EMHRN and Oxfam condemn raids and arrests targeting the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights

Economic & Social Rights, Egypt, Freedom of Speech, Press Release, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Solidarity with Human Rights Defenders

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and Oxfam join Egyptian civil society organizations in expressing grave concern about the raid on the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) which was carried out on Wednesday 18 December 2013.

The raid was carried out in the late hours of Wednesday evening by armed Homeland Security personnel dressed in plain clothes. Several computers and laptops were confiscated and ECESR Lawyer Mahmoud Belal was assaulted by one of the officers after asking him for a warrant. Six activists were subsequently detained.

Five of the detained activists were released Thursday morning, whereas one of them, Mohamed Adel, a prominent civil society activist, is still held in detention on charges of violating the newly adopted ‘protest law’, which restricts demonstrations. The activists released were ECESR lawyer and Vice President of the Criminal Justice Unit Mahmoud Belal, Head of Documentary Unit at ECESR Moustafa Eissa, and three volunteers for ECESR, Hossam Mohamed Nasr, El-Sayed Mahmoud El-Sayed, and Sherif Ashour.

ECESR has been supporting striking factory workers, defended activists at trials and was preparing a press conference due to be held on 19December.

Such actions by Egyptian security forces constitute a violation of the right of freedom of association and expression, and they are a form of intimidation and threat against human rights defenders. This raid and the consequent detentions are part of a context of growing threats and attacks on civil society activists. State-owned media have indulged in a smear campaign to discredit human rights organizations, dozens of peaceful protesters were detained in a demonstration on 26th of November, and leaders of the April 6 movement Ahmad Maher and Ahmed Douma are being detained on charges of having organized the protest without notification.

All individuals have the right to be free from arbitrary interference in their homes and offices and to freely exercise their right to expression, peaceful assembly and association. Civil society organizations shouldn’t suffer interferences in their legal and legitimate activities. It is particularly important that human rights organizations enjoy such rights so that they can protect the rights of others.

Our organizations call on the Egyptian authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment against peaceful civil society activists and human rights defenders, including by releasing those who have been imprisoned if they are being held solely on the basis of peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression.

In line with the EU guidelines on human rights defenders, EMHRN and Oxfam call on the EU to address the above-mentioned issues with their Egyptian counterparts, and in particular to:

Publicly condemn any attacks against Egyptian human rights organizations ;

Urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure full respect for freedom of association and expression of civil society organizations in accordance with Egypt’s international human rights commitments, and to comply, among others, by the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (known as the “UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders”).