Rights organization coalition calls on Egypt to stop targeting human rights lawyers News
© WikiMedia (Jonathan Rashad)
Rights organization coalition calls on Egypt to stop targeting human rights lawyers

A coalition of human rights organizations released a joint statement on Friday calling on the Egyptian government to stop the recent targeting and retaliation against human rights lawyers. The coalition includes 28 rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Freedom House.

The organizations expressed support for a letter by five UN Special Rapporteurs that was published on May 19, 2024, and addressed the Egyptian government’s targeting of human rights lawyers Mahmoud Mohamed Abdelmajeed and Mohamed Issa Rajeh under counter-terrorism laws. The organizations asserted that the Egyptian government’s politically motivated prosecutions and imprisonments are part of a broader campaign to suppress civil society and civic space. They further alleged the behavior contradicts the government’s statements in national and international forums and demonstrates an apparent disregard for human rights.

The statement added:

The undersigned human rights organizations call for the immediate release of all lawyers and human rights defenders detained for defending human rights, providing legal aid to victims of human rights violations, or for cooperating with UN mechanisms. The authorities should also drop the charges against all those prosecuted, including the two EFHR lawyers, and quash convictions and sentences of those tried solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.

The letter by the UN Special Rapporteurs expressed specific concerns about the prosecution of Abdelmajeed and Rajeh. The letter alleged that charges under Egypt’s counter-terrorism law, which seems to disregard international human rights norms, carry severe penalties and that the vague legislation is reportedly misused to suppress dissent. The UN Special Rapporteurs stated, “We urge your Excellency’s Government to immediately cease all acts of reprisals and intimidation and arbitrary arrests against human rights defenders, and to allow Mr. Abdelmajeed and Mr. Rajeh to carry out their legitimate activities as human rights defenders in the future.”

Abdelmajeed and Rajeh are both lawyers with the Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR), an organization that documents human rights violations and advocates for the improvement of human rights in Egypt. Both individuals were “charged with joining and funding a terrorist group by providing that group with information about political detainees in Egypt.”

Ibrahim Metwally is another human rights lawyer who was arrested by Egyptian authorities in 2017. He remains in pretrial detention to this day, over six years after his arrest. Similarly, Ezzat Ghoneim and 13 others were “arrested and prosecuted for their human rights work” in 2018, according to Friday’s statement. The 14 individuals were sentenced to prison on terrorism-related charges last year, with Ghoneim sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.