15 October 2014. The global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, urges Egypt’s authorities to end the judicial persecution of seven women human rights activists who are on trial for peacefully protesting a controversial assembly law that effectively bans public gatherings without police permission.
The current state of civil society in Egypt is dire. The military-backed government has introduced a number of measures to restrict freedom of speech and the right to assemble. It is also considering a law to restrict the ability of NGOs to receive funds from international sources with a view to stopping their human rights monitoring activities. Moreover, it has become common practice for judges to imprison non-violent youth campaigners that support basic democratic reforms. “The seven women that are on trial are not dangerous vandals as alleged by security forces, instead they are victims of a heavy-handed judicial system which arbitrarily punishes its most engaged and socially conscious citizens,” said Semanur Karaman, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “It is a travesty of justice to see these human rights defenders being subjected to these oppressive sanctions that are in violation of universal principles of international law,” said Karaman.
Sanaa Seif, Yara Sallam, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo) and Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh) have been held in the over-crowded Al-Qanatar Prison with fellow political dissidents since their arrest on 21 June 2014 in Heliopolis (a suburb of Cairo). They are due to face trial on 16 October 2014 for their role in a protest against the restrictive public assembly law and false charges of intimidating security forces and threatening public security.
Over 100 imprisoned political dissidents are participating in a hunger strike to raise public concern over violations of fundamental freedoms and the judicial system’s use of fabricated evidence to prosecute activists.
CIVICUS urges the international community to speak out against the continuous persecution of dissenting voices, government critics and human rights defenders in Egypt. In particular, democratic states must engage Egypt’s regime to release all prisoners of conscience and begin the process of dismantling arbitrary legislation which violates civil society freedoms.