Egypt: human rights defenders speak in Geneva and are sentenced at home

March 15, 2013


The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) presented an oral intervention before the Human Rights Council on 12 March, 2013, in which it expressed its concerns over the continued deterioration in the situation of human rights in Egypt since President Mohamed Morsi took power. The oral intervention was based on the assessment of members of the Egyptian NGO Forum, a collective of 23 independent human rights organizations in Egypt, on the situation of human rights in Egypt during the first 8 months of Morsi’s presidency.  It asserted that three major rights-related crises have been seen over this period: undermining of the independence of the judiciary, violations to the right to free expression and media freedoms, and violations to the right to assembly and peaceful protest.

In addition, CIHRS organized a side event at the HRC, on 11 March, featuring representatives of the Egyptian NGO Forum, including Mohammed Zaree, director of the Egypt Roadmap Program at CIHRS, Masa Amir, researcher at Nazra for Feminist Studies, and Nihad Abboud, from the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. The event was chaired by Ziad Abdel Tawab, deputy director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. He expressed concern for an independent civil society in Egypt, referring to recent attempts by the current government to put in place unprecedented restrictions on the funding and activities of  non-governmental organizations.

Next, Nihad Abboud drew attention to the violations which have been committed against journalists and photographers as examples of the threats to freedom of expression and of opinion in Egypt.  Ms. Abboud further pointed out that the right to freedom of expression is particularly targeted in the context of the right to protest. She spoke about draft legislation to regulate demonstrations, stating that the draft law contains many restrictions on the right to free assembly by allowing the authorities broad powers to ban or restrict demonstrations. ..Perhaps most worrying is that the new constitution includes provisions which restrict on the right to free assembly for the first time in Egypt. Masa Amir turned to the precarious situation of women human rights defenders in Egypt, reminding the audience of the specific targeting of women through virginity tests and other violations by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.  The side event was concluded with the call that the international community should reassess its engagement with Egypt, in order to avoid replicating the mistakes of the past, including support for dictatorships which blatantly violate human rights.

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As if to demonstrate the precarious situation of HRDs in Egypt Front Line Defenders reports that the Egyptian Human rights defender Hassan Mustafa sentenced to two years imprisonment on 12 March by the Mansheya Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria on charges of allegedly assaulting a member of Alexandria Prosecution Office. Numerous supporters of the human rights defender gathered in front of the Courthouse at the time of the hearing to protest against his trial and demand his release. Hassan Mustafa is a well-known human rights defender in Alexandria who has defended the rights of detainees and campaigned on issues such as police brutality and economic rights. According to Hassan Mustafa’s lawyer, the Court heard only two out of fifteen testimonies, of witnesses who denied that he assaulted the Prosecution Office member.

One Response to “Egypt: human rights defenders speak in Geneva and are sentenced at home”

  1. […] Masa Amir – an Egyptian women human rights defender […] […]

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