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Egypt: UN experts condemn “systematic targeting” of human rights defenders

GENEVA (28 September 2018) – UN human rights experts* have urged Egyptian authorities to ensure that all detained human rights defenders are afforded every right to due process and a fair, impartial and public trial in accordance with Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law.

Ms. Amal Fathy, Mr. Shadi al-Ghazali Harb, Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan (also known as “Mohamed Oxygen”), Mr. Wael Abbas, and Mr. Haytham Mohamadein, who have worked on issues such as corruption, torture, extra-judicial killings, and women’s rights, have been in detention for the past five months. All are facing charges relating to freedom of expression and freedom of association, and three are facing charges relating to participating in terrorist organisations.

“We are gravely concerned at the human rights defenders’ prolonged periods of detention, reportedly arising from their peaceful and legitimate defence of human rights,” the UN experts said. “The systematic targeting of human rights defenders is yet another indication that the Egyptian Government is operating a zero-tolerance approach to dissent, which is often suppressed under the pretext of countering terrorism.

“No one should be punished simply for expressing political dissent in line with universal human rights standards,” the experts said. “And all detainees, no matter the charges against them, must be granted immediate and confidential access to their legal counsels.”

The experts also emphasised the fact that counter-terrorism legislation should not be misused against individuals peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and association, which are protected under international law. “Counter-terrorism legislation should not be used as an excuse to suppress dissent or curtail human rights work,” they said.

The experts voiced particular concern for Ms. Amal Fathy, who is facing charges in two separate cases relating to incitement to overthrow the regime, terrorism, and publishing fake news in relation to her efforts to promote women’s rights. She is reportedly suffering from acute stress as a result of her prolonged detention and was diagnosed with paralysis in July. Her verdict hearing is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 29 September 2018.

“We appeal to the Egyptian authorities, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that due process and a fair trial is provided to all detained human rights defenders, including Ms. Amal Fathy,” the experts said. “Absent such guarantees, the human rights defenders should be immediately released and all charges dropped.”

The experts concluded by urging the Egyptian authorities to respect fundamental freedoms and human rights and, as a matter of priority, to take all necessary measures to protect those who defend them.

ENDS

* UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Mr. Joseph Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy;Ms.Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Ms. Elizabath Broderick, Ms. Alda Facio, Ms. Ivana RadačIć (Chair), Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane (Vice Chair), Ms. Melissa Upreti, Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Chair), Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts 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.

UN Human Rights, country page - Egypt

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms. Jessica Ní Mhainín defenders@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org