GENEVA (7 December 2020) - UN human rights experts* said the decision to release on bail three senior staff from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) was a positive first step.
“We are encouraged by the recent decision of Egypt’s Chief Prosecutor to release on bail human rights defenders Gasser Abdel Razek, Karim Ennarah and Mohammad Basheer,” said UN human rights experts.
“We call on the Egyptian authorities to stay on this path,” emphasized the experts. ”We welcome the ongoing constructive engagement with them and hope that there will be other positive steps soon.”
Between 15 and 19 November 2020, Razek (Executive Director), Ennarah (Director of criminal justice) and Basheer (Administrative manager) were arrested and charged with terrorism and national security related offences. The three defenders were granted bail and released on 3 December. On 6 December, an Egyptian court handling terror-related cases upheld a prosecutor’s decision to freeze the assets of the three human rights defenders pending investigations.
Since 2016 the founder and former executive director of EIPR, Hossam Bahgat has been banned from travelling outside of Egypt. In February 2020, Patrick Zaki (gender and human rights researcher at EIPR), who is asthmatic, was arrested and accused of terrorist and national security related crimes. Regrettably, he remains in pre-trial detention like many other human rights defenders in Egypt.
“No human rights defender should face financial restrictions, criminalization, bail conditions or be imprisoned for their legitimate human rights work. They must be able to operate safely and in an enabling environment. Defending human rights should never be equated to terrorism,” said the experts. “It is vital to open up civic space in Egypt in order to enable human rights defenders and organisations like EIPR to continue to promote and protect human rights from within the country.”
*The Experts:Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances: Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Chair-Rapporteur), Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius (Vice Chair), Ms. Aua Baldé, Mr. Bernard Duhaime, and Mr. Luciano Hazan; and Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.