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22 April 2016

Ongoing judicial harassment against Egyptian human rights defenders

On 20 April 2016, an investigating judge ordered to expand the asset freezing case list to prominent Egyptian human rights defender Mr Bahey Eldin Hassan, his wife and daughter, two staff members of Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), human rights defenders Mr Mostafa Al Hassan and Mr Abdel Hafez Tayel. This development is related to the foreign funding case which recently reopened in Egypt. On the same day, the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom postponed the asset freeze hearing of Mr Hossam Bahgat, Mr Gamal Eid and other human rights defenders, charged for “using foreign funding to foment unrest”. This is following a request to freeze their personal funds and family assets. If charged, the human rights defenders could each face up to twenty-five years imprisonment under the Egyptian penal code.

Bahey Eldin Hassan is the director and founder of the CIHRS, a Cairo-based, independent, regional non-governmental organization founded in 1993 working on the promotion and respect for the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the Arab region. CIHRS received the French Republic's Human Rights Prize in 2007. Mostafa Al Hassan is an Egyptian lawyer and the director of the leading independent human rights organisation Hisham Mubarak Law Centre dedicated to the promotion of human rights through litigation, campaigns and legal research. Abdel Hafez Tayel is head of the Egyptian Center for Right to Education, an organisation aimed at promoting and ensuring human rights education in Egypt.

Forty-one Egyptian organisations have been included in the foreign funding case, also known as Case No. 173, with some of their leaders and staff members being summoned on charges including “receipt of illegal foreign funding” and “working without legal permission”. In March 2016, four human rights defenders and their families were informed that an order had been made for the freezing of their money and properties. These include Hossam Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and currently a journalist at the independent news service Mada Masr, reporting extensively on army and military trials in Egypt, and Gamal Eid, founder and director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). Two staff members of CIHRS and three staff members from Nazra for Feminist Studies were also summoned to appear for questioning. The trial has been postponed by the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom until 23 May 2016, pending further investigation.

Front Line Defenders condemns the criminalisation of civil society in Egypt and calls for an immediate end to the persecution of human rights defenders, reiterating the essential role of their work in the development of just and equal society.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Egypt to:

  1. Put an end to the ongoing investigation against the above-mentioned human rights defenders and human rights organisations in Egypt, and drop all charges and measures, including the asset freezes, against them and their families;
  2. Immediately cease all forms of harassment of human rights organisations and human rights defenders in Egypt, as Front Line Defenders believes that their rights are being restricted solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
  3. 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.