The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a 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.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the release of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, a human rights lawyer known for her activism in favour of judicial independence and prisoners’ rights by organising peaceful protests, support activities for political prisoners and using social media to denounce human rights violations, and Mr. Youssef Shaban, a journalist and defender of workers’ rights. Both had been sentenced on May 31, 2015 to one year and three months’ imprisonment (see background information).
According to the information received, on August 13, 2016, Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and Mr. Youssef Shaban were transferred to National Security Agency facilities. They were held in police trucks during a few hours before being able to finalise their release procedures before the Alexandria prosecution. They were transferred back to the police station before their release in the evening. The two had been sentenced in 2015 within the framework of the “Raml police station” case(see background information).
The Observatory welcomes the release of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and Mr. Youssef Shabanbut condemns the judicial harassment they have been subjected to for more than two years as it was clearly aimed at hindering their peaceful human rights activities.
Moreover, the Observatory recalls Ms. Mahienour El-Massry still faces other charges in the “Khaled Saeed Demonstration Case”, as she awaits a Court of Cassation decision following her acquittal (see background information). The Observatory also deplores the ongoing detention of Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, an independent youth activist, in relation with the same case.
The Observatory has no information regarding possible travel bans imposed on Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and Mr. Youssef Shaban, as in most cases, human rights defenders are not informed in advance until they attempt to travel abroad.
Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Egyptian authorities to put an end to the harassment against Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and Mr. Youssef Shaban as well as against all human rights defenders in Egypt, and to release Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman immediately and unconditionally since his detention is arbitrary as it merely aims at sanctioning his human rights activities. The Observatory reminds in particular that the restrictive Protest Law, which bans gatherings of ten or more people without a permit issued by the authorities, has been repeatedly used by the authorities as a tool to harass and imprison human rights defenders.
On May 8, 2014, Ms. Mahienour El-Massry was referred to court on charges of “assaulting security forces” after she, other lawyers and human rights activists including Messrs. Youssef Shabaan and Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, went to Raml police station in March 2013 to provide legal assistance to three lawyers who were arrested and sent to the police by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (the “Raml police station” case). The lawyers were attacked by the police in the police station, and Ms. El-Massry was detained briefly before the Prosecution decided to release her and the others. The trial was then postponed several times following the resignation of the appointed judge from the bench.
On February 9, 2015, El Raml Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria sentenced Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Messrs. Youssef Shabaan and Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman as well as seven other activists  to two years in jail. The sentence was suspended upon payment of a 5,000 Egyptian Pounds bail (approximately 580 euros) per person. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry filed a demurrer to challenge the above mentioned sentence.
On May 11, 2015, El Raml Misdemeanour Court of Appeal in Alexandria heard the appeal of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, along with seven other activists. On that occasion, the court ordered the remand in custody of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and Mr. Youssef Shaban. As for Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, he was already arbitrarily imprisoned for another case.
On May 31, 2015, El Raml Misdemeanour Court of Appeal in Alexandria sentenced Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, along with seven other activists, to one year and three months’ imprisonment. The defendants were accused of storming El Raml police station in Alexandria and assaulting police officers as well as torching the Freedom and Justice Party headquarters, political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, “protesting without authorization”, “disrupting traffic”, “damaging content of the Police Station”, “attacking security forces”, “spreading fear and terror among citizens” and “attempt to smuggle prisoners”.
From Qanater women’s prison, Ms. Mahienour El-Massry started an hunger strike with six other detainees on July 28, 2016, to protest against the denial of family visits in prison.
Moreover, Ms. El-Massry is still facing separate charges. On January 2, 2014, Alexandria Manshiya Misdemeanour Court sentenced in absentia Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and seven members of the political group “Revolutionary Socialists” , including Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of EGP 50,000 (approximately EUR 5,140) for “protesting without a permit” and “assaulting security forces” following their participation in a peaceful protest on December 2, 2013 to denounce police violence and in particular the impunity of Khaled Saeed murder . Ms. Mahienour El-Massry had failed to appear as she had not been informed in advance of the date of the hearing.
On May 20, 2014, the Sidi Gaber Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria rejected the demurrer filed by Ms. Mahienour El-Massry regarding the sentence issued against her in absentia. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry was immediately detained following the hearing.
On July 20, 2014, after successive adjournments, the Sidi Gaber Appeal Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria sentenced Ms. Mahienour El-Massry to six months of prison and a fine of EGP 50,000 for “protesting without a permit” and “assaulting security forces”. Ms. El-Massry’s lawyers appealed the sentence before the Court of Cassation.
On September 21, 2014, Al Mansheya Misdemeanour Appeals Court decided to suspend the execution of Ms. El-Massry’s six-month prison sentence, pending the appeal lodged before the Court of Cassation. This decision followed a demurrer filed by Ms. El-Massry’s lawyers challenging the execution of her sentence pending a final outcome.
Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:;
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, as well as all human rights defenders in Egypt;
ii. Release Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman immediately and unconditionally since his detention is arbitrary as it merely aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative level, against Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, and more generally against all human rights defenders, as they are clearly aimed at hindering their peaceful human rights activities;
iv. Guarantee the right to freedom of movement of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman;
v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted on December 9, 1998 by the UN General Assembly, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(a), 6(a), and its Article 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Egypt.
· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Fax: +202 23901998
· Prime Minister of Egypt, Mr. Ibrahim Mehleb, Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Minister of the Interior of Egypt, General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, E-mail: email@example.com, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
· Minister of Justice of Egypt, Mr. Ezzat Khamis, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +202 2795 8103
· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Hisham Barakat Dar al-Qadha al-Ali, Fax: +202 2577 4716
· Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council For Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: email@example.com
· H.E. Ms. Wafaa Bassim, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.