Egypt: Arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah

04/10/2019
Urgent Appeal

New information
EGY 004 / 0919 / OBS 075.1
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Egypt
October 4, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Mohamed El-Baqer, a human rights lawyer and Director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, and Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement [1].

According to the information received, on September 30, 2019, Messrs. Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah were transferred to Tora High Security prison 2, where conditions of detention are very strict, and detainees are held in solitary confinement and are not allowed to receive any visits.

The Observatory recalls that Messrs. Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah were arrested on September 29, 2019 (see background information). They were subsequently accused under Criminal Case 1356 of 2019 by State Security Prosecution on charges of “belonging to a terrorist group”, “funding a terrorist group”, “spreading false news undermining national security” and “using social media to commit publishing offenses”, and were given 15 days of preventive detention pending investigation. Their place of detention remained unknown until October 1, when the prison authorities informed their families that they were detained in Tora High Security prison 2.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Messrs. Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah and urges the Egyptian authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally and to put an end to all forms of harassment against them, including at the judicial level, as well as against all human rights defenders in Egypt.

Background information:

On September 29, 2019, Mr. Mohamed El-Baqer was arrested at the State Security Prosecution premises while he was attending an investigation session with his client Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, who had been arrested earlier in the morning of that same day in his probation cell at the Dokki police station, where he spends his daily 12 hours police monitoring. The Observatory recalls that on March 29, 2019 Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah was released under probation from Cairo’s Tora prison, at the term of his five-year sentence. As part of his probation, he must spend every night at the Dokki police station [2].

The arrest of Messrs. Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah came in the midst of a massive arrest campaign following demonstrations that called for President al-Sisi to step down following allegations of corruption and waste of public funds made against his family and a number of army leaders. At least 2,200 people have been arrested since September 20, 2019 in response to the protests, according to latest reports. On September 27, 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed “serious concerns about reports of lack of due process following wide-spread arrests linked to the protests in Egypt, and urged the authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in full compliance with international norms and standards”.

Other human rights defenders have also been arrested, including human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry and Ms. Asmaa Dabees, founder of the “Daughter of the Nile”, an initiative working on violence against women in Beheira with a focus on domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage, who were respectively arbitrarily arrested on September 22 and September 26, 2019 [3].

Actions requested:  

Please write to the authorities in Egypt, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Messrs. Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah, as well as that of all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Release Messrs. Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah immediately and unconditionally as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee the unhindered access of Messrs. Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah to a lawyer of their choice and their family members;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah, as well as of all human rights defenders in Egypt and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

v. Conform in all circumstances to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2.;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Egypt.

Addresses:
• President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Fax: +202 2391 1441. Email: p.spokesman@op.gov.eg, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
• Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Kemal Madbouly Mohamed. Email: pm@cabinet.gov.eg 
• Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mahmoud Tawfik, Email: center@iscmi.gov.eg
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim, Fax: +202 2795 8103 
• Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel Sadek, Fax: +202 2577 4716
• Head of the Egyptian parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Mr. Alaa Abed, Email: humanrightscomplaints@parliament.gov.eg
• Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council for Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg
• H.E. Mr. Alaa Youssef, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt@bluewin.ch
• Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email: embassy.egypt@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country. 

***
Geneva-Paris, October 3, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] This movement was set up in 2011 and denounced human rights abuses committed in particular by security forces and the army during the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) after the fall of former President Mubarak.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal EGY 002 / 1113 / OBS 095.8, published on March 29, 2019.
[3] See Observatory Urgent Appeals EGY 003 / 0919 / OBS 074 and EGY 005 / 0919 / OBS 076, published on September 23 and 30, 2019.

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