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Joint open letter to the UN High-Commissioner on Human Rights on Egypt: Call for action to condemn the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression

To: HisExcellency Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for HumanRights

Re: Call foraction to condemn the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression

Mr HighCommissioner,

We, theundersigned organisations, are writing to express our great concern about thecurrent human rights situation in Egypt.

Four years agotoday, Egypt’s anti-protest law was signed, restricting the right to freeassembly to such an extent that the mere planning of a demonstration has beencriminalised.

This law remainsone element of a repressive legislative arsenal denying Egyptian citizens theirrights to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly,under the pretext of maintaining stability and countering terrorism.

The Media andPress Law of 26 December 2016 constitutes an unprecedented attack on pressfreedom, the NGO Law has made it impossible for civil society to operate safely,while the Anti-Terrorism Law has been used to impose travel bans and asset freezeson journalists, human rights defenders and other peaceful activists.

These laws actas powerful tools in the hands of the security forces, which carry out the mostsevere violations of human rights on a daily basis, and in a climate ofimpunity: summary executions, abductions followed by secret detentions andenforced disappearances, torture, rape, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials beforecivilian and military courts leading to heavy prison sentences, including thedeath penalty.

The authoritieshave been resorting to these severe violations in a systematic fashion in orderto instil fear within society and to silence any form of dissent bydiscouraging individuals from speaking out. Those targeted include students, professors,trade unionists, journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, politicalopponents and other peaceful activists.

In addition tothese attacks against the liberty and physical integrity of its citizens, theEgyptian authorities have imposed widespread online censorship andsurveillance. Since May 2017, more than 400 websites – including those of newsoutlets and human rights organisations – have been blocked in an attempt tosuppress reports which contradict the state narrative on the human rightssituation in the country.

We believe thisrepressive apparatus, established under the pretext of ensuring stability, isnot only counter-productive, but its very existence permits abuses that goagainst the human rights principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights, the latter of which Egypt has been party to since 1982.

Mr High Commissioner,as we near the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, the Egyptianauthorities must be reminded of their commitment to ensure “freedom of speechand belief and freedom from fear and want”. Such freedoms have been qualifiedas the “highest aspiration of the common people” by the UDHR. The Egyptianpeople are no exception, and they deserve your strongest support and attention.

Mr HighCommissioner, your mandate gives you the authority to engage in a dialogue withall governments to secure respect for all human rights. We believe your supportis crucial to ensure that the people of Egypt enjoy “the equal and inalienablerights of all members of the human family” proclaimed 70 years ago.

Given theextreme gravity of these human rights abuses, we urge you to publicly andstrongly condemn these violations of the rights to freedom of opinion,expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as the attacks on theliberty and integrity of Egyptian citizens. We kindly request that you callupon the authorities to put an end to these violations and establish thenecessary prevention and accountability mechanisms to avoid their repetition.

Theundersigned organisations:

1. Adalah Center for Rights & Freedoms

2. Alkarama Foundation

3. Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence


5. Committee for Justice

6. Egyptian Commission forRights and Freedoms

7. EuroMed Rights

8. Front Line Defenders

9. Index on Censorship

10. PEN International

11. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

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