A group of 19 Egyptian human rights organisations forming a coalition named The Forum of Independent Human Rights Organizations (The Forum) delivered a speech before the UN’s Human Right’s Council (UNHRC ) raising concerns over the human rights situation in Egypt.
The Forum’s intervention on Friday arrived in response to the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur’s report on human rights defenders in Egypt.
The Rapporteur highlighted: the security forces’ raid on the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights in May 2014; the sentences issued against the Presidential Palace demonstrators, including human rights defenders Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif; as well the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s deadline to force NGO’s to register under a “draconian” NGO law.
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) delivered the speech on behalf of The Forum. It pointed further to “several instances demonstrating how human rights defenders and civil society organisations are being targeted, whether through security crackdowns, unfair prosecutions, travel bans, extrajudicial killings, and repressive legislation”.
CIHRS pointed out the adoption of the terrorist entities law as “the most serious” of these legislations.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree on 24 February approving the “terrorist entities” law, detailing offences necessary for a group or organisation to be labelled a “terrorist entity”.
The law consists of 10 articles. Article 1 defines a terrorist entity as any group “practicing or intending to advocate by any means to disturb public order or endanger the safety of the community and its interests or risk its security or harm national unity”.
The case of human rights activist Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh, who was shot and killed by security forces during the dispersion of a peaceful march on the fourth anniversary of the revolution, was also mentioned in the intervention. Additionally, the “Cabinet clashes” trial in which 229 defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, including prominent political activist Ahmed Douma and human rights defender Hind Nafie.
The five-year prison sentences against prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman in the “Shura council” case was also a matter of concern for the rights groups as they said the defendants were convicted “after exercising their right to peaceful assembly”.
The CIHRS speech asserted that “thus far there has been no genuine political will to stop violations against human rights defenders in Egypt and uphold the work of rights groups”.