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Egypt: UN experts call on government to stop targeting and retaliating against human rights lawyers

Publish Date : Tuesday, 11 June, 2024
Last Update : Tuesday, 11 June, 2024

The undersigned organizations support the letter by five UN Special Rapporteurs, published on
19 May 2024, addressing the Egyptian government in regards to the ongoing targeting of human
rights lawyers through the use of counter-terrorism legislation, resulting in their imprisonment or
compelling them to stop their human rights activities. The letter addressed the targeting of
Mohamed Issa Rajeh and Mahmoud Abdelmajeed Adel, two lawyers at the Egyptian Front for
Human Rights (EFHR), an independent NGO, who were criminally investigated by the Supreme
Security State Prosecution in June 2023. The lawyers are being investigated over bogus charges
stemming solely from their legitimate work, including documenting human rights violations,
providing of legal aid, and cooperating with UN mechanisms.
The Special Rapporteurs further called on the Egyptian government to stop prosecuting and
arbitrarily arresting lawyers, in line with the demands of UN experts and Egyptian rights
organizations. The undersigned organizations emphasize that this targeting of the two lawyers
represents intimidation and reprisal against their work to push back against human rights
violations and cooperation with UN mechanisms.
On 20 March 2024, the UN Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteurs on the
situation of human rights defenders, on the independence of lawyers and judges, on the
promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on the rights to
freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and on the promotion and protection of human
rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, sent the communication to the
Egyptian government. The government has yet to respond.
The undersigned organizations reaffirm that the government’s targeting of the two lawyers is
indicative of a well-documented practice of the Egyptian authorities. In 2017, Ibrahim Metwally,
lawyer and founder of the League of the Families of the Forcibly Disappeared, was arrested
before traveling to Geneva to attend a meeting with the UN Working Group on Enforced or
Involuntary Disappearances. Metwally remains in prolonged pretrial detention to date. Lawyer
Ezzat Ghoneim, founder and director of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, his
colleague and fellow human rights lawyer Hoda Abdel Moneim, and others from the same
organization, were arrested and prosecuted for their human rights work, and subsequently
sentenced to prison by the State Security Emergency Court. In August 2018, the Fifth Terrorism
Circuit Court in Cairo sentenced Egyptian human rights defender Bahey el-Din Hassan, director
of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), to 15 years in prison in absentia for
statements made during a UN event.
The organizations further affirm that the Egyptian government’s ongoing use of politically-
motivated prosecution and imprisonment is part of an ongoing campaign to suppress civil society
and civic space. It suggests a clear disregard for human rights that contradicts official statements
made in national and international forums. It further indicates the Egyptian government’s
relentless campaign to suppress the public sphere and besiege independent civil society.

The undersigned human rights organizations call for the immediate release of all lawyers and
human rights defenders detained for defending human rights, providing legal aid to victims of
human rights violations, or for cooperating with UN mechanisms. The authorities should also
drop the charges against all those prosecuted, including the two EFHR lawyers, and quash
convictions and sentences of those tried solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.

1. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
2. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
3. AfricanDefenders
4. Amnesty International
5. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
6. Committee for Justice
8. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
9. Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
10. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
11. EgyptWide for Human Rights
12. El Nadeem
13. EuroMed Rights
14. FairSquare
15. FIDH- International Federation for Human Rights
16. Freedom House
17. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
18. Human Rights Watch
19. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
20. Law and Democracy Support Foundation (LDSF)
21. Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L)
22. MENA Rights Group
23. Middle East Democracy Center
25. Refugees Platform in Egypt (RPE)
26. Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR)
27. The Legal Agenda
28. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)

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