CIVICUS remains deeply alarmed by both the increase and severity of restrictive laws, policies and practices being used to undermine and enfeeble civil society across the globe. In a report launched this week, CIVICUS has documented serious threats to civil society space in 109 countries in 2015, representing a roughly 15 percent increase over the past year.
In particular, we are gravely concerned by the government of Egypt’s systematic campaign to eliminate any vestige of independent dissent. Under Egypt’s broadly defined Counter-Terrorism Law, the government has taken draconian measures to persecute those who dare to criticise the state, including by imposing harsh restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, as well as on the work of lawyers, journalists, academics, student unions, trade unions and others. According to the Front of Defense for Egyptian Protestors, police arrested 1,277 people last April in relation to protests regarding the Egyptian government’s transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. More than 600 faced trials for breaching the Protest Law, and on 14 May, 152 were handed prison sentences of between two and five years.
In light of these concerns, we call on the Governments of Egypt to:
- Abide by its UPR pledges made in March 2015 and to immediately release all individuals imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
In Bahrain we are in the midst of a severe escalation of the government’s ongoing crackdown on civil society. At the opening of this Council session, Bahraini authorities arrested prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, imposed travel bans on six human rights defenders to prevent from attending this Council session and forced activist Zainab Al-Khawaja into exile. We are also extremely concerned by the Bahraini government’s latest decision to revoke the citizenship of prominent Shia Cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, with threats to deport him to Iran in the coming days.
We therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to take the following measures:
- Immediately release of all human rights defenders, including Nabeel Rajab, and revoke all travel bans imposed on human rights defenders for attempting to carry out their legitimate human rights work.