In the past month and into the New Year, I have heard encouraging reports about Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in many parts of the world, including Egypt.
But while courts in Egypt have ordered the release of a number of HRDs, and lifted travel bans of others, many more continue to be held in detention without charge for long periods of time, or have been sentenced in unfair trials or have been added to the terrorist list.
I welcome the release from detention on 8 January 2022 of Ramy Shaath, the Egyptian-Palestinian human rights defender detained in July 2019 and accused of terrorism. Unfortunately, he had to relinquish his Egyptian citizenship and passport before leaving the country. That same day, Ramy Kamel Salib, who focused on defending the right to freedom of religion, and who was detained in February 2020 was issued with a release order. The two men had been charged with disseminating false news and joining a terrorist organisation and were the subject of multiple communications I sent to the Egyptian government, only some of which received a response.
I was pleased to hear about the release of Patrick Zaki on 8 December 2021, held since February 2020 on charges of misuse of social media and disseminating false news. I understand that his trial is set for next month; Mr. Zaki, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, was the subject of a communication with the Egyptian government.
While there had been other releases of HRDs in 2021, many HRDs whose cases I have raised directly with the Egyptian government have not been so fortunate.
Most recently, the Egyptian Court of Cassation on 11 January 2022 confirmed a conviction against Amal Fat’hy, a prominent Egyptian Woman Human Rights Defender to one year in prison for a Facebook video she posted in 2018 critical of the authorities’ failure to protect women from sexual harassment.
I continue to raise with the Egyptian authorities the mis-use of anti-terrorist and national security laws to criminalise the work of HRDs. In multiple cases, their detention without trial has been repeatedly renewed for longer than the two year legal limit, often based vague provisions of the Penal Code, the Anti-Terror Law and Anti-Cybercrime law. Of additional concern is the practice whereby HRDs whose release has been ordered by courts are placed under investigation in new cases before they get a chance to leave detention.
Among those who have been victims of this practice are HRDs Ezzat Ghoneim, Hoda Abdel Moneim, Aisha el-Shater, Mohamed Abou Horira.
Some HRDs remain unable to travel due to travel bans, including human rights lawyers Negad el-Borei and Azza Soliman.
Others, like Gamal Eid, have been unable to work. He has suspended the activities ofthe Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), due to ongoing harassment and attacks.
I remain ready to discuss these and any other issues relating to Human Rights Defenders with the Egyptian authorities.