Egypt: doctors protest police brutality but no human rights defenders can come and tell about it

February 15, 2016

While human rights organizations and the media around the world were remembering Egypt‘s Tahrir Square [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/five-years-after-tahrir-square-there-is-stability-in-egypt-but-do-not-ask-at-what-price/] the space for demonstrations in Egypt itself was minimal. But a huge exception was made on 13 February 2016 when some 10.000 people gathered at noon in front of the Doctors Syndicate in Cairo. Heartening to see that the doctors have the courage to take up the case against police brutality. But you are unlikely to hear about this from an Egyptian human rights defender in person as they are systematically banned from traveling.

Crowds in front of the Doctors Syndicate on Qasr Al-Eini street in downtown Cairo on Friday 13 February

 in the Daily News of Egypt reported that the rally was organised ahead of an emergency public meeting, which doctors from all over Egypt attended, following a week of escalation measures undertaken by the syndicate to contest an alleged assault by policemen on two doctors at the Matariya Teaching Hospital in January. The street was partially blocked by demonstrators, surrounded by security forces. They stood there for over four hours, chanting against police brutality and calling for human dignity, condemning their “thug-like behaviour”.

Those participating were not only doctors, but many others supporting their cause, such as lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders. Other syndicates announced their solidarity with the doctors, such as the pharmacists, engineers, press and actors syndicates.“The rally was very significant, whether syndically or politically,” said Heba Morayef, Associate Director at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

The Matariya police station is referred to by activists as “the slaughterhouse” (with at least 14 deaths in custody over the last two years including the killing of lawyer Kareem Hamdy). This is a classic situation, where victims of police brutality are pressured and intimated into giving up their rights, which often enables immunity for violators,” Morayef stated. The rally remained powerful and peaceful. The crowds applauded syndicate leaders Hassan Khairy and Mona Mina, who challenged the pressure to which they have been subjected in order to defend doctors’ rights.

Travel bans are systematically used to silence human rights defenders’ voices: On 13 February 2016 nine NGOs (Amnesty International, EuroMed Rights, FIDH, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch, IFEX, People in Need and Solider) issued a report saying that travel bans have been repeatedly used by Egyptian authorities as a tool to intimidate and silence human rights defenders, as well as lawyers and journalists, and are unfortunately becoming standard practice in the country.

  • The latest example, on 4 February 2016, is Mr Gamal Eid, a renowned human rights lawyer, founder and executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), who was informed by Egyptian security at Cairo International Airport that a travel ban had been placed upon him.
  • On 14 January 2016, the activist and poet Mr Omar Hazek was not able to take a flight to Amsterdam to be awarded a prize for freedom of expression from PEN International
  • Mr Mohamed Lotfy, founder and executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), has been effectively under a travel ban for ‘security reasons’ since 2 June 2015, when security forces prevented him from flying to Germany and to speak before the German Parliament.
  • on 13 January 2015 political activist, Ms Esraa Abdel Fattah, who worked at the Egyptian Democratic Academy, was banned from travelling to Germany.
  • travel bans were also imposed throughout the years on Messrs Hossameldin Ali, Ahmed Ghonim and Bassim Samir of the Egyptian Democratic Academy.

[Under international Human Rights law, bans on leaving one’s country can only be imposed for legitimate and non-arbitrary reasons. Such bans should be proportionate (i.e. temporary) and everyone on whom a ban is imposed should be immediately informed of the ban, the reasons for it and its duration, and should be able to challenge it in a fair hearing.]

Sources:

Doctors take stand against police brutality – Daily News Egypt

http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/241255849/egypt-travel-bans-systematically-used-to-silence-human-rights-defenders-voices

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