Judicial harassment of Mozn Hassan
On 11 January 2017, the Cairo Criminal Court ruled to freeze the assets of human rights defender Mozn Hassan and her non-governmental organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies. The ruling is connected to the “foreign funding” case, which is targeting human rights defenders and NGOs across the country, and which is currently pending trial.
Mozn Hassan is an Egyptian human rights defender and the Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, a group that aims to build an Egyptian feminist movement and supports women human rights defenders through legal and psychological interventions. Mozn has extensively worked on numerous feminist issues in Egypt and the Middle East since 2001 including violence against women in the public space. Mozn Hassan is the recipient of the Charlotte Bunch Women Human Rights Defenders Award in 2013.
On 11 January 2017, the Cairo Criminal Court ruled to freeze the assets of human rights defender Ms Mozn Hassan and her non-governmental organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies. In the same ruling, the Court also froze the assets of Mr Mohamed Aly Zarea and his Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO).
Mozn Hassan is an Egyptian human rights defender and the Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, a group that aims to build an Egyptian feminist movement and supports women human rights defenders with legal and psychological interventions. Mozn Hassan has worked on numerous feminist issues in Egypt and the Middle East since 2001, including violence against women in the public space. Mohamed Aly Zarea is the Director of the Arab Penal Reform Organisation. APRO is an independent Arab NGO and law firm founded in 2004 that provides legal expertise on penal reform in Egypt.
On 11 January 2017, Mozn Hassan and Mohamed Aly Zarea’s personal and organisational assets were frozen in a decision connected to the “foreign funding” case, which is targeting human rights defenders and NGOs across the country, and which is currently pending trial. In the same ruling, the personal assets of Mr Atef Hafez, who is legal researcher with APRO, were also frozen. In the above mentioned “foreign funding” case, also known as Case No. 173, 37 Egyptian rights organisations have faced charges, with some of their leaders and staff members accused of “receipt of illegal foreign funding” and “working without legal permission”. As part of this case several human rights defenders have been subject to either travel bans or freezes of their personal and/or their organisations’ assets. Those found guilty of illegally receiving foreign funding could face up to 25 years’ imprisonment.
On 14 December 2016 the North Cairo Court ruled to freeze Ms Azza Soliman’s assets, as well as the assets of her organization, Lawyers for Justice and Peace, on the basis of the human rights defender’s involvement in the “foreign funding” case. In the same judicial order Azza Soliman was also issued with a travel ban. On 17 September 2016 an Egyptian court approved a freeze on the assets of five prominent human rights defenders and three leading human rights NGOs. On 27 June 2016, Mozn Hassan was prevented from travelling to Beirut at Cairo International Airport. She was not officially notified of the travel ban imposed on her beforehand and the human rights defender remains unable to travel abroad.
Front Line Defenders condemns the criminalization of civil society in Egypt, including through the imposition of travel bans, the blocking of human rights organisations’ bank accounts and the freezing of their assets. Front Line Defenders is also deeply concerned by the new restrictive draft NGO law recently approved by Egyptian Parliament. Front Line Defenders calls for an immediate end to the persecution of human rights defenders, reiterating their essential role in the development of a just and equal society.
On 27 June 2016, human rights defender Ms Mozn Hassan was banned from traveling to Beirut from Cairo International Airport. She had not been officially notified of the travel ban imposed against her beforehand. This follows previous incidents of judicial harassment against Nazra for Feminist Studies organisation where she serves as an Executive Director, including summons she received in order to appear for questioning on 29 March 2016 in relation to an ongoing foreign funding case.
In the morning of 27 June, security authorities at Cairo International Airport prevented human rights defender Mozn Hassan from traveling to Beirut. She was invited as a Regional Expert to attend and participate in the Executive Committee meeting for the Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) Regional Coalition for the Middle East and North Africa, scheduled between 27 June and 1 July 2016. The human rights defender had not received prior notification of the travel ban.
Previously on 22 March 2016, in relation to the foreign funding case, three staff members from Nazra for Feminist Studies were summoned to appear for questioning before the investigative judge at New Cairo Court. Mozn Hassan was also summoned to appear before him on 29 March 2016. The judge has decided to schedule a further appointment, pending review of the case, and will then summon Mozn Hassan. The current travel ban imposed against her is believed to be an extension of a series of acts taken initially against her and which will lead to her second summons.
Travel bans have been ordered by the Egyptian judiciary, among other authorities, against leaders and staff members of human rights NGOs in the framework of the ongoing foreign funding case which resumed in March 2016. It is also known as Case No.173, involving forty-one Egyptian organisations which are being investigated, with some of their leaders and staff members being summoned on charges including âreceipt of illegal foreign fundingâ and âworking without legal permissionâ.Â Between February and June 2016, the investigating judge in this case ordered travel bans against human rights lawyer Mr Gamal Eid, journalist and former director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Mr Hossam Bahgat and Egypt director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Mr Mohamed Zarea. Travel bans have also been imposed since January 2015 against digital media specialist and human rights defender Ms Esraa Abdel Fattah, human rights defender and lawyer Hoda Abdelwahab, and human rights defenders Messrs Hossameldin Ali, Ahmed Ghonim and Bassem Samir of the Egyptian Democratic Academy.
Egyptian authorities are increasing their pressure on human rights defenders and journalists using different measures including travel bans, freezes on the bank accounts, and arbitrary detention. Front Line Defenders is concerned by the travel ban imposed on Mozn Hassan and strongly fears that this step may be followed by her interrogation and prosecution.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Egypt to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally remove the travel ban imposed against Mozn Hassan and all other human rights defenders facing travel restrictions in Egypt, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being restricted solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Egypt are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.