Egypt: Attempt of closure against the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

27/09/2017
Urgent Appeal

EGY 004 / 0917 / OBS 105
Closure attempt
Egypt
September 27, 2017

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the attempt of closure by Egyptian authorities of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) [1].

According to the information received, on September 20, 2017,a committee from the Investment Authority, accompanied by National Security officers and a police van, entered ECRF’s headquarters office in Cairo, claiming to hold a warrant to close down the organisation and attempted to put a wax seal on the office’s door on grounds that remain unknown. No warrant was effectively presented.

Lawyers present at the office rejected these claims and prevented the closure arguing that it would be illegal since ECRF is a law firm operating in accordance with national legislation [2]. Nonetheless, the committee threatened to come again.

In October 2016, another committee from the Investment Authority had made a similar unannounced visit and searched ECRF’s premises.

This unannounced raid and closing attempt occurs several days after the Egyptian government blocked ECRF’s website on September 5, 2017, and one month after the publication of ECRF’s report on enforced disappearances in Egypt. The report documented 378 cases of enforced disappearances between August 2016 and August 2017, and labelled the Egyptian security apparatuses as the main actor to be held accountable for these grave human rights violations.

It is worth mentioning that ECRF is legally supporting and advising Giulio Regeni’s family members in the investigation of Giulio Regeni’s enforced disappearance followed by death in 2016 [3] and was due to receive them soon.

Moreover, this closing attempt follows the abduction and arbitrary detention of human rights defender Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy [4],Coordinator of the Association of the Families of Victims of Enforced Disappearances in Egypt, an association that ECRF supports with legal advice. Mr. Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy also reportedly provided legal assistance to Giulio Regeni’s family.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time ECRF is targeted by the Egyptian authorities. Several members of ECRF have been arrested and subjected to ill-treatment. Founder and executive directorof ECRF Mohamed Lotfy was arrested on June 2, 2015 and was put under a travel ban for security reasons [5], co-founder of ECRF Ahmed Abdullah was arrested on April 25, 2016 and released on bail on September 10, 2016, and minority rights expert Mina Thabet was arrested on May 19, and released on bail on June 18, 2016.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concerns over the attempt of closure of ECRF, as it appeared to be linked with its legal work in Giulio Regeni’s case, and consequently urges the Egyptian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against ECRF and its members.

This attempt of closure is part of the crackdown of Egyptian authorities against civil society in the country, imposing harsh restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expressionand repeatedly trying to shut down several human rights organisations [6].

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against ECRF and its members, as well as against all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Refrain from further hindering the right to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression in Egypt;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2; and

iv. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional 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. Sherif Ismail. Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016.
· Minister of the Interior, Mr. Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
· Minister of Justice, Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim, Fax: +202 2795 8103 

· Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Waly, Fax: +202 3337 5390
· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel Sadek, Fax: +202 2577 4716
· Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council For Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg
· H.E. Mr. Amr Ramadan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Email: mission.egypt@ties.itu.int, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, 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, September 27, 2017

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 the 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 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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