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UN experts urge release of rights defenders in Egypt, condemn misuse of counter-terrorism measures

GENEVA (1 December 2021) – UN human rights experts* today called on Egypt to halt the misuse of counter-terrorism measures against civil society activists, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders, and to immediately release three of those arbitrarily detained, including Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed El-Baqer and Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan.

“The systemic justification of such egregious measures under the guise of implementating United Nations Security Council resolutions is a grave threat to the legitimacy of international counter-terrorism framework and laws, the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the long-term peace and stability of Egypt," the experts said.

Blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, lawyer and human rights defender Mohammed El-Baqer, and journalist Mohammed Ibrahim Radwan were charged under the vague offences of spreading false news likely to pose a threat to national security. They continue to be held under new or renewed orders in a clear circumvention of the limits of pre-trial detention under the Criminal Penal Code.

On 8 November 2021, Egypt's Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Court adjourned its proceedings against the three, and judgement is expected on 20 December. “We are further disturbed by the decision of the Court of Cassation to reject the appeal against the listing of Mohamed El-Baqer, and other human rights defenders, as terrorists despite the advisory opinion by the Prosecution to rescind it,” the experts said.

The UN experts said the individuals should be released because they had been arbitrarily detained and their rights to fair trial and due process had been violated. They also said their names should be removed from Egypt's terrorism watchlist, which has had the effect of depriving individuals of liberty without sufficient judicial oversight or legal recourse, and in case of release would deprive them of their fundamental economic and social rights.

Each of the three has been the subject of previous decisions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, or communications from the experts through the procedures of the Human Rights Council.

The experts also expressed grave concern over Egypt’s Anti-Terrorism Law and Terrorism Circuit Courts, and said the systematic use of overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism that target human rights defenders, journalists, and those exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms - including the freedoms of expression as well as of peaceful assembly and of association - are detrimental to human rights. The experts affirmed that the Law’s provisions go beyond the scope necessary to counter-terrorism and severely limit civic space and the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Egypt.

Such measures also fail to comply with Egypt’s international law obligations, which require counter-terrorism measures be undertaken in compliance with international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law.

The experts urged Egypt to revise its Anti-Terrorism Law and to reverse the trajectory of recent amendments that threaten further rights violations.


*The experts: Fionnuala Ní AoláinSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Clément Nyaletsossi VouleSpecial Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Irene KhanSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression; Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishmentLuciano Hazan (Chair-Rapporteur), Aua Balde (Vice-Chair), Gabriella Citroni, Henrikas Mickevicius and Tae-Ung Baik, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Tlaleng MofokengSpecial Rapporteur on the right to health.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 79 444 7578 /jeremy.laurence@un.org)

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