A number of NGOs and human rights organisations released a statement Wednesday criticising the authorities’ interrogation of two judges and the questioning of lawyer Negad Al-Borai.
The interrogations occurred in light of their submitting a draft law to combat torture.
The joint statement was signed by 18 organisations including: the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS); the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR); and El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence.
The two judges under investigation, Assem Abd Al-Gabbar and Hisham Raouf, are accused of contributing to the drafting of an anti-torture law and their participation in a workshop organised by an “illegal organisation”, in reference to a law firm called United Group.
Directed by Al-Borai, United Group had held a workshop for legal experts and judges, among whom were the two judges currently under investigation, on 11 March. The workshop was to present and discuss a draft law to codify the criminalisation of torture in Egyptian law.
The law firm later submitted the draft law to the relevant state bodies, including the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Transitional Justice and the presidency. After this, news circulated of the assigning of a judge to investigate Abd Al-Gabbar and Raouf, along with the summoning of Al-Borai by the North Giza Court on 16 May, to give a statement in connection with the two judges.
“The only reaction we got from the authorities after submitting the draft was being referred to investigation,” Al-Borai said.
The undersigned organisations denounced the move to investigate the judges, perceiving it as another attempt at “harassing independent judges who support legislative reforms to improve the human rights situation”.
“The United Group is an esteemed law firm, it carries out the practice of law, and also engages in legal activities such as conducting legal research and drafting laws,” said Al-Borai. “We have been working for exactly 74 years, during interrogations I submitted our legal status and tax payments to the investigators.”
Over the past 18 months, 163 complaints involving 465 allegations of torture in detention facilities were filed by the United Group, according to the statement.
Al-Borai told Daily News Egypt this move can only be interpreted as an attempt to “threaten and scare off people who are engaging in the public sphere, especially those who dare to speak about torture”.
“The real crime is the systematic curbing of the justice system,” the statement declared. “It has become a regular occurrence to find judges openly expressing their political stances from the court bench or through various media outlets, and it appears acceptable as long as they are supportive of the current ruling regime.”