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IBAHRI calls for the immediate release of human rights defenders from the Egypt Initiative for Personal Rights

Tuesday 1 December 2020

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) joins calls for the urgent release of prominent human rights defenders: Gasser Abdel Razek, Executive Director of the Egypt Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) - an organisation that promotes human rights in Egypt; Mohamed Basheer, EIPR Administrative Director; and Karim Ennarah, EIPR Criminal Justice Unit Director. All three were arrested consecutively between 15 and 19 November 2020, after hosting a delegation of diplomats and senior officials from Canada and Europe.

Mr Razek, Mr Basheer and Mr Ennarah were taken to an undisclosed secure location separately. They were held for up to twelve hours with no access to lawyers, prior to interrogation by the Supreme State Security Prosecution. They were questioned about the work of EIPR, including meeting foreign diplomats, legal aid and investigations into detention conditions.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated all three EIPR representatives were being investigated under the legislation regulating nongovernmental organisations, Law No 149 of 2019. However, they were all charged with terrorism-related offences and accused of spreading false information via social media. Mr Razek, Mr Basheer and Mr Ennarah are currently serving a ‘15-day pre-trial detention’.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and former Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996 – 2006), the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘The IBAHRI calls for the immediate release of Messrs Razek, Basheer and Ennarah. It is unacceptable that the Egyptian authorities continue to target human rights defenders with baseless terrorism charges as a strategy to dismantle important work in the country. They have been added to Case No 855/2020, which is being used specifically to prosecute, with similarly unfounded accusations, protesting civil society members.’

Mr Kirby added: ‘The onus is now on the judiciary to act in accordance with the UN Basic Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, specifically, that “the judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.” The law must not be used to arbitrarily criminalise civil society members and activists’.

Under the administration of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, greater powers have been invested in the Egyptian security forces. Subsequently, unlawful arrests and detention of activists have reached unprecedented levels in Egypt, with the EIPR at the frontline of championing human rights for all Egyptians using research, advocacy and strategic litigation since 2002.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and immediate past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, stated: ‘We are gravely concerned with how Mr Razek, Mr Basheer and Mr Ennarah are being treated under arbitrary detention. Reports show that Mr Razek has been placed in solitary confinement with no winter clothing or a mattress on which to sleep, and that the prison authorities have prevented him from leaving his cell. The IBAHRI calls for all three of the esteemed human rights defenders to be freed at once with all charges against them dropped.’

Ms Ramberg added: Article 7of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights reads, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment…” and Article 9(1) provides, “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.” The Egyptian state authorities must act in compliance with these international provisions.'

ENDS


Notes to the Editor

  1. Related material:
  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

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