Ms. Amal Fathy, Mr. Shadi al-Ghazali Harb, Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan (also known as “Mohamed Oxygen”), Mr. Wael Abbas, and Mr. Haytham Mohamadein, who have worked on issues such as corruption, torture, extra-judicial killings, and women’s rights, have been in detention for the past five months. All are facing charges relating to freedom of expression and freedom of association, and three are facing charges relating to participating in terrorist organisations.
“We are gravely concerned at the human rights defenders’ prolonged periods of detention, reportedly arising from their peaceful and legitimate defence of human rights,” the UN experts said. “The systematic targeting of human rights defenders is yet another indication that the Egyptian Government is operating a zero-tolerance approach to dissent, which is often suppressed under the pretext of countering terrorism.
“No one should be punished simply for expressing political dissent in line with universal human rights standards,” the experts said. “And all detainees, no matter the charges against them, must be granted immediate and confidential access to their legal counsels.”
The experts also emphasised the fact that counter-terrorism legislation should not be misused against individuals peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and association, which are protected under international law. “Counter-terrorism legislation should not be used as an excuse to suppress dissent or curtail human rights work,” they said.
The experts voiced particular concern for Ms. Amal Fathy, who is facing charges in two separate cases relating to incitement to overthrow the regime, terrorism, and publishing fake news in relation to her efforts to promote women’s rights. She is reportedly suffering from acute stress as a result of her prolonged detention and was diagnosed with paralysis in July. Her verdict hearing is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 29 September 2018.
“We appeal to the Egyptian authorities, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that due process and a fair trial is provided to all detained human rights defenders, including Ms. Amal Fathy,” the experts said. “Absent such guarantees, the human rights defenders should be immediately released and all charges dropped.”
The experts concluded by urging the Egyptian authorities to respect fundamental freedoms and human rights and, as a matter of priority, to take all necessary measures to protect those who defend them.