Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation



THE UN MUST URGENTLY TAKE A STAND TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN EGYPT

Arbitrary arrest of human rights defender Ahmed Abdallah 

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) and Scales for Justice (S4J) have urged the UN special prcedures and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein to take a firm stand on behalf of Human Rights Defender Dr. Eng. Ahmed Abdallah, Board Director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), who is under preventive detention by the Egyptian authorities after being arrested from his home 25 April 2016 at 4:00 AM. His arrest comes amid a sweep of more than 300 arrests in Cairo, Alexandria and other governorates, during which Egyptian security forces have arrested several human rights defenders and transferred them to different police stations. If brought to trial Ahmed Abdallah might face long-term imprisonment or death sentence.

Egypt is not for sale

Since 30 June 2013, civil society in Egypt has been witnessing a severe crackdown that has been recently demonstrated in a massive wave of arrests in Cairo and other governorates all over Egypt following demonstrations on April 25, 2016. On 25 April 2016, Egypt security forces have arrested over 300 people in response to protests held on 25 April 2016 under the motto “Egypt is not for sale” against President Al Sissi's policies, human rights abuses and crimes committed by the security forces, and the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International reported that the arrests included foreign nationals, activists and journalists. According to the ECRF this latest wave of mass arrests "clearly reflects the repressive systematic strategy the state is implementing .... which reflects how nervous the ruling regime is."

"They came and asked the staff there about me. It was a near miss."

Ahmad Abdallah is an electric engineering professor at sixth of October University in 6of October district, near Cairo, and an EU recognized human rights defender. He is member founder and board director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), an independent organization working on the promotion of democracy, religious freedom and minority rights in Egypt, as well as the spread of human rights values through documentation, campaigns and legal support, based in Cairo, Egypt since 2013. The organization has also been providing legal advice to the family of Giulio Regeni, the Italian student murdered in Cairo earlier in 2016.

Already in the past Ahmed Abdallah has been targeted for his human rights activities. On 5 January 2014 a sentence was handed down by the North Giza Criminal Court against three activists including Ahmed Abdallah, who based on dubious proofs was convicted to a suspended sentence of one year in prison on charges of “arson”, “theft”, “damage to property”, “violence” and “danger to public safety”.  

Two days ahead of the trial, on 3 January 2014, Amnesty International had warned: „Three prominent activists are facing trial in an apparently politically motivated case based on unreliable witnesses and scant evidence, quoting Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme “The Egyptian authorities must not use Sunday’s verdict to punish activists who oppose them. There are reasons to believe the trial is politically motivated. All three activists have denied they were present at the scene and evidence against them is questionable.”

In Janary 2016, Ahmed Abdallah only narrowly escaped abduction. According to an interview with THEWOLRDPOST, a partner of the Huffington Post, he reported that “Three men in civilian clothes went to a coffee shop where I often go in El Agouza …They came and asked the staff there about me and even described what I was wearing and the bag I was carrying. It was a near miss”

Procedures 

On Monday 25 April 2016, at 4 in the morning, security forces broke into Engineer and PhD holder Mr. Ahmad Abdallah’s house in the fifth settlement district, searched his home, arrested him and confiscated some of his belongings and papers. Afterwards, they transferred him to New Cairo police station.  The East Cairo Prosecution in relation to protests in April 2016 had issued an arrest warrant earlier. On April 27, 2016, the East Cairo prosecution decided to extend Mr. Abdallah’s incarceration for 15 days. Mr. Abdallah has been accused of ten accusations among them belonging to a terrorist group, inciting the masses to overthrow the ruling regime and promoting terrorism. The accusations further included among affiliation to a terrorist group and promoting terrorism, the call for public gatherings and protests as well as the diffusion of false information and rumors and the possession of leaflets calling for and overthrow of the regime and a change of the constitution. Ever since his arrest has been extended, the lastest of times on the 5 June 2016, when the Egyptian Prosecution decided to extend his detention for another 45 days. Dr. Ahmad Abdallah is further exposed to inhuman conditions causing the deteriorating of his health, given the doctor’s report.

Anyone detained for peacefully protesting should be released

Egyptian riot police fire tear gas toward would-be protesters Monday.  AFP

On 26 April 2016 Amnesty International issued a statement warning about the arrests from 25 April 2016: “Those detained over the last week include several leading activists linked to Egypt’s human rights and protest movements. They include Ahmed Abdullah, chair of the board of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, who was arrested by what his representatives described as “Special Forces” at his home early on 25 April ... Amnesty International is urging the Egyptian authorities to respect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Anyone detained for peacefully protesting should be released.“

Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s interim Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, added ”The Egyptian authorities appear to have orchestrated a heavy-handed and ruthlessly efficient campaign to squash this protest before it even began. Mass arrests, road blocks and huge deployments of asecurity forces made it impossible for peaceful demonstrations to take place.”

Protests against Egyptian President el-Sissi ifex.org

Also the human rights organization Front Line Defenders raised alarm. Greatly "concerned by the recent spate of arrests and detentions against human rights defenders in Egypt", they urged the Egyptian authorities to put an end to the ongoing mass arrests against human rights defenders in Egypt and immediately release those detained, drop charges against human rights defenders Ahmed Abdullah, Malek Adly, Amr Badr, Sanaa Seif and Maysara Abdoun, immediately cease all forms of harassment of human rights defenders in Egypt and guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Egypt are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

The UN has to take action immediately 

The arrest of Ahmed Abdallah and others are a serious breach of Egypt’s international obligations and Egyptian constitution, particularly with regard to the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, expression and the right to fair trial. In view of the sentences to be handed down on Ahmad Abdallah and other human rights defenders the UN has to take action immediately. ECHF and S4J called on the UN special procedures and the High Commissioner to demand the immediate release of Ahmad Abdallah, issue a public statement voicing concerns about his arbitrary arrest and remind the Egyptian authorities of their obligation under international law to guarantee freedom of speech and end their systematic harassment of human rights defenders.

If you would like to support the case of Ahmed Abdallah sign the appeal by the the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

If you are a human rights defender and facing reprisals send an email to info@s4j.ch