Archive for the 'CIHRS' Category

Egypt: the ‘foreign-funding’ accusation against human rights defenders goes in overdrive

April 3, 2018

An Egyptian lawyer, Samir Sabry, has requested the Attorney General to bring human right defender Asmaa Mahfouz to court. The reason? Winning the Sakharov Prize in 2011! If Egypt Today had reported it a day earlier (on 1 April), I would have credited it as a good April 1st spoof, but unfortunately it is not. In his complaint, Sabry called for the Attorney General to transfer Mahfouz to a Criminal Court trial and ban her from travelling outside the country. He stated that the prize, worth €50,000  was given to her suddenly, and he did not know why. He asked whether it is funding, a reward, or for certain service, and what the reason is for this award. The complaint from Sabry also claimed that this is a Jewish award [SIC} and questions the award’s links to Zionism. According to Sabry, the answer is that Mahfouz received the prize money, and accepted the award, in return for betraying Egypt.

Asmaa Mahfouz was one of the founding members of the April 6 Youth Movement, which sparked nation-wide demonstrations in April 2008 and was indeed awarded the Sakharov prize in 2011 (sharing it with four other Arab figures).

The prize in question is the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought], which is of course is not granted by Israeli but by the European Parliament!

However, the issue of foreign funding is a major one in the Egyptian context as demonstrated by the case of two Egyptian woman human rights defenders in the ‘NGO foreign-funding case” (as ISHR reminds us on 29 March 2018):  harassed and targeted Egyptian woman defenders Azza Soliman and Mozn Hassan [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/right-livelihood-has-to-go-to-egypt-to-hand-mozn-hassan-her-2016-award/] face life imprisonment if their cases are brought to trial simply for conducting legitimate human rights work.

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Egypt ‘blessed’ with two side event at Human Rights Council in March 2018

March 6, 2018

On 13 February 2018 fourteen international and regional rights organizations stated that the Egyptian government has trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair presidential elections (planned 26-28 March). The government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has relentlessly stifled basic freedoms and arrested potential candidates and rounded up their supporters. “Egypt’s allies should speak out publicly now to denounce these farcical elections, rather than continue with largely unquestioning support for a government presiding over the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades,” the groups said.

The authorities have successively eliminated key challengers who announced their intention to run for president….The current atmosphere of retaliation against dissenting voices and the increasing crackdown against human rights defenders and independent rights organizations have made effective monitoring of the elections extremely difficult for domestic and foreign organizations. Media reports have said that the number of organizations that were granted permission to monitor the elections was 44 percent fewer than in the last presidential election in 2014 and that the number of requests, in general, has gone down. Several opposition parties called for boycotting the elections. A day later al-Sisi threatened to use force, including the army, against those who undermine “Egypt’s stability and security.” On February 6, the Prosecutor-General’s Office ordered an investigation against 13 of the leading opposition figures who called for a boycott, accusing them of calling for “overthrowing the ruling regime.” Seven years after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the government has made a mockery of the basic rights for which protesters fought,” the groups said. “Egypt’s government claims to be in a ‘democratic transition’ but move further away with every election.

So, the two side events that are coming up are extremely valuable as the national space for dissent is nihil:

  • The Situation of Human Rights and Upcoming Elections in Egypt: Facilitating Radicalisation is an event organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and co-sponsored by ISHR, that will take place on 9 March at 13:30 to 15:00 in Room XXIII. The event will address the deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt and the dangers of the international community’s failure to respond.
  • Human rights violations in Egypt and in the Gulf States is an event organised by FIDH, CIVICUS, the Gulf Center for Human Rights. It will take place on 15 March 2018 at 15:00 till 16:00 in Room XXIII. The event will focus on the interlinked plight of human rights defenders in Egypt and the Gulf States as both are facing ongoing targeting by their own governments as well as explore measures for coordination and advocacy at the international level.

In the same context there is the press release of Friday 2 February 2018 in which a number of organisations, under the umbrella Committee for Justice (CFJ), condemned Tuesday’s execution of Egyptian Tayseer Odeh Suleiman after he was convicted in Ismalia’s military court in what they said was a flawed trial inconsistent with international legal and human rights standards. Suleiman, 25, was hanged after the Supreme Military Court of Appeals rejected the defence put foward by his lawyer without explaining the reasons behind the rejection….CFJ confirmed that there had been an unprecedented increase in the implementation of death sentences in Egypt, based on illegal proceedings, with 26 people executed between the end of December last year and the present. CFJ further asserted that the reason for the death penalties “under the guise of combating terrorism” were misleading and in violation of basic standards of a fair trial indicating significant flaws in Egypt’s judicial process.

On only a few days ago (2 March 2018), responding to reports from his family and colleagues that Ezzat Ghonim – a prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer and director of the NGO, Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms – failed to return home from work yesterday, Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director, said:  “Given the highly-charged political climate in Egypt and the clampdown on dissent in the lead-up to the presidential elections, we are deeply concerned that Ezzat Ghonim may have been forcibly disappeared. ”

For some of my earlier posts on Egypt, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/

https://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/rights-groups-condemn-egyptian-executions-done-by-military-13069428

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/13/egypt-planned-presidential-vote-neither-free-nor-fair

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/egypt-fears-lawyer-ezzat-ghonim-latest-human-rights-activist-be-disappeared

Five Years After Tahrir Square, there is “stability” in Egypt but do not ask at what price

January 28, 2016

Five years ago, human rights defender Ahmed Abdullah was among thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets for 18 days of mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, eventually forcing then-President Hosni Mubarak to step down and the security forces to retreat. Today, Ahmed is on the run. He dodged arrest by the thinnest of margins on January 9, after plainclothes police in Cairo raided his regular coffee shop. The NGO which he chairs, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, had recently exposed a surge in enforced disappearances, which has seen hundreds vanish at the hands of state security forces over the last year alone. He is not the only one whose activism has put him at risk. In recent weeks, security forces have been rounding up activists linked to protests and journalists critical of the government’s record. This how Amnesty International starts its assessment of the fifth anniversary and it concludes: “Five years since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, Egypt is once more a police state. The country’s ubiquitous state security body, the National Security Agency, is firmly in charge.”

The same sentiment is echoed in the long piece in the Huffington Post of 25 January 2016 by Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH and Bahey eldin Hassan, Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

MAHMOUD KHALED VIA GETTY IMAGES

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China OR the UN must ensure independent investigation into death of Cao Shunli !

March 27, 2015

When late Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli – as Final Nominee of he Martin Ennals Award 2014 – got a standing ovation during the ceremony in October last year, we all said, with the 10 NGOs on the Jury, that we should not forget her. On 19 March 2015 in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council that is exactly what a group of NGOs [International Service for Human Rights and supported by Human Rights WatchCIHRSCIVICUSConectasEHARDPArticle 19HRHF and ALRC] asked for: Ensure independent investigation into death of Cao Shunli.CAO_SHUNLI_PORTRAIT

China must ensure a full, independent and impartial investigation into the death of Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli, ..If Chinese authorities are unable or unwilling to conduct such an investigation in accordance with international standards, the Human Rights Council as the world’s top human rights body must take appropriate action, the statement said.

One year after her tragic death, there has been no adequate investigation or accountability in relation to the death of Chinese defender Cao Shunli,’ said Michael Ineichen, Head of Human Rights Council Advocacy at ISHR. ‘If China is let of the hook for such a blatant case of reprisals against someone wanting to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms, the Council sends a message to rights abusers that activists can be attacked with impunity.’

The statement highlighted the negative effect of impunity for cases of intimidation and reprisals, as shown by the numerous reported cases of intimidation and reprisals occurring during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, including against South Sudanese and Bahraini defenders.

The legal and moral obligations of States to protect those who cooperate with the UN are clear, and if a State fails to conduct stop reprisals or to properly investigate allegations, the UN has a responsibility to act, the statement said.

We welcome recent advances on the institutional level, such as the treaty body policies that recognise States’ primary duty to ensure accountability in the case of reprisals, and the UN’s own duty of care,’ said Eleanor Openshaw, Head of Reprisals Advocacy at ISHR. ‘However, in the absence of a more systematic approach, such as through a dedicated focal point on reprisals which could coordinate investigation of and follow-up to individual cases, these steps will remain the proverbial drop in the ocean’   The statement is available as a PDF and video.

for more on reprisals in this blog see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/

Cairo Institute launches a new research project on political islam and human rights

September 28, 2014

On September 25, in an event held at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies [CIHRS ] launched a new three-year academic research project on political Islam and human rights.   Read the rest of this entry »

Egyptian NGO bill with big shortcomings in crucial last phase

May 31, 2013

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi
(Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi)

In the context of restrictive legislation to hinder the work of human rights defenders, the Egyptian case deserves urgent attention now. The law on NGOs is being rewritten in this important country and others in the region may follow the example. Despite recent amendments Read the rest of this entry »

Bahrain and human rights: contrasting views

May 23, 2013

Bahrain‘s Human Rights Minister during a visit to Morocco on 22 May stated: “Bahrain Has Presented Itself as a Model in Implementing BICI’s Recommendations

He said that despite the regretful incidents that happened in 2011, the kingdom of Bahrain has presented itself as a model in its wise dealing with those events, highlighting Bahrain’s bold steps in this regard, including the establishment of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), led by international eminent judges, the acceptance of the recommendations featuring in BICI’s final report and the political leadership’s commitment to implementing them, out of its belief in the importance of protecting human rights. Read the rest of this entry »

Eight important NGOs protest assault on MEA laureate Al-Hassani in Syrian jail – situation criticial

November 4, 2010

On 4 November 2010 eight leading human rights organizations  – of which 6 are on the jury of the Martin Ennals Award (MEA) – called on the Syrian government to guarantee the safety of Muhannad al-Hassani, a human rights defender serving a three year prison term, after he was assaulted last week in ‘Adra prison, Damascus. The eight organizations – Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and Front Line – urged the Syrian government to investigate the assault and protect Muhannad al-Hassani from further brutality or ill-treatment. The joint statement adds some important new development:

Muhannad al-Hassani was physically assaulted on 28 October by a prisoner sentenced for a criminal offence who was being held in the same cell in ‘Adra prison. For five days after the attack Muhannad al-Hassani continued to be held in the same cell as his attacker, but is then reported to have been moved to a tiny underground isolation cell. He and other political prisoners in ‘Adra prison have now launched a hunger strike to protest against his solitary confinement.

The prisoner who attacked Muhannad al-Hassani is said to have been moved into the same cell only recently and to have beaten him using a heavy metal finger ring he was wearing at the time of the assault although prisoners are not normally permitted to wear such ‘jewellery’. As a result of the assault, Muhannad al-Hassani suffered a cut to his forehead requiring ten stitches, swelling to his eye and cheek and bruising to his body.

Following the incident, the police took statements from other prisoners who had witnessed the assault and interviewed Muhannad al-Hassani in the presence of his attacker, but reportedly took no action when he continued to threaten him and accused him of being unpatriotic and did not even make note of the threats.

Muhannad al-Hassani was subsequently taken to a doctor at a government forensic clinic in Douma, a town between ‘Adra and Damascus, who issued a report on his injuries on 1 November. The case was referred to a court in Douma though Muhannad al-Hassani’s lawyers were not informed and so were unable to be present at the hearing.

The eight human rights organizations call on the Syrian authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and transparent, independent investigation into the assault on Muhannad al-Hassani and the circumstances which led to his being exposed to such risk. In particular, they must examine whether officials at ‘Adra prison were complicit in the attack by moving the prisoner responsible into Muhannad al-Hassani’s cell to facilitate it, and why they continued to hold them in the same cell for several days afterwards. The results of such an investigation should be made public and those responsible for the attack must be brought to justice.”

The  organizations also called for an immediate end to Muhannad al-Hassani’s solitary confinement and for guarantees of his safety while he remains in prison, although he should NOT be in prison to start with (see previous posts). The statement adds that “other government critics are previously reported to have been assaulted by criminal inmates, as well as prison guards, while held in ‘Adra prison. In December 2006, for example, Anwar al-Bunni, another human rights lawyer, was pushed down a flight of stairs by a criminal detainee and beaten on his head in the presence of prison guards, who failed to intervene.”