Egypt: Dismiss charges against members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms
As members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) face sentencing tomorrow, 5 March, before the Emergency State Security Criminal Court in Case no. 1552 of 2018 on charges related to their human rights advocacy work, the undersigned human rights organizations demand that all charges against the defendants in the case be dismissed and those who are detained be immediately released. The Emergency State Security Court does not uphold minimum fair trial guarantees and its verdicts cannot be appealed, which is particularly alarming given the court’s record of unjustly sentencing peaceful civilians including politicians, rights advocates, and journalists.
Tomorrow’s sentencing hearing for ECRF members and the other defendants before the Emergency State Security Court and the preceding unjust trial is reflective of the Egyptian government’ punitive and vindictive approach towards the country’s human rights defenders. The trial belies the credibility and viability of the National Dialogue and the National Strategy for Human Rights, initiated in 2022 and 2021 respectively. It also exposes the falsity of the October 2021 declared lifting of the state of emergency, which continues to operate under the guise of other repressive laws and the government’s exceptional (emergency) courts, which repudiate all guarantees of a fair trial.
31 defendants, 14 of whom are imprisoned, are being prosecuted in the state security trial against the backdrop of their human rights advocacy work. The trial proceedings have been permeated by violations beginning with the investigation and interrogation of the defendants in the absence of their lawyers. The defendants’ lawyers were also prevented from obtaining the case files during the investigation while the defendants’ families have been prevented from attending the hearing sessions. Prior to the trial, members of the ECRF were subjected to prolonged pretrial detention following their arrests between March and November 2018 as part of an expanded arrest campaign targeting the rights organization. The accused rights advocates endured a series of violations documented by Egyptian and international human rights organizations, and the United Nations described their detention as arbitrary while demanding their immediate release.
The ECRF rights defenders have faced a slew of bogus charges meted out by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, namely ‘joining, leading, financing, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.’ The prosecution also levied terrorism charges against persons who documented and spoke out against human rights violations on social media platforms, including human rights defender Ezzat Ghoneim, lawyer and executive director of the ECRF; Hoda Abdel-Moneim, lawyer and former member of the State-affiliated National Council for Human Rights, and lawyer Mohamed Abu-Horaira and his wife Aisha Al-Shatir.
ECRF director Ezzat Ghoneim has been subjected to prolonged and brutal targeting by Egyptian government authorities; beginning with a three-day enforced disappearance following his arrest, during which he was coerced into appearing in a video published by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior; in the video his body showed signs of fatigue or torture. Ghoneim was ordered to be released in September 2018 but he was again forcibly disappeared before the decision was implemented, this time for about five months. He reappeared in February 2019 as a suspect in the same case from which he was ordered released, with an additional charge related to evading probationary messages. After facing a period of unjustified arrest and imprisonment he was included in a new case, no. 1552 of 2018, and the State Security Prosecution began investigating him for the third time in the same year.
Human rights advocate Hoda Abdel-Moneim has also been subjected to a medley of violations and abuses, including medical neglect and the denial of any visitation in prison. Her life is in critical danger as she faces urgent health problems, including kidney failure and a heart condition, which require that she be immediately transferred to a hospital. Aisha Al-Shatir has also been deliberately deprived of healthcare to the extent that her life is imperiled while she has endured torture, incommunicado detention, and the denial of any visitation.
The undersigned organizations reaffirm their demand that all charges be dropped at tomorrow’s sentencing hearing against the defendants including members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms and that those detained are immediately released. We, the undersigned organizations, hold the Egyptian authorities responsible for the defendants’ lives, health, and psychological and physical safety while reaffirming our steadfast demand for the immediate cessation of all forms of punitive abuse against peaceful Egyptian human rights defenders.
- Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
- Egyptian Front for Human Rights
- El Nadim Center
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Egyptian Human Rights Forum
- Egyptian Network for Human Rights
- The Freedom Initiative
- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- Human Rights Watch