The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa (the Special Rapporteur) expresses her concern at the conviction by default of 25 demonstrators including Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Wael Metwally, and the human rights activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah to a term of imprisonment of 15 years and a fine, and to police surveillance for a period of five years on their release from prison at a future date.
According to corroborating information from reliable sources, the demonstrators are said to have been convicted inappropriately on the grounds of erecting roadblocks, of illegal assembly, demonstrating by using arms, attacking a public servant and stealing his modem.
The Special Rapporteur is concerned about the spate of arrests of demontrators since the entry into force of the legislation on public demonstration in November 2013 including the imposition of severe penalties on demonstrators.
The Special Rapporteur deplores the fact that this law requires organizers of such public demonstrations to obtain prior authorization and notify the public authorities about slogans to be used. Such an action gives discretionary powers to the authorities to decide the fate of the peaceful demonstrators in disregard of international standards concerning freedom of assembly.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Egyptian authorities that under the terms of Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, restrictions to freedom of assembly must be cumulatively necessary, enacted by law and, among others, aim at protecting national security, public safety of persons, the health or the rights and freedoms of persons.
The Special Rapporteur further recalls the content of Resolution ACHPR /Res.28 (LV) 2014 of the African Commission on the right to peaceful demonstration which enjoins States Parties to ensure that legislation governing the exercise of fundamental human rights complies fully with the relevant regional and international standards.
The Special Rapporteur observes that entrusting the administrative authority with discretionary power in a like manner is contrary to international standards and calls on the Egyptian government to have a second look at these restrictions in fulfillment of its international obligations.
The Special Rapporteur calls on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that all persons convicted under the above-mentioned law be allowed to enjoy the right to a fair trial and that persons sentenced in violation of the international commitments of the Arab Republic of Egypt must be released.
The Special Rapporteur further calls on the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt to take all the necessary and urgent measures for the protection of human rights defenders and to uphold the right of assembly and demonstration.
Finally, the Special Rapporteur expresses her continued availability and affirms her commitment to work with the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt and other stakeholders on any human rights defenders’ issue.
Banjul, 20 June 2014