Press Release on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society Space in the Arab Republic of Egypt

    The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) continues to monitor closely the deteriorating human rights situation and “shrinking” civil society space in the Arab Republic of Egypt, State Party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter).

    The Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, Hon. Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, is deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) and the “shrinking” civil society space in the Arab Republic of Egypt, in particular: the constant judicial harassment of HRDs, human rights Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) by the Egyptian authorities; the arbitrary arrest and detention of HRDs; the freezing of the personal assets of HRDs and the assets of NGOs and CSOs; the issuing of travel bans on HRDs, members of NGOs and CSOs; the constant  interference and restrictions on the activities of HRDs, NGOs and CSOs; and the closure of these NGOs and CSOs by the Egyptian authorities.

    We have received reliable reports that these alleged violations are linked to the July 2011  Order by the Egyptian Cabinet to the Minister of Justice to carry out investigations into the activities and funding of NGOs and CSOs and to determine which ones are registered. The ongoing infamous investigation commonly known as Case No. 173:- the “case on foreign funding of civil society”, has led to the arbitrary arrest, detention and imprisonment of many HRDs, the closure and freezing of the assets of NGOs and CSOs; the freezing of the personal assets of their leading members and their children and the issuing of travel bans on these HRDs.

    The Special Rapporteur notes that these violations carried out by the authorities of the Arab Republic of Egypt under the guise of the infamous Case No. 173 investigations, are a systematic tactics by the Egyptian authorities to obstruct the work of HRDs, NGOs and CSOs in their promotion and protection of human rights, as well as to shrink civil society space and make it impossible for HRDs, NGOs and CSOs to operate in the Arab Republic of Egypt.

    The Special Rapporteur particularly notes the recent cases of Ms Azza Soliman (whose personal and organisation’s assets have been frozen and she is banned from traveling), Ms Mozn Hassan and Mr Mohamed Aly Zarea (who are facing imminent assets freezing). The Special Rapporteur recalls the cases of more than 12 HRDs who have been prevented from traveling in 2016 alone, the freezing of the assets of more than six NGOs and CSOs and many other HRDs in the Arab Republic of Egypt, all these linked to the infamous Case 173 investigations.

    The Special Rapporteur condemns the interference and suppression of the rights of HRDs, NGOs and CSOs and the reprisals meted upon them because of their legitimate human rights activities, and invites the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt to:

    1.   Provide clarification to the African Commission regarding the above-stated allegations of judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests, freezing of assets and issuing of travel bans against HRDs, NGOs and CSOs in the Arab Republic of Egypt;

    2.   Immediately release all human rights defenders arbitrarily arrested and detained;

    3.    Uplift the travel bans issued against HRDs, release the assets of HRDs, those of their children and Organizations, as well as refrain from repeatedly targeting and harassing HRDs, NGOs and CSOs.

    4.   Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical, psychological integrity and security of all HRDs in the Arab Republic of Egypt;

    5.   Guarantee in all circumstances that all HRDs in the Arab Republic of Egypt are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions;

    6.   Uphold its obligations under regional and international human rights law, including by refraining from undue interference and suppression of the rights of HRDs, NGOs and CSOs.

    The Special Rapporteur would like to remind the Egyptian authorities of their obligations to guarantee fundamental rights, including: the right on equality before the law and equal protection of the law; the right to dignity and integrity of the person; the right to liberty and security of the person and to be protected from arbitrary arrests and detention; the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression;  and the right to freedom of movement and residence; as enshrined in Articles 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the African Charter.

    The Special Rapporteur would continue to monitor developments on the situation of HRDs and civil society space in the Arab Republic of Egypt and calls on the African Union and the international community to contribute towards the effective realization of human and peoples’ rights in the Arab Republic of Egypt as a whole.

    Done in Banjul-The Gambia, 29 December 2016

    Honourable Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou

    Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa

     

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      Date: 30 December 2016

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