs of international CSOs, funding and cooperation between Egyptian associations and any foreign body. In utter disregard for constitutional principles, the law specifies that applications to the agency receiving no response within two months will be considered denied. In an attempt to combat civic action by all possible means, the law gives the government the right to object to all internal association resolutions, nominations to their boards of directors, and the regularity of their meetings.

    So this law is truly a declaration of intentions from the president toward civil society. The message is: you will work under very strict supervision, and if you are not able to work at all, that is fine with us, because you are not wanted.

     

    1. Have you or your organisation directly experienced restrictions? How has this clampdown on civil society affected your work - and your life?

    I don’t think the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies will be very affected by the NGO Law specifically. There are a lot of articles in the Penal Code that are affecting civil society a lot more than the NGO Law. For instance, the assets of our Director have been frozen, but this happened as a result of the application of the Penal Code rather than the NGO Law. I have been under a travel ban not because of this law, but because of the Penal Code. I have been under investigation and faced three charges, two of them under the Penal Code and the third, the softest, under the NGO Law.

    The latter charge is punishable with up to six months in prison. The other two, in contrast, can lead to life imprisonment. The two most serious charges I face, which have nothing to do with the NGO Law, are related to receiving unauthorised foreign funding and setting up an organisation of an international nature without a permit. Although this case, also known as the Foreign Funding Case against CSOs, or Case 173, dates back to 2011, these crimes became more serious after the Penal Code was amended in 2014. As I am facing two charges, I could receive two back-to-back life sentences. A life sentence in Egypt amounts to 25 years, so I could receive more than 30 years imprisonment overall, if I were convicted.

    As a result of the travel ban, I was unable to travel to Geneva to receive the Martin Ennals Award. The organisers tried to contact the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to have it lifted, but they didn’t receive any response, so my wife and two daughters travelled to receive it on my behalf.

    Of course all of this has affected me. I am in denial; I try not to think that I may be going to prison. In fact, I avoid this kind of thought and try to live a normal life. My family are also worried, and all of this has affected their morale, so it was good for them to go to Geneva to get my award. In Egypt you cannot predict anything; there is always fear of what could happen next. I could finish this interview only to find the police knocking on my door to arrest me. This could happen at any time, so it’s better not to think too much about it.

    1. You, your organisation and other civil society organisations keep working nonetheless. What are you doing to counteract these threats?

    We have learned that challenging restrictions such as travel bans and freezing asset orders through legal means is somehow useless, given the destruction undergone by the Egyptian judicial system. What we are doing instead is raise these issues with the international community. Pressure from the international community doesn’t automatically make our situation better, but at least it helps so that our situation does not get any worse. International actors have been in many meetings with government officials, in Cairo and abroad, to put pressure so that no additional charges are raised and the cases against us are closed.

    From our end, we also keep challenging the legality of the procedures followed on our cases. Some human rights defenders have challenged the legitimacy of the judge presiding on their cases. The Cairo Institute has questioned the decision to extend the appointment of the judge presiding over Case 173 and claimed that this and other legal and procedural violations have marred the case.

    Besides, we keep trying to do our normal work on a daily basis. As we monitor human rights abuses, we have more work than ever. We are experiencing the worse restrictions just at the time when we are needed the most. Many human rights organisations have downsized or have moved some of their staff abroad. I am still in Cairo, but many people with the CIHRS have left the country and the organisation has been based in Tunisia since 2014.

    In sum, we are pursuing two strategies to counteract restrictions: legal challenge and international pressure. But in terms of effectiveness, international pressure definitely comes first.

    1. What additional international support does Egyptian civil society need to be able to respond better?

    We need the international community to keep putting pressure on the government, facilitating the work of human rights organisations in Egypt and abroad, and providing protection for threatened human rights defenders.

    The Egyptian government is now facing the threat of extremism, and insist that we should all stand together against terrorism. But what they need to understand is that security and human rights are very much linked. Rather than dealing individually with terrorists by arresting or bombing them, they need to deal with the root causes of radicalisation in Egypt. It is important that they realise that repression is not part of the solution as much as it is part of the problem.

    The leaders of democratic societies are in the best position to put this kind of pressure. I don’t want French President Emmanuel Macron to lecture anyone on human rights. That is not his job; it is actually my job. What he could do is show integrity by providing protection and using his leverage to bring about slight improvements in the human rights situation, instead of selling Rafale warplanes and other military equipment to Egypt. So far, remaining silent and praising a dictator has been the price tag of those Rafale fighters.

    • Civic space Egypt is rated as ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor, indicating serious restrictions in civil society rights.
    • Get in touch with CIHRS through theirwebsite orFacebook page, or follow @CIHRS_Alerts on Twitter

     

  • #FreeAlaa: Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah on hunger strike protesting his continued illegal detention

    We, the undersigned civil society organizations, lawyers, journalists, and activists, urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Alaa Abdel Fattah, our courageous friend, human rights activist, and blogger.

     

  • Bin the Travel Ban: Lift undue restrictions on Mozn Hassan and Egyptian civil society’s right to freedom of association

    Mozn Hassan is a courageous feminist and a human rights defender who protested with her fellow citizens to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak, calling for a new era of freedom and democracy in Egypt. Her struggle for equal rights for women during and after the Egyptian revolution, through her organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies, earned her the 2016 Right Livelihood Award. But she’s unlikely to receive this prestigious award because of a travel ban imposed on her by the Egyptian authorities.

    Mozn’s travel ban is the latest in a series of measures taken against her and other prominent leaders of Egyptian civil society under the ambit of the infamous Case 173 of 2011, commonly known as the “NGO Foreign Funding case”.

    In March 2016, Mozn Hassan was summoned to appear before a judge investigating the “NGO Foreign Funding” case soon after her participation at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. On June 27, 2016, she was prevented by the airport authorities in Cairo - acting on the instructions of the investigating judge and the Prosecutor General - from participating in the Women Human Rights Defenders Regional Coalition for the Middle East and North Africa meeting held in Lebanon.

     

  • Call for sustained pressure on Egypt amid clampdown on civil society

    Johannesburg. 10 May 2010. In the lead up to the 2010 Parliamentary elections and the 2011 Presidential elections, the government of Egypt has stepped up efforts to clamp down on dissent from political activists and civil society organisations. In the past few months, against a backdrop of continued demonstrations on a wide range of social problems including high food prices and low minimum wages, the government has singled out political protests in particular for violent suppression.
     
     
     
    These political protests include a Cairo protest on 6 April and 3 May that were put down by police in riot gear wielding batons. The protesters were detained and beaten under the serious threat of even more violent repression. One lawmaker of the ruling National Democratic Party, Nashaat al-Qasas, commented to Egypt's Parliament on 18 April: "I would have questioned the Interior Ministry for being soft on these outlaws... Do not use water hoses to disperse these outlaws, shoot at them directly."

     

  • CIVICUS stands in solidarity with Egyptian activist Azza Soliman, urges end to persecution against her

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is deeply concerned at the harassment of Egyptian activist Azza Soliman. Ms Soliman, a well-respected defender of women’s rights, is the founder of Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA). She was arrested on 7 December by Egyptian police from her home in Cairo in a worrying escalation of the continuing crackdown on civil society in Egypt. Ms Soliman was later released on 20,000 EGP (1,100 USD) bail.

    “Azza Soliman has been an ardent advocate of women’s rights in Egypt for over 20 years and is no stranger to persecution for her work," said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “We believe that the current acts of intimidation against her, including through the imposition of questionable legal charges, are another ploy to silence her and prevent her from carrying our her legitimate work in the defence of human rights.”

    Ms Soliman has been presently charged with contravening Article 78 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which criminalises receipt of international funding for perceived “activities against national interest.” She is also being questionably accused of tax evasion. Last month, on 19 November, she was prevented from leaving Cairo Airport to travel abroad. In an attempt to further harass her, Egyptian authorities have also frozen her private assets and those of the legal firm that she directs.

    In 2015, Ms Soliman had to endure a lengthy trial and was subjected to judicial persecution for providing testimony as a witness in the murder of poet and writer Shaimaa al-Sabbagh during a public protest by the police. She was ultimately acquitted of the charges of unauthorised protest and breach of security and public order framed against her.

    CIVICUS believes that Ms Azza Soliman is being persecuted for her legitimate work as a human rights defender. CIVICUS urges the Egyptian Government to end acts of persecution against Ms Soliman and to take steps to create a safe and enabling environment for civil society in the country.

    Egypt is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review

     

    CIVICUS makes seven joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Angola, Egypt, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Fiji and Madagascar

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 34rd UPR session (October-November 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Angola - CIVICUS is deeply concerned by the use of several pieces of restrictive legislation, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and several restrictions under Law 23/10 of 3 December 2010 on Crimes against the Security of the State against journalists and HRDs. CIVICUS is further alarmed by the restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, notably the frequent banning of protests, although no prior authorisation is legally required, and the arbitrary arrests of protesters. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in subsequent sections of this submission demonstrates that the Government of Angola has not fully implemented the 19 recommendations relating to civil society space.

    Egypt - CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) address increasing restrictions of freedom of assembly, association and expression in Egypt since its last review. The state has continued to undermine local civil society organisations through the ratification of the laws on Associations and other Foundations working in the Field of Civil; on Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes; and the law ‘For organizing the right to peaceful public meetings, processions and protests. The submission also shows how this legislation has resulted in the detainment of scores of human rights defenders, including women, who have faced excessive amounts of surveillance, intimidation and slandering for their human rights work. Furthermore, in this period LGBTI activists have been assaulted, tens of NGOs closed in Case 173, and journalists have had their equipment confiscated. The UPR submission shows that Egypt has failed to implement any of the recommendations made in the last review, instead creating a more hostile environment for civic space actors.

    El Salvador (ES) - CIVICUS and Fundación de Estudios para la aplicación del Derechos (FESPAD) examine the steps taken by the government of El Salvador to address restrictions on civic space. We highlight government willingness to engage civil society in a consultation process to develop a new Law for Social Non-Profit Organisations and call El Salvador to ensure that the law respects international standards on the right to freedom of association. We raise concerns about the ongoing violence and stigmatisation of LGBTQI rights defenders, women's rights defenders and sexual and reproductive rights defenders, and the lack of protection for and killings of journalists.

    Iran - CIVICUS and Volunteer Activists assess the level of implementation of the UPR recommendations received by Iran during the 2nd UPR Cycle. Our assessment reveals that human rights violations continue in Iran as the authorities subject human rights defenders to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation. Freedom of association is severely restricted as civil society organisations that work on human rights issues and provide legal support to victims of human rights violations work in an extremely restricted environment. Peaceful assemblies are often violently repressed or banned and protesters have been arrested and detained. Journalists working for independent media platforms are targeted by the authorities while restrictive laws and policies are used to curtail freedom of expression and online freedoms.

    Fiji - CIVICUS, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) highlights how an array of restrictive laws in Fiji are being used to muzzle the press, silence critics and create a chilling effect in the country for activists and human rights defenders. The submission also examines barriers to hold peaceful protests, imposed by the authorities against civil society and trade unions as well challenges related to freedom of association.

    Iraq - CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Iraqi Al Amal Association and the Al-Namaa Center for Human Rights highlight the continuous violations with impunity committed by state and government-affiliated not-state actors in Iraq against journalists, activists and human rights defenders including concerted targeted attacks, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and intimidation. Several high-profile targeted killings of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) restricted the already culturally-constrained space for WHRDs. The civil society environment further deteriorated as the authorities proposed draft laws threatening freedom of expression, suspended critical media outlets and brought lawsuits against journalists and activists to curb dissent. The authorities also imposed undue limitations to freedom of assembly by using disproportionate and excessive lethal force to suppress mostly peaceful protests, resulting in dozens of protesters killed and hundreds injured, including children.

    Madagascar - CIVICUS examines how human rights defenders, particularly those working on environmental and land rights, are subjected to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention. Most of these human rights defenders are targeted when they engage in advocacy and raise concerns over the environmental effects of the activities of mining companies in their communities. Restrictive legislation including a Communications Law and Cyber Crimes Law are used to restrict freedom of expression, target journalists and newspapers. The Malagasy authorities continue to restrict freedom of assembly particularly during politically sensitive periods like elections or when activists working with communities engage in peaceful protests.

    See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

     

  • CSO's Letter to the African Union Commission about the State of Human Rights in Egypt

    by H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat 

    We write to you in your capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the secretariat of the continental organisation responsible for driving the political agenda and development of the people of Africa. As Chairperson of the AU Commission, we are assured of your mandate to promote the objectives of the AU. The undersigned organisations work to advance human rights in Africa and write to express deep concerns about the situation of human rights in the Republic of Egypt. In particular, this letter highlights some systematic violations of human rights in Egypt. While we acknowledge that you may well be aware of certain issues raised in this letter, we bring them to light due to the appalling situation and gravity of the violations.

    Beyond hosting the Africa CUP of Nations (21 June- 19 July) which brought a lot of excitement to the people of Africa, human rights in Egypt face serious threats. Our concerns span from interference with the system of administration justice, enforced disappearances, attacks against human rights defenders and attacks against the independent media. Moreover, we are concerned about the use of systematic torture, lengthy pre-trial detention, the shrinking civic space and other related violations as detailed below.

    Interference with the system of administration of justice and violation of fair trial rights

    In April 2019, the Constitution of Egypt was amended to give the executive branch excessive powers to control the judiciary. Thus, in the amended constitutional articles 185, 189 and 193 the president has powers to appoint the head of judicial bodies including the chief of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Public Prosecutor. Moreover, in article 200 the executive, and particularly the military, is attributed powers to “protect the constitution and democracy, and safeguard (…) individual rights and freedom”. Categorically, these amendments violate the notion of separation of power known for ensuring checks and balance between the arms of the government. Unless a proper system of checks is put into place, there are huge risks that, working under the military, the judicial arm of the government will not play its role effectively as it ought to do.

    The death of Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi on Monday 17 June 2019, is yet another shocking event that exposes Egypt’s violation of fair trial rights. Morsi died in a defendant courtroom while attending a session in his trial on espionage charges.[1] Reports say that his death could be linked to negligence by Egyptian authorities to provide him with adequate medical treatment for diabetes, liver and kidney malfunction.[2]  

    Enforced disappearances, mass arrest and attacks against activists

    Security forces have used enforced disappearances to instil fear among the population in the country. Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented 1,530 cases of enforced disappearances in Egypt between July 2013 and August 2018. We are particularly concerned that enforced disappearances and mass arrests were used against rights activists and political opponents of President El-Sisi. This has occurred in an attempt to wipe out opposition in the country. The victims of such arrests include political activists such as rights defender Wael Abbas (now released); Shady al-Ghazaly Harb, a surgeon; Haitham Mohamadeen, a lawyer; Amal Fathy; and Shady Abu Zaid, a satirist.[3] Other persons affected include Hoda Abdelmonem, a 60-year-old lawyer and rights defender and Alaa Abdel Fattah (also released, recently). As of 1 November 2018, Ezzat Ghonim, Executive Director of an organisation called Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), was reported missing for several months.[4]

    Attacks against the media

    The 2018 law regulating the media provides overly broad powers to the Council of the Media to block websites, shut down television channels and other publishing forums without a judicial order to that effect. The law also places personal media accounts under the supervision of the Media Council. It means that one can be arrested for publishing fake news on their personal account, even if the publication was done as satire. The situation is exacerbated in a context where media experts such as journalists are detained. To mention a few, Mahmoud Abu Zeid (Shawkan) a photo-journalist was jailed for 5 years, Abdullah Elshamy, also a journalist was sentenced to 15 years in absentia simply for conducting his work, he also undertook a hunger strike in prison. Not so long ago, Hisham Gaafar, a journalist and human rights defender, and Director of an NGO that focuses on media studies was also detained. Gaafar was held for 3 years and only released in April 2019. We submit that the clampdown on media has negatively affected the enjoyment of the rights of freedom of expression and access to information. It is our view that if these rights are to flourish in Egypt, the authorities must seek to improve the country’s human rights record by allowing media freedom and by implication the right to access to information. The Egyptian authorities should also refrain from attacking media professionals.

    Torture

    The 2017 Committee against Torture report on Egypt noted that the practice of torture is “habitual, widespread and deliberate” in Egypt. It adds that torture appears to occur frequently following arbitrary arrests and is often carried out to obtain a confession or to punish and threaten political dissenters. Torture is perpetrated by police officers, military officers, national security officers and prison guards. Prosecutors, judges and prison officials also facilitate this ill practice by failing to curb practices of torture, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment, or to act on complaints.[5]

    Pre-trial detention

    Egypt’s Criminal Procedural Code[6] entrenches provisions that have overly vague grounds for pre-trial detention. This has led to lengthy detention of journalists and political activists who have been bold enough to criticize the system of governance in the country. Case in point includes the prolonged detention of Egyptian journalist Mahmoud Hussein Gomaa Ali, who was arrested for more than two years without charges. It is suspected that Mahmoud’s punitive pre-trial detention is a message from the government of Egypt to journalists who dare to speak openly against the ruling authorities.

    Closing civic space

    The 64th Ordinary Session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, held in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, was marred with daunting reports about restriction of civic space. Many delegates of civil society organisations operating in the continent faced serious difficulties obtaining entry visas. Participants from Ghana, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania were unable to obtain visas to attend the session. Indirect restrictions further included exorbitant fees for hosting side events led by civil society actors and the intentional miscommunication on logistics for events. Registration for the session proved difficult and some participants reported what appeared to be intrusive harassment by security agents. The above scene leads one to think about the challenges faced by rights groups based in Egypt.

    Your Excellency, in 1984, Egypt ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), an instrument that compels member states to respect, protect and fulfil all the human rights recognized in the Charter. Moreover, Egypt is a member state and current chair of the AU and expected to lead as a human rights champion in upholding the human rights principles set out in AU’s Constitutive Act. Your Excellency, the on-going violations of human rights in Egypt are not in keeping with the country’s obligations and domestic laws, including the constitution and major international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Egypt. It also violates objectives 3(g) and (h) of the Constitutive Act of the AU which enjoins AU member States to promote popular participation and human and people’s rights, respectively. Recalling the role of the AU as the lead regional institution tasked to better the lives of the people of Africa, and particular the Egyptian citizens, we respectfully ask you to take measures to ensure that the government of Egypt restores respect for the rule of law, ensures ample protection of human rights and aligns its practice to ratified international and regional human rights standards including the Constitutive Act of the AU and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We respectfully ask you to consider including the situation of human rights in Egypt as a point for discussion in the agenda of the next Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU with recommendations for the Summit to deliberate on asking the government of Egypt to:

    1. Take steps to ensure full compliance with international and regional human rights standards;
    2. Respect separation of power by refraining from interfering with the system of administration of justice;
    3. Halt enforced disappearances, investigate and punish perpetrators of enforced disappearance;
    4. Investigate and punish perpetrators and stop attacks against political opponents, peaceful protesters and journalists;
    5. Respect the right to access to information and freedom of the media. In particular, lift the ban against independent press and media;
    6. Investigate and take actions to punish perpetrators of torture and ensure assistance and reparations to the victims;
    7. Address lengthy pre-trial detention and release all detainees who are being held in pre-trial detention without proper charges. and
    8. Promote a culture of dialogue and participation and comply with internationally and regionally recognised standards on the rule of law and civic space.

    In addition, we request you to recommend the AU to:

    1. Ask Egypt to report on measures and progress achieved in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

    Signed by

    1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS);
    2. Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CREAA);
    3. Freedom Initiative;
    4. Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa;
    5. International-Lawyers.org;
    6. MENA Rights Group;
    7. Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network;
    8. Southern African Christian Initiative (SACHI);
    9. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN);
    10. West African Human Rights Defenders; and

     

    [1] The Wall Street Journal at https://www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-s-ousted-islamist-president-mohammed-morsi-has-died-11560789900.

    [2] Middle East Monitor report available at https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180331-morsis-health-has-deteriorated-severely/amp/.

    [3] Human Rights Watch Report - 2018, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/egypt#f95966.

    [4] See details at https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egyptian-security-forces-arrest-19-rights-activists-and-lawyers.

    [5] Para. 69 of the UN Committee against Torture report on Egypt, available at file:///C:/Users/mandlate/Downloads/G1717367.pdf (Doc A/72/44).

    [6] The UN Working group on Arbitrary Detentions (WGAD) criticized Egypt severely for having vague laws on pre-trial detention. For further details see https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions/Session80/A_HRC_WGAD_2017_83.pdf.

     

  • Dear African Commission on Human Rights: Don’t provide cover for repressive Egyptian government

    Joint letter to Chair of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights: Don’t provide political cover for brutal repression of Egyptian government(below letter sent to Chair Soyota Maiga, while ACHPHR meets in Banjul, Gambia)

    Dear Chair Soyota Maiga,

    We are writing to urge you to reject the bid to hold the upcoming African Commission on Human Rights and People's Rights (ACPHR) 64th ordinary session in Egypt. This decision, if taken could tantamount to ignoring the current violations taking place in the country. Egypt, under the rule of President Sisi, is in the throes of the most widespread and brutal crackdown on human rights committed by any Egyptian government in its modern history. Reflecting this reality, the United Nations (UN) human rights system, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Special Procedures, has become increasingly vocal and robust in its criticism of the human rights situation in the country. This includes  recent  statements that strongly denounce the recent issuance of mass death sentences for individuals who have participated in protests within the country –and a rare call by experts representing six thematic mandates of the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently respond” to the government’s “appalling” behaviour. The EU’s European External Action Service has made similar criticism.

    The Egyptian government’s continuous disregard to constitutional law and international human rights obligations lead to a series of appalling human rights violations (see annex attached to this letter). The judiciary has largely failed to hold to account those responsible for grave violations of international and national law and, in many cases, the courts have served as an instrument of repression for the authorities. Egyptian NGOs have documented 1,520 cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt between July 2013 and August 2018. More than 60,000 political prisoners are currently detained in Egypt, in dreadful conditions. The Egyptian NGO Committee for Justice documented at least 129 cases of death in custody in 2017 alone. Moreover, The UN Committee Against Torture’s 2017 annual report concluded “torture is a systematic practice in Egypt” fed by security forces’ impunity and high-level State acquiescence, and may amount to crimes against humanity.
     
    Amid a national milieu distinguished by endemic torture and enforced disappearance and impunity, Egypt is currently in the middle of the most sweeping and repressive crackdown on fundamental freedoms, including dissent and other political expression in its modern history. This systematic repression threatens to wipe out any form of independent journalism and civil society in the coming period and had sweeping effects on the enjoyment of all individuals to their right to freedoms of expression, association and reunion. Indeed, the Egyptian government’s rejection of fundamental democratic processes and human rights principles is represented by its recent presidential elections held in March this year, which were assessed by fourteen regional and international organizations as neither free nor fair. Leading Egyptian human rights organizations previously warned the elections had become a dangerous "charade” likely to “exacerbate violence, terrorism and instability" in the country. Now the authorities are widely expected to soon make concrete moves to amend Egypt’s Constitution to abolish presidential term limits and allow President Sisi to run for a third term in 2022.

    In face of this, a free and effective participation of Egyptian and non-Egyptian civil society organizations during the ACHPR sessions is also put into question. Our organizations have serious doubts all conditions would be met to allow NGOs to access the ACHPR, according to its mandate and practices. The security and safety of human rights defenders participating in this session may also not be guaranteed. The ACHPR has a key role to play and should reinforce its engagement with Egyptian national authorities, in order to contribute to upholding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.

    The ACPHR should not turn a blind eye to these atrocities. We fully support the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s recent denunciation of the injustice of the Egyptian court. We urge the ACHPR to follow the High Commissioner lead in denouncing these violations in Egypt instead of rewarding it with hosting the 64th ordinary session. The African Commission should not raise its flag over the gravestone of human rights in Egypt.

    Thank you for your consideration of our request.

    We remain at your service should you require further information.

    See Annex for more detailed information on the state of human rights and civic space in Egypt.

    With Assurances of our Highest Consideration:

    1    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS);    
    2    Committee for Justice (CfJ)
    3    Action for Community Transformation (ACT-NOW)
    4    Adalah Center for Rights & Freedoms (ACRF)- Egypt
    5    African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    6    Afrique arc-en-ciel
    7    Afrique Arc-en-Ciel Togo
    8    Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH)
    9    Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights-Nedal- Egypt
    10    Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia (AJPD) Angola
    11    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    12    Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana – (ARCI)
    13    Belady Island for Humanity
    14    Border center for support and consulting- Egypt
    15    Center for Civil Liberties-Ukraine
    16    CIVICUS
    17    CNCD-11.11.11
    18    Coalition of African Lesbians
    19    Independent Commission for Human Rights in Western Sahara
    20    Conectas Direitos Humanos
    21    Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)
    22    Defend Defenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    23    Dignity
    24    Egyptian Front for Human Rights
    25    EuroMed Rights
    26    Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD)
    27    Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)
    28    Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum- Uganda
    29    Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)
    30    Human Rights Defenders Network- Sierra Leone
    31    HuMENA for Human Rights and Sustainable Development
    32    Initiative For Equal Right- Nigeria
    33    Initiative for Equality and Non- Discrimination- Kenya
    34    Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)
    35    International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
    36    International Commission of Jurist (ICJ)
    37    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    38    International Institute for Child Protection
    39    International Lawyers (Geneva)
    40    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    41    Iranti-South Africa
    42    Kenya Human Rights Commission 
    43    Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation
    44    Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH)
    45    Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH)
    46    Nadeem Center- Egypt
    47    National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders-Uganda
    48    National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders - Kenya (NCHRD-K)
    49    National Human Rights Defenders Network Sierra Leone
    50    National Human Rights Defenders Somalia/ Somaliland
    51    Network for Solidarity, Empowerment and Transformation for All – NewSETA
    52    Odhikar-Bangladesh
    53    Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH)
    54    Queer Youth Uganda
    55    Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
    56    Réseau Doustourna (Tunis)
    57    Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
    58    Synergia Initiatives for Human Rights
    59    The Freedom Initiative
    60    The Regional Center for Rights And liberties
    61    Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
    62    Uganda National NGO Forum
    63    West African Human Rights Defenders ‘Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
    64    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    65    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

     

  • Delivering emergency help for targeted activists is easier said than done

    FRENCH 

    By Lesego Moshikaro and Yessenia Soto

    This article is part of the #StoriesOfResilience series, coordinated by CIVICUS to feature groups and activists on their journey to promote better resourcing practices for civil society and to mobilise meaningful resources to sustain their work.

    Imagine you lead a non-profit feminist organisation in Egypt.

    IMG 4328Your work involves empowering women and lobbying the government to respect and protect their rights. In repressive Egypt, the authorities don’t like what you’re doing, and they want it to stop. So, they attack you – hitting you with a travel ban, freezing all your assets and charging you with receiving illegal foreign funding for your civil society organisation (CSO), which could lead to life in prison if you’re found guilty by Egypt’s notoriously biased courts. In aggressive and threatening interrogations, officials pressure you to shut down your CSO ‘voluntarily’, or things could get worse for you. 

    Photo: Activists, civil society organisations and emergency fund managers during the “Resource the resistance” convening at ICSW 2019.

     

  • Egypt hosting the African Commission to cover human rights abuses?

    By David Kode, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Lead 

    The timing could not have been more perfect for Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi. His country will host the next session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) scheduled to take place from 24 April to 14 May 2019 at a time when Egypt ranks as one of the worst violators of human rights in Africa.

    Read on: Open Democracy

     

  • EGYPT: ‘The security-first approach is not working’

    As part of our 2018 report on the theme of reimagining democracy, we are interviewing civil society activists and leaders about their work to promote democratic practices and principles, the challenges they encounter and the victories they score. CIVICUS speaks to Khaled Mansour about the challenges Egyptian civil society has faced since the army took power in 2013. Khaled was a journalist and then a United Nations aid and peacekeeping official for 25 years before he ran the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a leading Egyptian human rights organisation. He is now an independent writer and analyst on human rights, humanitarian aid and development, and a non-resident senior fellow of the Arab Reform Initiative.

     

  • EGYPT: ‘There's been severe deterioration in the rule of law & respect for human rights’

    CIVICUS speaks about recent protests in Egypt and their repression with a woman activist and protester who, for security reasons, asked to remain anonymous. The space for civil society in Egypt is severely restricted: laws limit legitimate civil society activities and detention and intimidation are routinely used to silence human rights defenders and journalists. The protests that took place in September 2019 resulted in mass arrests and the criminalisation of protesters.

    egypt protest 1024x683

    What were the main drivers of the September 2019 protests in Egypt?

    The trigger for the September 2019 protests came in the form of a series of viral videos shared by the Egyptian actor and construction contractor Mohamed Ali, in which he accused the authorities and the armed forces of corruption and the squandering of public funds. While President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi ultimately addressed the videos in some form, more videos by Ali and others  followed; a broader conversation on the role of the military in Egypt’s economy also ensued.

    On 20 September, and partly in response to Ali’s call for demonstrations against Sisi, hundreds took to the streets in the capital, Cairo, and Alexandria, Suez and other cities. As part of this wave of demonstrations, more protests took place on 20, 21 and 27 September. They occurred within a broader context in which many Egyptian citizens were also bearing the brunt of austerity measures and subsidy cuts and were increasingly affected by an escalating crackdown targeting independent, peaceful expression.

    What was the response of the government to the protests?

    Immediately following the protests and for days afterwards, the Egyptian authorities carried out a widespread arrest campaign that not only targeted people who were present at the demonstrations, but also lawyers, political activists and advocates more broadly. Local civil society organisations (CSOs) estimate that at least 3,763 people were arrested. Many of these people were ordered into pretrial detention in cases involving alleged charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation and spreading false news; a number of them remain in detention.

    In the wake of the protests, Netblocks reported restricted use around Facebook Messenger, BBC News and social media CDN (content delivery network) servers. In Cairo, the authorities blocked some roads and temporarily closed some metro stops, particularly those close to Tahrir Square.

    What has been the state of democracy and human rights in Egypt under the current regime?

    Increasingly since 2013, there has been a severe deterioration in the rule of law and respect for human rights in Egypt. Authorities are using the law to consolidate authoritarianism. This is reflected in new legislation that restricts rights and re-writes the relationship between civilians and the state; the prosecution of peaceful advocates using overly broad anti-terrorism legislation; and the introduction of amendments to the constitution allowing executive influence and interference in the functioning of what are meant to be independent state institutions, including the judiciary and the prosecution.

    The use of extended pretrial detention periods as a punitive measure, the sentencing of individuals in mass trials, and a spike in death penalty sentences continue to take place. Detention conditions remain poor; instances of torture and deaths in detention as a result of inadequate access to medical care abound.

    The situation of minorities leaves much to be desired. Though the authorities passed a Church Construction Law in 2016 and built the region’s largest church in the New Administrative Capital, Egypt’s Christian minority population continues to suffer from sectarianism, finds it difficult to access justice amid reconciliation sessions that favour the majority faith, and often faces obstacles in building and licensing churches in the areas in which they actually reside. While the state has made some initial attempt to compensate the ethnic Nubian minority, their constitutionally recognised right to return to their ancestral lands remains unfulfilled.

    Although Egypt is performing better on a number of economic indicators, austerity policies and subsidy cuts have impacted on the economic and social rights of particularly marginalised civilians, affecting key issues such as housing, education, health and work.

    How has the new NGO law impacted on the freedom of association?

    In August 2019, Egypt’s new NGO Law went into effect. However, its implementing regulations have not yet been issued, which is making it difficult to understand the degree to which the law is in force – and if it is not, which law and implementing regulations are – and to assess the implementation of the law and its impact on civil society. According to the law, implementing regulations were required to be issued within six months, but this deadline passed in February 2019. Media reports suggest however that the regulations are now expected to be issued in mid-March 2020.

    Egypt’s 2019 NGO Law does away with penalties involving jail time, as well as the National Agency to Regulate the Work of Foreign NGOs, a security and intelligence-heavy body created by the 2017 NGO Law to approve and monitor foreign funding. However, the law furthers significant restrictions on the activities of CSOs, places bureaucratic constraints on registration and creates expansive oversight and monitoring authority for government actors.

    While it may be early to report on the precise impact of the new law, there is no doubt that its passing has already contributed to some self-censorship, as CSOs have reported being uncertain regarding what legal schemes govern their work and have also raised concern about the law’s broad restrictions. The law was passed in an environment characterised by travel bans, asset freezes and the prosecution and arrest of members of civil society. These trends are only expected to continue. It is important to note that the NGO Law is not the only piece of legislation governing civil society: the media law, the cybercrime law, the counter-terrorism law and the Penal Code are all examples of laws that contain provisions potentially implicating associational activity as well.

    At this point, what can international civil society do to support civil society in Egypt?

    In some cases in the past, the Egyptian authorities have targeted CSOs engaging with international civil society and subjected them to various forms of reprisal. At other times, international connectivity, collaboration and work with networks has been a form of protection for Egyptian civil society. Accordingly, some organisations are able, willing, or well-positioned to engage with international civil society, while others may not be; this often ends up being a very contextualised and determined on a case-by-case basis.

    In cases in which international support can be of benefit to a particular Egyptian CSO, there are a number of clear needs: the creation of long-term and technical training opportunities and resources; systematic network building to expand access to decision-makers; and the provision of in-kind and financial support. Together, this programming has the potential to amplify the voices of, strengthen and provide protection for domestic CSOs that can often be under-resourced, cut off from the international community and subjected to government restriction.

    Civic space in Egypt is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Egypt: Call to postpone the EU-Egypt Association Council

    A coalition of civil society organisations have written to Ms. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission and Mr. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and EU Member States’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs urging them to postpone the EU-Egypt Association Council and not to extend a formal invitation to the Egyptian authorities for July 2017.  This event would constitute a public political gesture conveying to them, and to public opinion in Europe and in Egypt, an endorsement of Egypt’s policies of the past few months, by the EU and its Member States. We consider that would encourage President Al-Sisi’s government to proceed with further, broader repressive measures, thus accelerating the destabilisation of Egypt even further. This would serve neither the Egyptian people’s interests, nor those of Europe in its search for stability, resilience and security in the MENA region.

    Readthe letter 

     

  • Egypt: End Reprisals, Harassment and Threats Against Civil Society Leader Mostafa Fouad

    Arabic

    The undersigned civil society organisations call on Egyptian authorities to immediately end their harassment of Egyptian activist and Deputy Director of HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, Mostafa Fouad.


     

  • Egypt: international community must take a stand and demand an end to human rights violations

    • More than 2000 people arrested after peaceful protests
    • Widespread arrests include people not related to the protests but perceived by the authorities to have taken part in any demonstrations dating back to 2011
    • Global civil society alliance condemns the harsh repression of protests in Egypt and calls for international pressure

    The ongoing crackdown on people in Egypt, large scale arrests and heightened security in Cairo and other major cities signal another low moment for human rights in Egypt, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today. The Egyptian authorities have arrested more than 2000 people in a massive sweep that followed peaceful protests calling for an end to widespread corruption and condemning the actions of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. On 26 September 2019, the Egyptian authorities deployed hundreds of military personnel across the country to pre-empt any planned anti-government protest, intimidate the population and force many to self-censor to avoid reprisals from the state. Many of those who have been arrested include representatives of civil society, academics, former politicians and others.  

    The recent crackdown and militarisation of cities across the country began during a rare protest on the weekend of 20 September when protesters expressed concerns over the government of President Sisi and condemned high levels of corruption. In response, security forces physically assaulted some protesters and used tear gas to disperse others, arrested thousands and detained them in different locations. The protests have been followed by a widespread crackdown on human rights defenders, members of the political opposition, activists and journalists—many of whom had not taken part in the protests at all and were instead arrested in raids on their homes. The Egyptian authorities embarked on a punitive campaign by using this protest to arrest many including those perceived to have been connected to protests in 2011.

    Many of those arrested have been ordered into pretrial detention and informed that they were under investigation for using social media to spread false news, aiding a terrorist group to achieve its objectives and for participating in unauthorised protests. Others remain forcibly disappeared today. Among those arrested is human rights defender and lawyer Mahienour el-Masry who was detained on 22 September 2019 as she exited the headquarters of the State Security Prosecution in Cairo where she represented some of the detained protesters. She was then interrogated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) on false allegations of spreading false news and aiding a terrorist group to achieve its objectives.

    More than five journalists have been arrested for sharing information and videos about the protests and the violent response by the police online. Families of those speaking from abroad to condemn the Sisi government have faced harassment and intimidation; for example, in the wake of videos recorded by Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim in which he criticised Sisi, Ghonim’s dentist brother Hazem was arrested and ordered into pretrial detention in retaliation.

    To pre-empt any further protests, some government officials threatened to decisively confront any attempts to “destabilise Egypt” and riot police, plain clothes security officials and other security personnel were deployed in major cities across Egypt.

    Over the last few years, President Sisi’s government has promulgated and amended laws that restrict the activities of civil society organisations and their ability to access funding, detained scores of human rights defenders and journalists and imposed travel bans on many. In its March 2019 submission to the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS and partners found that Egypt had not implemented any of the recommendations related to civic space. Instead, civic space in Egypt continues to deteriorate exponentially.

    Many civil society organisations have been forced to close down amidst this systemic crackdown on fundamental freedoms as the government has also imposed some of the worst restrictions on internet freedoms.

    “Amidst the ongoing human rights violations in Egypt exemplified by the forceful dispersal of peaceful protests and arrests of nearly 2,000 people, Egypt’s international partners and the United Nations Secretary General should call on him to put an end to all forms of restrictions on fundamental rights in Egypt,” said Dr. Nancy Okail, Executive Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

    CIVICUS calls on the international community to exert pressure on President Sisi to call on his security forces to immediately release all those detained in relation to the recent protests, respect the rights of Egyptians to assemble and express themselves in a peaceful manner.

    -----

    Egypt is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a participatory platform that rates and measures the state of civic freedoms in 196 countries. Earlier this month, CIVICUS and 15 human rights organisations wrote a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council with a call to use the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt to address the unprecedented levels of repression.

    For more information, please contact:

    Masana Ndinga-Kanga

    MENA Advocacy Lead, CIVICUS

    Email: :

     

  • Egypt: open letter calling for an independent investigation into the death of Shady Habash

    Arabic

    CIVICUS, together with more than 60 organisations, calls for an open and independent investigation into the jailing and death of filmmaker hady Habash. 

     

  • Egypt: Stop the onslaught against civil society

    The undersigned civil society organisations express our serious concern over the recent escalation of restrictions on civil society and the public vilification of human rights defenders in Egypt. We call on the Egyptian authorities to uphold their international obligations and ensure that civil society and human rights defenders can work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of reprisals.

    On 24 May 2017, President Abdel Fatah El Sisi signed a highly restrictive law that provides the government with extraordinary powers over NGOs and stifles the activities of civil society. The bill was approved by Parliament in November 2016 but was put on hold after an outcry by local and international civil society organisations to prevent the President from passing it into law. Law 70 of 2017 severely limits the functioning of civil society organisations and unduly restricts the rights to freedom of expression and association. It introduces hefty fines and prison terms for civil society groups who publish a study or a report without prior approval by the government or engage in activities that do not have a developmental or social focus. These new restrictions make it practically impossible for human rights organisations to carry out their work.

    The law provides unprecedented authority to government bodies to interfere in the day-to-day operations of civil society organisations, including their cooperation with any entities outside of Egypt. Worryingly, the law includes overly broad and vague provisions that could lead to its arbitrary application and targeting legitimate activities. Article 13 of the law broadly prohibits civil society organisations from conducting activities that could be deemed harmful to national security, public order, public morality, or public health. The law further violates the right to freedom of association and criminalises activities considered to be of a “political nature” as well as legislative reform work thereby impeding the important work of independent civil society groups in Egypt.

    In addition, the government has imposed unwarranted restrictions on the right to freedom of expression online and the ability of individuals to communicate freely and seek and receive information. On 25 May, the government blocked 21 websites and accused them of spreading “terrorism and extremism” and “publishing lies". The block was carried out without any legal process or judicial oversight. These websites include Mada Masr - one of the few independent news outlets that carries out investigative journalism.

    On 25 May 2017, more than 10 media outlets published articles and reports as part of a smear campaign against human rights defenders who had travelled to Rome a few days before to participate in a meeting with civil society representatives from other countries. The articles labelled the human rights defenders “traitors,” and urged the Egyptian intelligence service to try them on criminal charges upon their return. This smear campaign is intended to discredit and delegitimise the work of peaceful activists by tarnishing their reputation.

    Human rights defenders continue to be intimidated and harassed by the authorities. On 24 May, human rights activist and Director of the Egypt Programme for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Mohamed Zaree, was released on bail of 30,000 EGP (1,650 USD) after being interrogated for several hours by a judge. He was accused of receiving foreign funding for CIHRS, together with other civil society organisations, and for using the funds to promote activities that the authorities perceive to be against national security. He was also accused of tarnishing the reputation of Egypt by preparing human rights reports for the United Nations Human Rights Council.

    Over the past few years, Egyptian authorities banned 24 human rights defenders and NGO staff from traveling abroad, and froze the assets of seven human rights organizations and 10 human rights defenders. These punitive measures have been implemented by an investigative judicial panel appointed to investigate the activities of human rights organizations.

    What is also clear from recent events in Egypt, is that the Egyptian state seems determined to close down the civic space of feminists and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in particular. The stifling of the activism of Egyptian feminists and WHRDs such as Azza Soliman and Mozn Hassan who work on critical issues of violence against women, the closure of the El Nadeem center, and the travel ban against WHRD, Aida Seif el-Dawla, etc, are typical of the tools normally used against WHRDs under repressive governments.

    We urge the Egyptian authorities to repeal Law 70 of 2017, close the ongoing criminal investigation into the work of human rights groups and ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society organisations and human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear of reprisals.

    Signatories

    Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti Violence Studies
    Amnesty International
    Article 19
    Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
    CIVICUS
    EuroMed Rights
    Front Line Defenders
    International Women’s Health Coalition
    Nazra For Feminist Studies
    MENA Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition
    Muslims for Progressive Values, Nederland
    The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
    Transparency International
    Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

     

  • Egyptian women's rights defenders risk life in prison

    Azza Soliman and Mozn Hassan have both been working to improve women's rights in Egypt. They have campaigned to end violence against women, amongst many other campaigns, and are now wrongfully accused of receiving foreign funding against national interest and "irresponsible liberation" of women.

    Join the #SheDefends campaign to shine a spotlight on "The Price of Activism" paid by human rights defenders by posting pictures on your own social media urging the international community to "Protect Women Who Defend Our Human Rights" and tagging CIVICUS (@CIVICUSalliance) and using the hashtags #CSW61 #SheDefends.
    Promo pack available here: http://bit.ly/2niENW5
    See Flikr album in progress here https://t.co/dPIxhDQTiW

    Follow them at @NazraEgypt @Mozn @AzzaSoliman1

     

  • European States and US must take measures to protect Egyptian human rights defenders, both home and abroad

    The undersigned civil society organisations express their outrage at the latest death threats targeting the Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Bahey el-Din Hassan, as a result of his human rights work on Egypt in Europe and the US. On 21 March 2018, in reaction to a memo sent by seven Egyptian independent human rights groups, including CIHRS, to the UN Secretary-General regarding the presidential elections in Egypt, a TV show host called on the Egyptian authorities to “deal with him [Bahey el-Din Hassan] the same way the Russian spy was dealt with,”[1] in reference to the nerve agent attack on Serjei Skripal in the United Kingdom.

    Given the gravity of these threats against Bahey el-Din Hassan, the undersigned organisations call on the European States and the United States to:

    1. take all necessary measures to protect Egyptian human rights defenders (HRDs), both home and abroad, and

    2. to urge the Egyptian authorities to carry out immediate, thorough and impartial investigations on these threats. HRDs should be able to engage with regional and international human rights systems without fear for their lives. Support for HRDs is a stated priority of EU, Swiss, Norwegian and US foreign policies, and lies at the heart of the 1998 UN Declaration on HRDs.

    CIHRS is an indispensable and internationally recognised organisation, which has been a champion of human rights across the Middle East and North Africa for over 20 years.

    These events not only constitute the latest example of the harassment that Mr Hassan has faced in the last years, which forced him into exile in 2014 following the election of President el-Sisi, but also represent an extremely worrying pattern of reprisals against HRDs in Egypt and many other parts of the world.

    While pro-democracy activists in Egypt are being jailed for expressing their views on social media, these repeated and serious incitements on television calling to inflict physical harm against Bahey el-Din Hassan as well as other HRDs have not been adequately addressed by the Egyptian authorities. Amidst an unprecedented crackdown on human rights and civil society, together with a soon-to-be implemented draconian NGO law, the Egyptian authorities appear determined to silence HRDs by any means, including instructing security services and State-sponsored media to intimidate them in Egypt and abroad.

    Egyptian  NGOs already witnessed this kind of harassment during a human rights workshop in Rome in May 2017, when two persons pretending to be Egyptian journalists intimidated and took pictures of the Egyptian participants. Subsequently, a smear campaign was launched in Egypt where Moustafa Bakry, a political figure closely associated to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and a member of the pro-Sisi parliamentary bloc, stated on his TV show that the Egyptian security agencies should “kidnap” Egyptian human rights defenders, including Bahey el-Din Hassan, from Europe and bring them back to Egypt “in coffins”,[2] reminding them that this had been done in the past.

    AboutBahey el-Din Hassan

    Bahey el-Din Hassan is a journalist, he has published articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He is a leading initiator of the human rights movement in Egypt and the Arab region, director and co-founder of CIHRS, and a member of the boards and advisory committees of several international human rights organisations, including the Euro Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF), Human Rights Watch (HRW) Middle East and North Africa Division, and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Hassan is also one of the founding members of EMHRF and EuroMed Rights.

    Signatories 

    1. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    2. Asian Forum For Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) 
    3. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
    4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    5. Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC)
    6. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) – Argentina
    7. CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    8. Conectas
    9. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    10. EuroMed Rights
    11. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    12. Front Line Defenders
    13. Human Rights First
    14. Human Rights Watch
    15. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    16. JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mozambique
    17. Karapatan (Philippines)
    18. Odhikar (Bangladesh)
    19. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
    20. Reporters Without Borders
    21. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    22. The Working Group on Egypt (USA)[3]
    23. World Organisation against Torture, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    [1] Link to the video (in Arabic) https://youtu.be/gZE8zCePfqw

    [2] Link to the TV show (in Arabic) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eirJclgosPs (min 34)

    [3] Elliott Abrams, Michele Dunne, Jamie Fly, Reuel Gerecht, Amy Hawthorne, Neil Hicks, Robert Kagan, Tom Malinowski, Steve McInerney, Tamara Wittes

     

  • Five countries added to the civic space watchlist

    • Egypt, China (Hong Kong), Colombia, Guinea and Kazakhstan join global watchlist
    • Escalating rights violations include arrests, abductions and assassinations of activists, as well as the persecution of journalists and media blackouts
    • International community must pressure governments to end repression and bring perpetrators to account

    Five countries from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have been added to a watchlist of countries which have seen a rapid decline in fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months. The new watchlist released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks the latest developments to civic freedoms across the globe, identifies growing concerns in Egypt, China (Hong Kong), Colombia, Guinea and Kazakhstan.

    Activists, civil society groups and peaceful protesters in these countries are experiencing an alarming number of attacks to their civic freedoms as protected by international law. In particular, the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Violations include the murder of human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia; excessive force and mass arrests against protesters in Hong Kong, Egypt and Kazakhstan; and the arbitrary arrest of activists in Guinea who are trying to uphold the constitution and presidential term limits as the country prepares for 2020 elections. 

    “It is deeply alarming to see ongoing and serious  attacks to basic rights in these countries,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Lead. “The scale of these violations is often under reported as journalists in these countries are facing their own host of restrictions” Belalba said. “We call upon neighbouring states and international bodies to put pressure on these countries to end the repression.”

    In September 2019, demonstrations against alleged government corruption in Egypt were met with excessive force. The use of tear gas was widespread and videos have surfaced of police beating protesters before being taken into custody. In a bid to silence government critics, security forces have carried out sweeping arrests of protesters, detained journalists, blocked news websites and disrupted online messaging services. Civic space in Egypt is rated as Closed.

    Human rights groups in Hong Kong have documented excessive and unlawful force by security forces against protesters including the use of truncheons, pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets. Protesters have also been attacked by pro Beijing mobs. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in the context of the mass protests as of mid-September 2019 and some have been ill-treated in detention. Civic space in China (Hong Kong) is rated as Closed.

    In Colombia, dozens of community leaders have been killed this year, and violence has escalated ahead of October's Municipal Elections. Thousands have marched across the country calling for an end to the violence and impunity for these crimes. Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders and environmental activists. Civic space in Colombia is rated as Repressed.

    In Guinea, plans to change the constitution, which could see the presidential term limit abolished, has sparked opposition and protests. Activists opposing constitutional changes have been arbitrarily arrested, and security forces have used live ammunition and tear gas during protests, killing several people and injuring dozens more. Civic space in Guinea is rated as Obstructed.

    While in Kazakhstan, since June 2019 elections human rights abuses have hit a new high. The work of journalists and electoral observers has been obstructed, while thousands have been detained in post-election protests. Civic space in Kazakhstan is rated as Obstructed.

    In the coming weeks and months, the CIVICUS Monitor will closely track developments in each of these countries as part of efforts to ensure greater pressure is brought to bear on governments and the perpetrators of these attacks. The CIVICUS Monitor rates countries based on the state of their civic space as either open, narrow, obstructed, repressed or closed. These ratings are based on multiple streams of data that assess the state of freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

     

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