Egypt: Reprisals against Ahmed Mefreh for UN cooperation (joint communication)

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The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Egypt on 29 November 2021. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public. The Government has not responded to the letter, and at the time of publication has not responded to any communication from the Special Rapporteur on HRDs since March 2020. All communications and replies can be found on the UN Special Procedures Database.

Read the full communication


Topic: alleged intimidation and reprisals against Mr. Ahmed Mefreh, in relation to his work cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights.

Mr. Ahmed Mefreh is a human rights defender and the Executive Director of the Committee for Justice (CFJ). Mr. Mefreh was also the country representative in Egypt for Alkarama, an independent human rights organization established in 2004 and based in Switzerland, to assist those in the MENA region subjected to, or at risk of, extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention. In this capacity, he gathered information about alleged human rights violations for submission to UN human rights mechanisms and worked for the promotion of human rights standards in Egypt.

Special Procedures’ mandate holders sent a communication to the Government on 16 September 2013, regarding allegations of the issuance of an arrest warrant against Mr. Mefreh (EGY 14/2013). The arrest warrant was allegedly issued so that the SSI may interrogate Mr. Mefreh. Mr. Mefreh was allegedly accused of being a member of an armed organization, as well as having been involved in the alleged burning of an official building in Damanhur on 3 July 2013. No response was ever received in relation to the communication.

The case of Mr. Mefreh was also included in the 2020 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights on allegations of reprisals following his engagement with several UN bodies and mechanisms (A/HRC/45/36, Annex II, para. 47).


While Mr. Mefreh is based in Geneva, security officers in Egypt have reportedly been intimidating his family, as an attempt to dissuade and obstruct his work and his cooperation with the UN and its human rights mechanisms.

On 4 October 2021, two state security officers reportedly went to Mr. Mefreh’s family home in Damanhour, where his mother lives. They allegedly asked her to go with them to the State Security office at the Security Directorate of Damanhour for an informal interrogation. Mr. Mefreh’s mother refused to leave with them, citing her poor heart condition. Upon the officers’ insistence, Mr. Mefreh’s mother called his brother who informed the officers that he was willing to attend the interrogation instead of his mother. The officers allegedly agreed to this, and left.

On 9 October 2021, Mr. Mefreh’s brother went to the National Security office located in Damanhour Security Directorate, where he was interrogated by a national security officer for approximately three hours. The officer allegedly asked several personal questions about Mr. Mefreh, and then took the brother’s phone and asked him to show him how he communicates with Mr. Mefreh. The officer reportedly asked Mr. Mefreh’s brother to open an application on his phone and to show him his call logs with Mr. Mefreh.

The security officer also reportedly asked to see Mr. Mefreh’s social media, including his Facebook and Instagram accounts. The officer allegedly also asked about Mr. Mefreh’s wife and children, where they lived, and if they communicated with anyone inside Egypt.

Afterwards, the officer reportedly continued checking the phone and intimidated Mr Mefreh’s brother with statements such as “your brother is not a murderer but he works against the national security,” “of course you know that we can bring your brother if we want, and that we can stop him if we wish to,” and “it would be a shame on us if we punish you because of your brother.” The security officer then returned the phone to Ms. Mefreh’s brother and told him that he could leave, and that they would call him later if they needed him again.

This is allegedly not the first time that one of Mr. Mefreh’s family members have been summoned to the National Security Office in relation to his work. However, this time they asked more personal details about Mr. Mefreh, while explicitly mentioning the possibility of using Mr. Mefreh’s family as a means of retaliation in the future.

For example, following the UPR of Egypt in 2019, Mr. Mefreh’s brother was reportedly summoned to the State Security Office in Damanhour, and was subjected to interrogation for approximately four hours, where he was asked about Mr. Mefreh and his family, where they live and how they communicated with them.

In 2020, two security officers reportedly went to the home of Mr. Mefreh’s father-in-law (where Mr. Mefreh used to live before leaving Egypt in 2013). Mr. Mefreh’s father-in-law was also asked personal questions about him and his family, including where they were staying, and how his wife communicated with her family.


In the communication we expressed our deep concern at the intimidation and actions that constitute acts of reprisal against human rights defender Mr. Mefreh, including the intimidation and interrogation of members of his family, which appear to be directly linked to his legitimate work as a human rights defender and to his cooperation with the UN and its human rights mechanisms. Furthermore, we expressed our concerns regarding the targeting of Mr. Mefreh and his family for the legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as of association, provided by articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), acceded to by Egypt on 14 January 1982.


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