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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press release on the upcoming verdict in the trial against Ms. Sana Seif, Ms. YaraSallam, together with 21 other individuals

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa, Commissioner Reine Alapini Gansou, is deeply concerned by the on-going judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in the Arab Republic of Egypt, including Ms. Sanaa Seif, and Ms. YaraSallam, winner of the human rights defenders’ award for North Africa in October 2013.

Credible sources indicate that on 11 October 2014, the Heliopolis Misdemeanor Court announced that it will deliver itsverdict on 26 October for the trial ofMs. Sana Seif and Ms. YaraSallam, as well as21 other individuals who had allegedly protestedpeacefully on 21 June2014 to demand the repeal of Law No.107 for 2013 on demonstrations and public rallies, and release of all detainees imprisoned under this law. All the defendants remain in custody pending trial, despite the defense’s several requests to release them.

They are facing charges under the Anti-Protest Lawfor allegedly“breaching the protest law”, “sabotaging public properties”, “possessing inflammable materials” and “taking part in showing off force with the objective of terrorizing the public.”

According to reliable information, there is lack of evidence and inconsistencies in the police reports on which the charges of damaging property are based. Furthermore, no weapons or other items were seized from the defendants or presented as evidence. None of the defendants were identified in the Prosecutor’s videos. Additionally, there was no evidence of possession of weapon by individuals on the videos.

In addition, the trial proceedings were inconsistent with the standards set out under Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) on the right to fair trial,as the defendants’ family members were denied access to the courtroom.

The Special Rapporteur is deeply concerned about the recent increase in the intimidation and arbitrary arrest of human rights activists in the Arab Republic of Egypt, which is resulting in lengthy jail sentences under the “Anti-Protest Law”.

The Special Rapporteur strongly condemns the misuse of this law which is a stumbling block to the activities of human rights defenders and calls for the immediate release of the detained persons.

The Special Rapporteur recalls the Resolution 287 on Human Rights Abuses in Egyptadopted during the 16th Extraordinary Session held in Kigali , Republic of Rwanda from 20 to 29 July 2014 in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda, which urges “the Egyptian authorities to guarantee the right to peaceful protest, association and assembly and to refrain from disproportionate use of force against protesters as well review its laws on demonstrations and public rallies on the use of firearms against protesters to bring them in line with international standards.’’ She reiterates appeals from her press release on the arrest of human rights defenders in Egypt issued on 24 June 2014. 

The Special Rapporteur would like to drawthe attention of the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt toits obligations, as State Party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as Article 12 (2) of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which stipulates that  « The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone, individually or in association with other persons against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the Declaration. »

The Special Rapporteur encourages authorities in the Arab Republic of Egypt to guarantee the right to freedom of association, particularly by bringing to an end the judicial harassment perpetrated against human rights defenders working in the country. 

Finally, the Special Rapporteur expresses her commitment to work with the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt and other stakeholders on any issue relating to human rights defenders.

 Banjul, 24 October 2014