Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Arab Spring: information technology platforms no longer support human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa

December 18, 2020

Jason Kelley in the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) of 17 December 2020 summarizes a joint statement by over 30 NGOs saying that the platform policies and content moderation procedures of the tech giants now too often lead to the silencing and erasure of critical voices from across the region. Arbitrary and non-transparent account suspension and removal of political and dissenting speech has become so frequent and systematic in the area that it cannot be dismissed as isolated incidents or the result of transitory errors in automated decision-making.

Young people protest in Morocco, 2011, photo by Magharebia

This year is the tenth anniversary of what became known as the “Arab Spring”, in which activists and citizens across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) used social media to document the conditions in which they lived, to push for political change and social justice, and to draw the world’s attention to their movement. For many, it was the first time they had seen how the Internet could have a role to play in pushing for human rights across the world. Emerging social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all basked in the reflected glory of press coverage that centered their part in the protests: often to the exclusion of those who were actually on the streets. The years after the uprisings failed to live up to the optimism of the time. Offline, the authoritarian backlash against the democratic protests has meant that many of those who fought for justice a decade ago, are still fighting now.

The letter asks for several concrete measures to ensure that users across the region are treated fairly and are able to express themselves freely:

  • Do not engage in arbitrary or unfair discrimination.
  • Invest in the regional expertise to develop and implement context-based content moderation decisions aligned with human rights frameworks.
  • Pay special attention to cases arising from war and conflict zones.
  • Preserve restricted content related to cases arising from war and conflict zones.
  • Go beyond public apologies for technical failures, and provide greater transparency, notice, and offer meaningful and timely appeals for users by implementing the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation.

Content moderation policies are not only critical to ensuring robust political debate. They are key to expanding and protecting human rights.  Ten years out from those powerful protests, it’s clear that authoritarian and repressive regimes will do everything in their power to stop free and open expression. Platforms have an obligation to note and act on the effects content moderation has on oppressed communities, in MENA and elsewhere. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/03/more-on-facebook-and-twitter-and-content-moderation/]

In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook, wrote

By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored. Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few.

Instead, governments around the world have chosen authoritarianism, and platforms have contributed to the repression. It’s time for that to end.

Read the full letter demanding that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube stop silencing critical voices from the Middle East and North Africa, reproduced below:

17 December 2020

Open Letter to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube: Stop silencing critical voices from the Middle East and North Africa

Ten years ago today, 26-year old Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest over injustice and state marginalization, igniting mass uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries across the Middle East and North Africa. 

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring, we, the undersigned activists, journalists, and human rights organizations, have come together to voice our frustration and dismay at how platform policies and content moderation procedures all too often lead to the silencing and erasure of critical voices from marginalized and oppressed communities across the Middle East and North Africa.

The Arab Spring is historic for many reasons, and one of its outstanding legacies is how activists and citizens have used social media to push for political change and social justice, cementing the internet as an essential enabler of human rights in the digital age.   

Social media companies boast of the role they play in connecting people. As Mark Zuckerberg famously wrote in his 2012 Founder’s Letter

“By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored. Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few.”

Zuckerberg’s prediction was wrong. Instead, more governments around the world have chosen authoritarianism, and platforms have contributed to their repression by making deals with oppressive heads of state; opening doors to dictators; and censoring key activists, journalists, and other changemakers throughout the Middle East and North Africa, sometimes at the behest of other governments:

  • Tunisia: In June 2020, Facebook permanently disabled more than 60 accounts of Tunisian activists, journalists, and musicians on scant evidence. While many were reinstated, thanks to the quick reaction from civil society groups, accounts of Tunisian artists and musicians still have not been restored. We sent a coalition letter to Facebook on the matter but we didn’t receive a public response.
  • Syria: In early 2020, Syrian activists launched a campaign to denounce Facebook’s decision to take down/disable thousands of anti-Assad accounts and pages that documented war crimes since 2011, under the pretext of removing terrorist content. Despite the appeal, a number of those accounts remain suspended. Similarly, Syrians have documented how YouTube is literally erasing their history.
  • Palestine: Palestinian activists and social media users have been campaigning since 2016 to raise awareness around social media companies’ censorial practices. In May 2020, at least 52 Facebook accounts of Palestinian activists and journalists were suspended, and more have since been restricted. Twitter suspended the account of a verified media agency, Quds News Network, reportedly on suspicion that the agency was linked to terrorist groups. Requests to Twitter to look into the matter have gone unanswered. Palestinian social media users have also expressed concern numerous times about discriminatory platform policies.
  • Egypt: In early October 2019, Twitter suspended en masse the accounts of Egyptian dissidents living in Egypt and across the diaspora, directly following the eruption of anti-Sisi protests in Egypt. Twitter suspended the account of one activist with over 350,000 followers in December 2017, and the account still has yet to be restored. The same activist’s Facebook account was also suspended in November 2017 and restored only after international intervention. YouTube removed his account earlier in 2007.

Examples such as these are far too numerous, and they contribute to the widely shared perception among activists and users in MENA and the Global South that these platforms do not care about them, and often fail to protect human rights defenders when concerns are raised.  

Arbitrary and non-transparent account suspension and removal of political and dissenting speech has become so frequent and systematic that they cannot be dismissed as isolated incidents or the result of transitory errors in automated decision-making. 

While Facebook and Twitter can be swift in responding to public outcry from activists or private advocacy by human rights organizations (particularly in the United States and Europe), in most cases responses to advocates in the MENA region leave much to be desired. End-users are frequently not informed of which rule they violated, and are not provided a means to appeal to a human moderator. 

Remedy and redress should not be a privilege reserved for those who have access to power or can make their voices heard. The status quo cannot continue. 

The MENA region has one of the world’s worst records on freedom of expression, and social media remains critical for helping people connect, organize, and document human rights violations and abuses. 

We urge you to not be complicit in censorship and erasure of oppressed communities’ narratives and histories, and we ask you to implement the following measures to ensure that users across the region are treated fairly and are able to express themselves freely:

  • Do not engage in arbitrary or unfair discrimination. Actively engage with local users, activists, human rights experts, academics, and civil society from the MENA region to review grievances. Regional political, social, cultural context(s) and nuances must be factored in when implementing, developing, and revising policies, products and services. 
  • Invest in the necessary local and regional expertise to develop and implement context-based content moderation decisions aligned with human rights frameworks in the MENA region.  A bare minimum would be to hire content moderators who understand the various and diverse dialects and spoken Arabic in the twenty-two Arab states. Those moderators should be provided with the support they need to do their job safely, healthily, and in consultation with their peers, including senior management.
  • Pay special attention to cases arising from war and conflict zones to ensure content moderation decisions do not unfairly target marginalized communities. For example, documentation of human rights abuses and violations is a legitimate activity distinct from disseminating or glorifying terrorist or extremist content. As noted in a recent letter to the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, more transparency is needed regarding definitions and moderation of terrorist and violent extremist (TVEC) content
  • Preserve restricted content related to cases arising from war and conflict zones that Facebook makes unavailable, as it could serve as evidence for victims and organizations seeking to hold perpetrators accountable. Ensure that such content is made available to international and national judicial authorities without undue delay.
  • Public apologies for technical errors are not sufficient when erroneous content moderation decisions are not changed. Companies must provide greater transparency, notice, and offer meaningful and timely appeals for users. The Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation, which Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube endorsed in 2019, offer a baseline set of guidelines that must be immediately implemented. 

Signed,

Access Now
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information — ANHRI
Article 19
Association for Progressive Communications — APC
Association Tunisienne de Prévention Positive
Avaaz
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
The Computational Propaganda Project
Daaarb — News — website
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor
Global Voices
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Hossam el-Hamalawy, journalist and member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists Organization
Humena for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
IFEX
Ilam- Media Center For Arab Palestinians In Israel
ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies
Initiative Mawjoudin pour l’égalité
Iraqi Network for Social Media – INSMnetwork
I WATCH Organisation (Transparency International — Tunisia)
Khaled Elbalshy – Daaarb website – Editor in Chief
Mahmoud Ghazayel, Independent
Marlena Wisniak, European Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Masaar — Technology and Law Community
Michael Karanicolas, Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries and Information
Mohamed Suliman, Internet activist
My.Kali magazine — Middle East and North Africa
Palestine Digital Rights Coalition (PDRC)
The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy
Pen Iraq
Quds News Network
Ranking Digital Rights
Rima Sghaier, Independent
Sada Social Center
Skyline International for Human Rights
SMEX
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
Taraaz
Temi Lasade-Anderson, Digital Action
WITNESS
Vigilance Association for Democracy and the Civic State — Tunisia
7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/12/decade-after-arab-spring-platforms-have-turned-their-backs-critical-voices-middle

Two Italians don’t want a French Legion d’Honneur if el-Sissi has one

December 15, 2020

PAOLO SANTALUCIA and NICOLE WINFIELD – based on an Associated Press item of 14 December 2020 – report that two prominent Italians announced they were returning their Legion of Honor awards to France to protest that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was given the prize despite his government’s human rights abuses.

Corrado Augias, a long-time journalist for La Repubblica daily and one-time European Parliamentarian for Italy’s center-left, returned his prize to the French Embassy on Monday. Giovanna Melandri, a former Italian culture minister and the president of Rome’s Maxxi contemporary art museum, announced she would follow suit.

Both cited Egypt’s role in the 2016 kidnapping, torture and killing of an Italian doctoral research student in Cairo, as well as the regime’s other human rights violations.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week awarded the Egyptian President the highest French honor during a closed-door ceremony Sept. 7 that only became public after the Egyptian presidency published photos of it.

Also last week, Rome prosecutors formally placed four high-ranking members of Egypt’s security forces under investigation over the death of Giulio Regeni, whose 2016 killing strained relations between Rome and Cairo and galvanized Italy’s human rights community. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/monday-25-april-what-will-happen-in-egypt/]

Speaking outside the French Embassy, Augias said he returned his 2007 prize out of “a sense of indignation,” given that the award was bestowed on el-Sissi at the same time that Rome prosecutors were detailing the torture that Regeni suffered to a parliamentary committee. “The two things together were too strong,” he told reporters. “I couldn’t refrain from reacting.

Melandri said in a Facebook post Monday that she too would return the honor she received in 2003, saying it was sad but necessary to make clear that “honor” should mean something.

I hope that this gesture can help open a frank and friendly confrontation in our two countries on which values ​​should be that we want to defend, strengthen and continue to ‘honor’ in a democratic Europe and a globalized world,” she wrote.

El-Sissi’s state visit had sparked protests by human rights activists incensed that France was welcoming el-Sissi despite the heaviest crackdown on dissent in Egypt’s modern history. At the time, it wasn’t known that Macron had awarded el-Sissi the highest distinction of the Legion of Honor order of merit, the Grand-Croix, or Grand-Cross. The award ceremony was held without the press before dinner at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. The event was not listed on Macron’s official agenda. The French presidency said such a ceremony is usually part of the protocol during state visits.

The French ambassador to Italy, Christian Masset, said he respected Augias and defended the government’s human rights record.

France is on the front lines for human rights and makes no compromises,” he tweeted after Augias returned his prize. “Many cases were discussed during President el-Sissi’s visit to Paris, in the most appropriate and efficient way.

The Legion of Honor has been given to French war heroes, writers, artists and businessmen. But it has also been given to leaders with questionable human rights records, including Syrian President Bashar Assad (though he returned it in 2018) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

France has on occasion also stripped people of the honor, including Harvey Weinstein in 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo sexual misconduct accusations against him.

https://www.startribune.com/italians-return-french-legion-awards-after-el-sissi-gets-one/600001488/

Pressure works: Egypt releases human rights defenders

December 4, 2020

Many media (here Sudarsan Raghavan for the Washington Post on 3 December 2020) have reported the good news that three Egyptian human rights defenders were released from detention Thursday after a wave of international condemnation against the Arab nation’s authoritarian government that included UN and Hollywood celebrities.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/25/rafto-prize-for-2020-goes-to-the-egyptian-commission-for-rights-and-freedoms-ecrf/

The trio — Gasser Abdel-Razek, Karim Ennarah and Mohamed Basheer — work for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, one of the few remaining rights groups in Egypt, where President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi has waged a massive crackdown on opponents and activists alike.

“They are fine, they are in good spirits,” said Ragya Omran, their lawyer, Thursday night.

 The three men were arrested last month after they met with 13 Western diplomats to discuss ways to improve human rights conditions in Egypt. A few days after the meeting, they were rounded up by Egyptian security forces over a week-long period and charged with “joining a terrorist organization” and “using social media accounts to spread false information.” [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/18/in-reprisal-for-talking-to-diplomats-egypt-arrests-human-rights-defender-mohamed-basheern/]

“It was a very quick and clean release, which is unprecedented,” Omran said. “There was a lot of international pressure. … It worked.”

Few arrests have sparked the global outrage that followed the detention of the EIPR employees. The United Nations, France and other governments publicly denounced the arrests. Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, declared in a tweet that “meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights.”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/29/2020-award-of-european-bars-associations-ccbe-goes-to-seven-egyptian-lawyers-who-are-in-prison/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/09/un-expresses-deep-concern-over-egypt-using-special-terror-courts-to-silence-human-rights-defenders/

On social media, a petition campaign with the hashtags #FreeEIPRstaff and #FreeKarimEnnarah went viral, spearheaded by Ennarah’s British wife, Jess Kelly. It prompted Hollywood celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson and Emma Thompson to post videos of themselves on YouTube urging the release of the EIPR staffers. In Egypt, EIPR remained vocal and defiant.

On Thursday night, after the three men took cabs from the prison to their homes, one of the group’s leaders publicly noted that the global outcry played a significant role in convincing the regime to release his colleagues.

I can confirm my friends and EIPR colleague, Gasser, Basheer and Karim have been released and are home which I guess means we (and you) managed to #FreeEIPRstaff,tweeted Hossam Bahgat, the organization’s founder.

Bahgat, despite being under a travel ban and asset freeze imposed by the Sissi government, returned to take the helm last month after Abdel-Razek, its executive director, was taken into custody. Placed in a cold cell, he was initially denied warm clothing and a mattress, among other ill treatment, said Amnesty International.

On 18 December the EU started to look again at its relation: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20201218-european-parliament-calls-for-review-in-relations-with-egypt/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/egypt-human-rights-campaign-international–outcry/2020/12/03/bda49858-3599-11eb-9699-00d311f13d2d_story.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/egypt-civil-rights-scarlett-johansson-eipr-leaders-release-free-karim-ennarah/

2020 Award of European Bars Associations (CCBE) goes to seven Egyptian lawyers who are in prison.

November 29, 2020

CCBE awards 2020 prize to Egyptian lawyers Ebru Timtik

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has granted its 2020 Human Rights Award to seven Egyptian lawyers who are currently in prison.

The body, which represents the Bars and Law Societies of 45 countries, has also given an exceptional posthumous award to Turkish lawyer Ebru Timtik (pictured), who died in August 2020.

For more on this and other awards for lawyers see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/A3C73F81-6FCB-4DDD-9356-61C422713949

The seven Egyptian lawyers are:

  • Haytham Mohammadein, a human rights lawyer and labour activist,
  • Hoda Abdelmoniem, former member of the National Council for Human Rights, spokesperson for the Revolutionary Coalition of Egyptian Women and consultant for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF),
  • Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy, a lawyer, member of the ECRF and co-founder of the Egyptian Association of Families of the Disappeared (EAFD),
  • Mahienour El-Massry, who is often described as a voice of the revolution and is active in the defence of women’s rights and many other citizen’s rights,
  • Mohamed El-Baqer, director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, 
  • Mohamed Ramadan, a lawyer whose work involves legally representing human rights defenders,
  • Zyad El-Eleimy, a lawyer and a former parliamentarian in Egypt.
  • See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/24/egypt-extended-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-protesting-the-protests-law/

Ebru Timtik was a distinguished Turkish lawyer belonging to the Progressive Lawyers Association and the People’s Law Office.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/26/timtik-sisters-in-turkey-share-2020-ludovic-trarieux-prize/

The virtual Award ceremony will be held during the CCBE Plenary Session today (27 November).

https://www.lawsociety.ie/gazette/top-stories/ccbe-awards-2020-prize-to-egyptian-lawyers/

UN expresses deep concern over Egypt using special terror courts to silence human rights defenders

October 9, 2020

Cairo accused of ‘gravely endangering’ activists and infringing on their fundamental rights by imprisoning them during pandemic

Egypt has jailed more than 60,000 dissidents (AFP/File photo) By MEE staff

The Middle East Eye of 8 October 2020 reported that the UN Human Rights Council said in a statement on Friday that Cairo was treating free speech as terrorism.

“Terrorism charges and exceptional courts are being used to target legitimate human rights activities, and have a profound chilling effect on civil society as a whole,” according to 10 international specialists, including the UN rapporteurs on counter-terrorism and extrajudicial killings.

The use of terrorism courts to target and harass civil society is inconsistent with the rule of law.

The statement came days after Egypt executed 15 political prisoners who had been in detention since 2014.

The UN experts slammed the terrorism courts, saying that they undermine defendants’ basic legal rights, including the presumption of innocence. The special courts were created in 2013 after a Sisi-led coup overthrew the elected government of then-president Mohamed Morsi.

Defendants do not enjoy the right to confer safely and confidentially with their lawyer,” said the experts. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/25/rafto-prize-for-2020-goes-to-the-egyptian-commission-for-rights-and-freedoms-ecrf/

“In addition, when the accused are put on trial from behind glass or inside metal cages, sometimes cut off from proceedings at the discretion of the presiding judge, they cannot effectively use their right to be present at their own trial.”

Egypt has embarked on a brutal crackdown on dissent since 2013, jailing more than 60,000 activists and imposing strict censorship measures on public discourse.

Sisi has consistently denied that there are political prisoners in Egypt, framing the crackdown as part of the fight against terrorism. After coming to power, he outlawed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and blacklisted it as a terror group.

On Thursday, the UN advocates cited the case of Bahey El-Din Hassan, director and co-founder of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, who was sentenced to 15 years in absentia in August over his criticism of the government. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/27/egypt-15-year-term-for-human-rights-defender-bahey-el-din-hassan/

“It is an act of reprisal, seemingly punishing [him] for his cooperation with the United Nations,” the statement said. 

“The exercise of free speech and human rights work are being treated as terrorism, and it appears that the Terrorism Circuit Court is being used to retaliate against human rights activity protected by international law.”

—–

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-terrorism-courts-jail-activists-un-experts

Rafto Prize for 2020 goes to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

September 25, 2020

The Rafto Prize for 2020 is awarded the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) for their persistence in bravely resisting Egypt´s state of fear. For more on this award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/A5043D5E-68F5-43DF-B84D-C9EF21976B18

ECRF documents, reports and raises awareness about the grave human rights violations in Egypt and beyond, and provides legal support to victims of human rights abuses. Almost ten years since the Arab Spring, it is more pressing than ever to focus on the alarming state of basic human rights in the Middle East. ECRF was founded by Mohamed Lotfy and Ahmed Abdallah in the wake of the coup d’état in 2013. In a relatively short time ECRF has grown to a team of more than 50 lawyers and researchers as well as about 1000 volunteers. The aim of their work is to provide non-partisan support to human rights defenders. Despite working under extremely harsh conditions, the ECRF uses the parts of Egypt’s judiciary, which are still functioning, to defend human rights for political prisoners, prosecuted human rights activists and protestors and victims of disappearances and torture. In this state of fear, the work of ECRF stands out as a beacon of hope for human rights.

Enforced Disappearances

The ECRF works at ground level across Egypt, using peaceful and legal means. The organization conducts extensive documentation, monitoring and analysis of human rights violations. To do this, ECRF’s lawyers and researchers meet with victims, collect testimonies and analyse documents and court verdicts. ECRF has emergency hotlines where relatives and friends can report on arbitrary arrests, and receives on daily basis cases of enforced disappearance. The campaign “Stop Enforced Disappearances” documented 2723 cases over a five-year period. Through the documentation of cases, campaigning and legal aid, the ECRF has contributed to several reappearances. They use the documentation in court defences, as a basis for reports, policy papers, for advocacy, press statements and in social media campaigns to raise awareness around human rights issues. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/28/egyptian-human-rights-defender-ibrahim-ezz-eldin-reappears-after-167-days/]

Egypt’s state of fear

After a political crisis in 2013, the Egyptian army took control again and General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has since ruled as president. Under his leadership, the worrying human rights situation in Egypt has deteriorated to a degree not seen before.

Government security forces frequently conduct mass arrests and enforced disappearances, and critical voices are detained incommunicado for long periods of time. Thousands of political opponents, including children, have been arrested in sweeping campaigns. The prisoners are often held in overcrowded prisons in poor conditions, without access to satisfactory medical care.

The regime has dramatically narrowed the space for civil society and dissent by imposinga number of restrictions on the population such as travel bans, targeting human rights defenders and a range of repressive measures. In August 2019, President el-Sisi approved a law that severely restricts NGOs’ independence. His government uses the “war on terrorism” as a disguise to conceal their abuses. In April 2017, the government declared a state of emergency, which gave the security forces unchecked powers. In 2019 the government passed constitutional amendments that consolidated the authoritarian rule, once again undermining the rule of law.

https://www.rafto.no/the-rafto-prize/the-rafto-prize-2020-to

Osman Kavala and Mozn Hassan receive 2020 International Hrant Dink Award

September 16, 2020

The twelfth International Hrant Dink Award was presented on Tuesday, September 15th by an online ceremony. This year’s awards were granted to Osman Kavala who devoted his life to building a pluralistic and democratic society  and showed that human rights and social dialogue can be strengthened through culture [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/29/turkey-defies-european-court-on-kavala-and-undergoes-upr-review/] and art and Mozn Hassan [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/right-livelihood-has-to-go-to-egypt-to-hand-mozn-hassan-her-2016-award/]one of the pioneers of the feminist movement across the Middle East and North Africa, struggling against sexual violence and womens rights violations in Egypt.

The award ceremony was hosted by Şebnem Bozoklu and Alican Yücesoy in Turkish, and also by Ece Dizdar in English languages. Moreover, people and institutions from Turkey and all around the world, who shed light to humanity with their struggles are acknowledged as the ‘Inspirations’ of 2020. Among the Inspirations of this year, there human and women’s rights defenders from Turkey to Chile, Indonesia to Lebanon, Germany to the United States, India to China, as well as inspirational individuals and initiatives with their demands for peace, equal citizenship, democracy and justice.

At the ceremony, Rakel Dink sang one of the favorite songs of her husband Hrant Dink at Surp Toros Armenian Church in Tekirdağ Malkara, which is awaiting restoration. The night ended with the song “Son Dakika Golü” (Last Minute Goal) by Arto Tunçboyacıyan composed specially for the ceremony.

For more on the International Hrant Dink Award : http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/hrant-dink-award

Osman Kavala and Mozn Hassan receive 2020 International Hrant Dink Award

Medical negligence in Egypt’s prisons alarming: another victim

September 4, 2020

Ahmed Abdrabbu (L) and his wife
Ahmed Abdrabbu, left, and wife were arrested at Cairo International Airport on 23 December 2018 (Twitter/@nosaybaahmed)
On 2 September 2020 the Middle East Eye reported that – according to the Committee for Justice (CFJ )- Egyptian human rights defender Ahmed Abdrabbu became the latest of some 1,000 prisoners to die amid medical negligence since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed presidency.

The Tora prison, also known as “the Scorpion“, has been repeatedly denounced by rights groups and described as “degrading” by Human Rights Watch. “Authorities there have denied inmates contact with their families or lawyers for months at a time, held them in degrading conditions without beds, mattresses or basic hygienic items, humiliated, beaten, and confined them for weeks in cramped ‘discipline’ cells – treatment that probably amounted to torture in some cases,” HRW said in a report in 2016.

According to Abdrabbu’s family, the publisher was arrested on 23 December 2018 at Cairo International Airport and was later charged with “membership in a terrorist organisation” and working to “undermine the constitution”, accusations commonly used by Egyptian authorities against opponents of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. His wife, who was with him at the time, was released in June 2019 and is currently serving parole, his daughter Nusaiba wrote on Twitter.

According to Mehreh’s CFJ, which tracks deaths in Egyptian prisons, including those as a result of Covid-19, almost 1,000 prisoners have died in custody since July 2013. The majority of those deaths were because of medical negligence, Mefreh told MEE. In its biannual report, CFJ documented the deaths of 51 prisoners as a result of denial of medical care in detention facilities during the first half of 2020, including 17 people who died of Covid-19. Those whose deaths were attributed to medical negligence in recent years include former President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian-American prisoner Mustafa Kassem, film director Shadi Habash, and former Muslim Brotherhood MP Essam El-Erian. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/02/filmmaker-and-human-rights-defender-shady-habash-dies-in-egyptian-pre-trial-detention/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/07/update-to-monas-campaign-for-her-sister/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-political-prisoner-father-american-citizen-dies-jail

Egypt: 15-year term for human rights defender Bahey El-Din Hassan

August 27, 2020

President of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, Bahey El-Din Hassan, 26 August 2020 [thenewkhalij/Twitter]

President of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, Bahey El-Din Hassan, 26 August 2020 [thenewkhalij/Twitter]

The charges levelled against Bahey Hassan, who has been described as the spiritual father of the human rights movement, are familiar. They have been issued, in one form or another, against Egypt’s 60,000 political prisoners, multiple times: spreading false news and insulting the judiciary. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies condemns the 15-year sentencing of its director, prominent human rights defender Bahey eldin Hassan, and calls for an end to a state security campaign of intimidation and vengeance that has targeted Egyptian rights advocates.

Bahey Hassan left Egypt in 2014 after receiving death threats for his work. Two years later a travel ban was issued against him and his assets were frozen after he and his organisation were targeted by what Amnesty terms a “politically motivated investigation into the work of human rights organisations in case 173”, or the foreign funding case.[see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/18/egypt-court-freezes-assets-of-rights-defenders-and-ngos/]

In 2019 Hassan was sentenced to three years in prison, again in absentia, and fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,259) for allegedly insulting the judiciary.

Amr Magdi, Egypt’s researcher for Human Rights Watch, has drawn comparisons with Bahey Hassan’s treatment by the Sisi government to how his organisation was allowed to operate under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Understandbly there have been massive reactions on Twitter and other social media  against the 15-year sentence by Egypt ‘s ‘terror’ court.

 

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/08/egypt-human-rights-defender-bahey-eldin-hassan-handed-outrageous-15-year-prison-sentence/

Twitter ignites as Egypt ‘terror’ court hands 15-year term to human rights defender 

 

 

Egypt: Human rights defender Bahey eldin Hassan sentenced over a tweet

Podcast series “Exile Shall Not Silence Us” now complete

August 10, 2020

AfricanDefenders‘ podcast series, “Exile Shall Not Silence Us”, is now complete and fully available for you to listen to. “Exile Shall Not Silence Us” (which I announced on 22 June 2020: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/22/exile-shall-not-silence-us/) is a podcast series on the situation of African human rights defenders (HRDs) in exile. The podcast is based on a research that collected the testimonies of more than 120 HRDs and in-depth case studies, and it features interviews with four exiled HRDs. It  highlights the professional, security, socio-economic, and psychosocial challenges of HRDs in exile in Africa, but most of all their achievements and resilience strategies.

Episode#1 gives an overview of the main findings of the research on the situation of African HRDs in exile, with key issues and current trends.

Episode #2 features an anonymous interview with a young woman HRD from Zimbabwe in exile in South Africa. She not only sheds light on the challenges faced by HRDs in and outside Zimbabwe, but also on the complex and painful relationship between exile and motherhood.

Episode#3 explores the challenges HRDs face after returning from exile through an interview with  a formerly exiled Gambian journalist.

Episode #4 explores the challenges and contradictions of internal displacement, as well as the multiple layers of vulnerability faced by HRDs in conflict-ridden areas through an anonymous interview with a Cameroonian woman HRD.

Episode#5 zooms in on Egypt where we speak to an Egyptian HRD in exile in Tunis who tells us about his experience, his hopes, and what he has been learning from Tunisian civil society.

Listen to all the episodes here› <https://app.getresponse.com/click.html?x=a62b&lc=B5QJao&mc=IN&s=9JQZDZ&u=Bl16k&z=Eh2xCOx&>

EXILE SHALL NOT SILENCE US!