UN experts urge release of rights defenders in Egypt, condemn misuse of counter-terrorism measures

OHCHR

UN human rights experts* today called on Egypt to halt the misuse of counter-terrorism measures against civil society activists, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders, and to immediately release three of those arbitrarily detained, including Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed El-Baqer and Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan.

“The systemic justification of such egregious measures under the guise of implementating United Nations Security Council resolutions is a grave threat to the legitimacy of international counter-terrorism framework and laws, the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the long-term peace and stability of Egypt,” the experts said.

Blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, lawyer and human rights defender Mohammed El-Baqer, and journalist Mohammed Ibrahim Radwan were charged under the vague offences of spreading false news likely to pose a threat to national security. They continue to be held under new or renewed orders in a clear circumvention of the limits of pre-trial detention under the Criminal Penal Code.

On 8 November 2021, Egypt’s Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Court adjourned its proceedings against the three, and judgement is expected on 20 December. “We are further disturbed by the decision of the Court of Cassation to reject the appeal against the listing of Mohamed El-Baqer, and other human rights defenders, as terrorists despite the advisory opinion by the Prosecution to rescind it,” the experts said.

The UN experts said the individuals should be released because they had been arbitrarily detained and their rights to fair trial and due process had been violated. They also said their names should be removed from Egypt’s terrorism watchlist, which has had the effect of depriving individuals of liberty without sufficient judicial oversight or legal recourse, and in case of release would deprive them of their fundamental economic and social rights.

Each of the three has been the subject of previous decisions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, or communications from the experts through the procedures of the Human Rights Council.

The experts also expressed grave concern over Egypt’s Anti-Terrorism Law and Terrorism Circuit Courts, and said the systematic use of overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism that target human rights defenders, journalists, and those exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms – including the freedoms of expression as well as of peaceful assembly and of association – are detrimental to human rights. The experts affirmed that the Law’s provisions go beyond the scope necessary to counter-terrorism and severely limit civic space and the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Egypt.

Such measures also fail to comply with Egypt’s international law obligations, which require counter-terrorism measures be undertaken in compliance with international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law.

The experts urged Egypt to revise its Anti-Terrorism Law and to reverse the trajectory of recent amendments that threaten further rights violations.

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