Egypt: Inhumane and degrading detention conditions of Mr. Gasser Abdel Razeq, Executive Director of EIPR

24/11/2020
Urgent Appeal
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New information
EGY 006 / 1120 / OBS 127.2
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Inhumane and degrading
detention conditions
Egypt
November 24,2020

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) [1] about the harsh detention conditions at Tora Prison Complex of Mr. Gasser Abdel Razeq, the Executive Director of EIPR, after his arrest on November 19, 2020.

According to EIPR’s defence team, who were able to see Mr. Abdel Razeq for the first time since his arrest on Thursday November 19, the latter is being subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment in his cell that puts his health and safety at risk. He was never allowed out of the cell, had only a metal bed to sleep on with neither mattress nor covers, save for a light blanket, was deprived of all his possessions and money, was given only two light pieces of summer garments, and was denied the right to use his own money to purchase food and essentials from the prison’s canteen. Moreover, his head was shaved completely.

His lawyers are currently preparing to submit an official complaint to the General Prosecutor detailing the mistreatment Mr. Abdel Razeq is subjected to.

The Observatory recalls that Gasser Abdel Razeq was arrested on November 19, one day after the arrest of Mr. Karim Ennarah, EIPR’s Criminal Justice Director, and the arrest of Mr. Mohamed Basheer, the organisation’s Administrative Manager, on November 15. The three colleagues face similar charges of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and ‘using social media accounts to publish false news and information that may harm public peace and security’. Their arrest appears to be in retaliation for their organisation of a meeting with a dozen of foreign diplomats in Cairo on November 3. None of the three defendants were presented with any evidence or investigation reports to support such spurious charges.

Following their arrest, the defendants had been blindfolded for long hours at national security premises, and held in pretrial detention without any grounds. Both Mr. Mohamed Basheer and Mr. Gasser Abdelrazek were interrogated at the State Security Sector without the presence of their lawyers. They did not get visits from the lawyers, who only saw them during the questioning at SSS Prosecution and very briefly after the questioning.

Furthermore, the Observatory is extremely worried of the detention conditions of Mr. Karim Ennarah and Mr. Mohamed Besheer who are also being detained at Tora Prison Complex and who have not provided information about their prison conditions as they have not been allowed any visitors or access to their lawyers since their detention began.

The Observatory condemns the detention conditions of Mr. Gasser Abdel Razeq, which do not respect international nor Egyptian standards, and urges the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Gasser Abdel Razeq, Karim Ennarah and Mohamed Besheer and to drop all charges against them.

The Observatory more generally deplores this series of attacks against this renowned and respected human rights organisation and calls on the Egyptian authorities to put an end to the systematic targeting of the EIPR and its members.

Background information:

After midnight on November 15, 2020, security forces arrested Mr. Mohamed Basheer at his house, in Cairo. He was then brought to an unidentified State Security Sector facility where he was detained for 12 hours and questioned about the visit of several ambassadors and diplomats to EIPR premises on November 3, 2020, during which the human rights situation in Egypt and in the world was discussed. After this interrogation, he appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) of the Fifth Settlement district, where he was questioned about EIPR’s work, its latest publications and its legal aid work.

Subsequently, the SSSP charged Mr. Basheer with “joining a terrorist organisation with knowledge of its purposes”, “using a personal account on the internet to spread false information that undermines public security”, “committing one of the crimes of funding terrorism”, “broadcasting false news and statements that undermines public security” and “harming national interest”, and decided to remand him in custody for 15 days and to resume the questioning at a later date. The prosecution added Mr. Mohamed Basheer to case n°855/2020 alongside with several other activists and human rights professionals, including lawyers Mohamed El Baqer [2] and Mahinour El Masry [3].

On November 18, 2020, at 2pm, Mr. Karim Ennarah was arrested by four plain-clothed National Security Agency officers in a restaurant in Dahab (South Sinai) were he was on vacation, after security forces had visited on November 17, 2020, Mr. Ennarah’s home in Cairo in order to arrest him, but without finding him then. The officers questioned him during a few minutes, requested him to give them his phone and took him to the local police station. After Mr. Ennarah’s arrest, police officers raided his hotel room, where they seized his ID, laptop and other belongings.

Mr. Ennarah then appeared in front of the Supreme State Security Prosecutor (SSSP) in Cairo and after an interrogation that lasted for four hours and where EIPR lawyers were present, the SSSP ordered Karim Ennarah’s pretrial detention for 15 days per case n°855/2020 pending investigations over charges of “joining a terrorist group”, “using a social media account to spread false news” and “spreading false news”. The prosecutor based the charges on security investigations showing that Karim Ennarah “agreed with a group inside prisons to spread false rumours that could undermine public peace and public safety.”

On November 19, 2020, security forces arrested Mr. Gasser Abdel Razeq from his home in Cairo and took him to an unknown location. He later appeared and was interrogated at the SSSP, who ordered his pretrial detention for 15 days in case n°855/2020 pending investigations into similar charges of “joining a terrorist group”, “disseminating false statements to undermine public security”, and “using the internet to publish false news”.

In addition, media outlets affiliated with the General Intelligence Service have been leading a smear campaign against the EIPR, aimed at discrediting their work [4].

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Messrs. Karim Ennarah, Gasser Abdel Razeq and Mohamed Basheer as well as of all other human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Conform with Egyptian Constitution Article 55 [5] and with Egyptian Prison regulation article 82 regarding the proper and humane detention conditions;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Karim Ennarah, Gasser Abdel Razeq and Mohamed Basheeras well as all other human rights defenders prosecuted under the same case;

iv. Put an end to any form of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Karim Ennarah, Gasser Abdel Razeq and Mohamed Basheer, as well as all other human rights defenders in Egypt;

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

vi. Ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in all circumstances, in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments to which Egypt is a State party.

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 representations of Egypt in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 24, 2020

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 FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT 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 FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
● Tel OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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