Detention as a systemic tool of suppression
On 13th November 2019, the 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Egypt took place at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The head of the Egyptian delegation made a statement acknowledging the role of civil society and recalling ‘steps’ taken by the government, despite the country being ‘Closed’, with severe human rights violations restricting civic space.
As previously covered by the CIVICUS Monitor, civic space is constantly shrinking in Egypt. However, a statement from the Egyptian delegation set out the amendments made, particularly on the Associations Law 149 of 2019 as a positive development.
In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution - determining the right of citizens to establish organisations or Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and strongly believing in the role which they play in developing the community - this year the law which organises civil activities was enacted following a series of community debates and discussions so as to avoid the negative aspects of law No.70 for 2017.
Despite lobbying by the Egyptian delegation, at the end of the session several recommendations were directed towards the violations against civil society.
Strong response by #UN members at the #UPR of #EGYPT.Up to 50 non-aligned States - from US, to Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, to Uganda, etc. - have shared their concerns over the practice of torture, arbitrary detention, harassment of HRDs, death penalty and prisoners mistreatment pic.twitter.com/pKBldRsuPN— Giorgio Caracciolo (@GioCaracciolo) November 13, 2019
During #UPR34 Egypt is claiming improvements on freedom of association. But fails to explain why more than 34 HRD r banned from travelling and not able to participate in the ongoing UPR session. Also Why HRD Mohamed Baquer is in prison instead of being in Geneva #EgyptListenNow https://t.co/LqzNvvG85k— Ziad Abdel Tawab (@ziad_mohi) November 13, 2019
The Egyptian government has been employing systemic silencing measures through the arrest of Human Rights Defenders and journalists. Demonstrations which took place during September, as previously covered by the CIVICUS Monitor, led to mass arrests and trials of protestors. The following arrests and detentions were documented during the period covered in this report:
- On 23rd November 2019 Ramy Kamel, a Coptic human rights activist, was arrested and charged by the State Security Prosecutor for joining and financing a terrorist group under Case no. 1475 of 2019, among other charges. He was beaten by internal security and denied legal representation. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights issued a statement in solidarity with the activist, noting that they fear that Kamel will face the same fate as another activist who was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of inciting terrorism through the state.
@CoptSolidarity 's online advocacy campaign for Ramy Kamel is back up. Pls take action today to help secure his release and share with your community! #CopticEquality #Free_Ramy https://t.co/3ObIj4Iglr pic.twitter.com/LYpUznz2gm— Coptic Solidarity (@CoptSolidarity) December 9, 2019
- Lawyer and human rights defender Mahinour El-Masrywas arbitrarily arrested on 22nd September 2019 and detained for 15 days pending investigation. The 15 days of unlawful detention have been constantly renewed since then. El-Masry remains in jail without any legal proceedings. In 2014 she was arrested and sentenced to prison for one year and three months for charges related to freedom of expression and assembly.
- The State Security Prosecution ordered a renewal of the detention of Amrou Imam, a human rights defender, for 15 days pending investigation (case number 388).
- The State Security Prosecution ordered a renewal of the detention of journalist and head of the Constitution Party, Khaled Daoud for 15 days pending investigation (case number 488).
- Mohammad Al-Baqir a lawyer and human rights defender, was arrested on 29th September 2019 on charges related to freedom of expression and assembly. Since then, the State Security Prosecution has been constantly renewing his detention every 15 days pending the outcome of investigations.
- On 16th September 2019 the State Security Prosecution arrested human rights defender, activist and engineer Kamal Khalil and detained him for 15 days, pending investigation on charges related to freedom of expression and assembly.
- Human rights defender and former Member of Parliament Ziyad Al-Alimi has been detained for more than 150 days pending investigation, on charges related to freedom of expression and assembly.
- Human rights defender and lawyer Haitham Mohammadein has been detained for about seven months on charges related to freedom of expression and assembly (case 741).
In addition, restrictions on freedom of the media and journalists continue. The 2019 report of the Committee to Protect Journalists shows that in 2019 Egypt jailed 26 more journalists than in 2018. Many of these arrests were in relation to the demonstrations against army corruption in Egypt.
On 24th November 2019, Mada Masr, a critical media channel in Egypt, was raided. Security forces detained three Mada Masr journalists including the chief editor, Lina Attalah, journalists Mohamed Hamama and Rana Mamdouh. The journalists were later released. The raid came following the arrest of Mada Masr editor Shady Zalat, who was also released after being held incommunicado for more than 30 hours.
In a serious escalation, security forces in #Egypt have raided the office of independent media outlet @MadaMasr. Security forces must vacate the premises and refrain from punishing journalists for doing their legitimate work. #Journalismisnotacrime— amnestypress (@amnestypress) November 24, 2019
(AFTE) calls on the Egyptian government to immediately withdraw the security forces that raided Madamasr's head office today, Sunday 24th of November, and to allow journalists detained inside the office to freely communicate with the outside world. pic.twitter.com/BKvX5MlUYF— AFTE (@afteegypt) November 24, 2019
Several solidarity statements were made in support of Mada Masr and its journalists, calling for the Egyptian government to respect its human rights obligations.
“The security forces’ raid on Mada Masr, one of Egypt’s last news outlets that is not a government mouthpiece, is part and parcel of President al-Sisi’s attacks on media freedom.”- Deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.