Egypt : Ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Azza Soliman

21/05/2015
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The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Azza Soliman, human rights lawyer and founder of the Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Aid (CEWLA). The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Azza Soliman, human rights lawyer and founder of the Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Aid (CEWLA).

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
EGY 001 / 0315 / OBS 006.2

Judicial harassment
Egypt
May 21, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of theInternational 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 :

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Azza Soliman, human rights lawyer and founder of the Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Aid (CEWLA).

According to information received, on May 23, 2015, the Abdeen Misdemanour Court will hold a hearing in the case against Ms. Soliman on charges of “unauthorised protesting” and “breach of security and public order”. Charges were pressed after Ms. Soliman went to the police to provide a testimony on the violent repression by the police of a protest commemorating the January 25 Revolution, which led to the death of Ms. Shaimaa El Sabbagh, political activist and women’s rights defender (see background information).

The Observatory recalls that Ms. Soliman has recently established the “Coalition on the Protection of Witnesses and Informants”sand held a conferene entitled “Protection of witnesses and informants : Improving the justice system” about the lack of protection of witnesses within the Egyptian legal system on May 7 in Cairo, which included the participation of a large network of civil society organizations and representatives from the Egyptian authorities including the President of the National Human Rights Council, and representatives from the Ministry of Justice and the “Legislative Reform” Committee.

The Observatory strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Ms. Soliman, which only aims at sanctioning her recent reports on human rights violations, as part of her legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the authorities to drop all charges held against her, and put an immediate end to her judicial harassment.

This case is an illustration of a wider trend of repression against human rights defenders in Egypt. The Observatory recalls 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.

Background information :

On January 24, 2015, Ms. Soliman voluntary went to the Public Prosecution’s office to give her testimony regarding the violent dispersal of a protest organised by the political party Popular Alliance on the same day by security forces, which lead to the death of political activist, Ms. Shaimaa El Sabbagh. Ms. Soliman did not take part in the protest, but was coincidentally in the same area and witnessed the dispersal and the shooting of the activist.

After waiting several hours at the Public Prosecution’s office, Ms. Soliman was finally able to give her testimony, pointing to the responsibility of the police for the death of the activist. Ms. Soliman also filed a complaint accusing the Minister of Interior and security forces of having violently dispersed the peaceful protest.

Upon completion of her testimony, the prosecutor then interrogated her, and informed her that he was going to press charges against her and four other witnesses for “illegal gathering” and “participating in a protest that harmed public security”. Ms. Soliman was released along with the other four, pending investigation.

On March 23, 2015, Ms. Soliman was formally charged with “unauthorised protesting”, and “breach of security and public order”. Along with Ms. Soliman, sixteen others were charged, including Ms. Nagwa Abbass, member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party.

On March 28, 2015, the lawyers of Ms. Soliman requested from the General Prosecutor to include her as a witness and not as a defendant in the case, however on March 31, this request was denied.

On April 4, 2015, the first hearing took place before the Abdeen Misdemeanor Court. Ms. Soliman’s lawyers requested adjournment, as they had not been able to access the criminal files [1]. The request was granted and the Court adjourned the hearing to May 9, 2015. On May 9, the judge heard requests made by lawyers of other accused and adjourned the hearing to May 23, 2015.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to :

· Drop all charges against Ms. Azza Soliman and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her and all human rights defenders in Egypt ;

· Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Azza Soliman and all human rights defenders in Egypt ;

· 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” ;

· 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. Ezzat Khamis, 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:embassy.egypt@skynet.be

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

***
Paris-Geneva, May 21, 2015

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.

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