Egypt: Continued judicial harassment of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry

19/11/2014
Urgent Appeal
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The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued judicial harassment 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.

New information
EGY 001 / 0514 / OBS 045.4
Judicial harassment / Repression of peaceful protest
Egypt
November 19, 2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (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:

According to the information received, on November 17, 2014, the Raml Misdemeanour Court held a hearing in the “Raml police station” criminal case in which Ms. Mahienour El-Massry is prosecuted on charges of “assaulting security forces” (see background information below). The court heard three testimonies provided by witnesses presented by the defence. The defense additionally requested the court to summon the persons who filed the complaint against Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, and to include the administrative police case report. The decision of the court was to adjourne the trial to December 8 to hear the pleas of the defence and to include the police case report.

The case of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry is illustrative of a wider repression campaign targeting human rights defenders opposing the current regime in the country since the “Protest Law”[1] was passed in November 2013. This controversial law bans gathering of 10 or more people without a permit issued by the authorities. Based on this law, dozens of human rights defenders have been arbitrarily detained and prosecuted.

The Observatory expresses its concern regarding the judicial harassment of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, which seems to aim only at preventing her from carrying out her peaceful human rights activities.

Background information:

On January 2, 2014, Alexandria Manshiya Misdemeanour Court sentenced in absentia Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and seven other members of the political group “Revolutionary Socialists”[2], including human rights lawyer Mr. Hassan Mustafa[3], to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of EGP 50,000 for “protest 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 Khaled Saeed murder’s retrial. Khaled Saeed was killed by police forces on June 6, 2012 and subsequently became a symbol of police repression during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry failed to appear as she had not been informed of the date of the hearing.

On May 20, 2014, the Sidi Gaber Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria rejected the objection filed by Ms. Mahienour El-Massry regarding the sentence issued against her in absentia. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry was immediately detained following the hearing.

The appeal to the May 20 decision of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry was scheduled for June 26, 2014. According to her lawyers, the appeal date was too far away in violation of criminal law procedural provisions. Therefore, the lawyers filed on May 22, 2014 a request for an earlier appeal date but that was not granted.

On May 22, 2014, the Egyptian security forces violently repressed participants to a solidarity march organised outside of the headquarters of Egyptian Center for Economic & Social Rights (ECESR) in Alexandria, following a press conference organised to show support for Mahienour El-Massry. Once the march ended, the security forces stormed into ECESR’s headquarters two times, smashed its contents and arrested its employers. Several female protesters were sexually harassed by security forces. In the meantime, activists who participated in the march were chased on the side streets.

Several human rights defenders and political activists were beaten and arrested by the police. They were detained in Alexandria Security Directorate. Then they were released after seizing the case’s file of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry along with the clearance that was issued by security bodies to some activists in order to visit the activist in the prison. Some other documents were also impounded.

On July 20, 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 (approximately EUR 5,143) for “protesting without a permit” and “assaulting security forces” following her participation in a peaceful protest aimed at denouncing police repression in Egypt. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry’s lawyers appealed the sentence before the Court of Cassation.

On September 21, the Al Mansheya Misdemeanour Appeals Court decided to suspend the execution of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry’s six-month prison sentence pending the appeal lodged before the Court of Cassation. This decision followed an appeal filed by Ms. Mahienour El-Massry challenging the execution of her sentence pending a final outcome.

Moreover, Ms. El-Massry is also facing trial on separate charges for an incident that occurred in March 2014. In a separate incident, on May 8, 2014, Ms. El-Massry was referred to court on charges of “assaulting security forces” after, in March 2014, she and other lawyers went to Raml police station to provide legal assistance to three activists 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. The case was heard on July 21, 2014 and then postponed to October 13 and November 17, 2014.

Actions requested:

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 and all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and all human rights defenders in Egypt;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with:

- its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
- its Article 5(a): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”
- its Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
- its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

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

Addresses

· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Abedine Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Fax: +202 23901998
· Prime Minister, Mr. Ibrahim Mehleb, Magles El Shaab Street, Kasr El Aini Street, Cairo, Egypt. Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email: primemin@idsc.gov.eg
· Minister of the Interior, General Mohamed Ibrahim Moustafa, Ministry of the Interior, El-Sheikh Rihan Street, Bab al-Louk, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail: moi1@idsc.gov.eg, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Mahfouz Saber, Ministry of Justice, Magles El Saeb Street, Wezaret Al Adl, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail: mojeb@idsc.gov.eg, Fax: +202 2795 8103
· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Hisham Barakat Dar al-Qadha al-Ali, Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt, 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. Ms. Wafaa Bassim, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, 49 avenue Blanc, 1202 Genève, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt@ties.itu.int, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, 19 avenue de l’Uruguay, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email: egyptembassy@embassyofegypt.be

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

***

Paris-Geneva, November 19, 2014

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] Law No. 107 of 2013 on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations.

[2] The Revolutionary Socialists joined with other movements in rejecting, opposing, and protesting against an anti-protest law passed by the Egyptian transitional government in 2013.

[3] Mr. Hassan Mustafa, who was also sentenced in absentia, has not been arrested and he has not "objected" to his sentence yet. See Observatory Urgent Appeal EGY 001 / 0313 / OBS 027 of March 20, 2013.

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