In the lead up to the October 11th trial of seven Egyptian women human rights defenders (WHRDs), who have been detained since June 21, 2014 on charges of violating Egypt’s strict Protest and Public Assembly Law, over 220 women’s and human rights organizations representing nearly 70 countries issued a statement demanding their immediate release.
The signatories to the statement, which include local, national, regional and international groups from across the globe, urge the Egyptian authorities to unconditionally release the WHRDs and drop all charges against them and others detained for exercising rights to peaceful assembly. Those signing the statement also strongly urged Egyptian authorities to revise the Protest and Public Assembly Law, which severely limits freedom of expression, assembly and association rights of Egyptians, to bring it in line with the Egyptian Constitution and African and international human rights standards. Egyptian authorities have in the past year taken a tough stance against civil society groups and civil activism, including public protests. Human rights organizations inside the country and internationally have criticized Egyptian authorities for what they view as serious repressive policies when it comes to civil society activism and public civic engagement and have repeatedly encouraged the adoption of measures that encourage civic participation and free expression and are in line with the spirit of the January 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
The text of the statement and the signatories appear below. Those interested in adding their names to the list of signatories can do so at this link: http://goo.gl/forms/55wChTGZWr.
Those interested in publicizing the statement are encouraged to post it on their websites and to distribute it broadly to their networks including to media outlets. The hashtag #FreeEgyptWHRDs can be used in this regard on social media.
The text of the statement follows:
Free Egyptian Women Human Rights Defenders
We, the signatories to this statement representing women’s rights and human rights organizations internationally and based in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, call upon Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo) and Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh), seven women human rights defenders (WHRDs) detained since June 21, 2014 on charges of violating the Protest and Public Assembly Law. We strongly urge Egyptian authorities to unconditionally drop all charges against these WHRDs, and other human rights defenders, relating to the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Further, we call on the Egyptian authorities to revise the Protest and Public Assembly Law in accordance with the Egyptian Constitution and international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.
On June 21, 2014, the seven WHRDs were arrested in Heliopolis, Cairo on the sidelines of and in relation to a peaceful protest against the Protest and Public Assembly Law. After using tear gas and birdshot to disperse the crowd, the police arrested Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif and Fikreya Mohamed, in addition to several other human rights defenders. Since their arrest, they have been detained in Qanater women’s prison. The charges against all those detained stem from the Protest and Public Assembly Law and include: participating and organizing an unauthorized demonstration that “threatened public security”, “use of force and violence to terrorize and intimidate citizens”, and “intentional destruction of property”.
The first session of their case, also known as the Ittihadia Presidential Palace Case, was held on June 29, 2014. During this hearing, the judge adjourned the session and postponed it until September 13, 2014. At the second session, on September 13, 2014, the prosecution’s evidence was presented to the court. The defense attorneys requested the postponement in order to allow a technical expert to examine and determine the veracity of the video footage evidence presented during the session. The judge again postponed the trial until October 11, 2014, at which time the defense is supposed to be given an opportunity to present its case.
As a result of these delays, these seven WHRDs have remained in prison for over three months pending investigations. Two of the detainees, Ms. Fikreya Mohammed and Ms. Sanaa Seif, were on hunger strike to protest their arbitrary arrest. Ms. Seif’s hunger strike began on August 28 and Ms. Mohammed began her strike on September 11, 2014, and latest news is that she has had to suspend her hunger strike. As a result, both face serious health risks and are extremely weak.
It should be noted that while in detention, the father of Sanaa Seif, prominent Egyptian HRD Ahmed Seif El-Islam passed away. He was also the father of prominent Egyptian HRD Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was recently released on bail.
Originally posted at ICAN, the International Civil Society Action Network for Women’s Rights, Peace and Security.