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Egypt
19.03.21
Urgent Interventions

Egypt: Sentencing of human rights defender Sanaa Seif

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
EGY 002 / 0320 / OBS 025.2
Sentencing /
Arbitrary detention
Egypt
March 19, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing of Ms. Sanaa Seif, a human rights activist and sister of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement[1], who has been arbitrarily detained since September 29, 2019.

On March 17, 2021, the 10th South Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Sanaa Seif to 18 months of imprisonment on charges of “publishing and broadcasting false news” and “insulting a civil servant”. According to Ms. Mona Seif, her sister, the verdict was delivered by a chief judge in Seif’s absence. Ms. Sanaa Seif remains detained in El Qanatir women's prison.

The Observatory recalls that Ms. Sanaa Seif was abducted and subsequently detained on June 23, 2020 by unknown persons in a minibus in front of the gate of the Headquarters of Egypt’s Public Prosecutor in El Rehab, New Cairo. Sanaa Seif, together with her mother Laila Souef and her sister Mona Seif had gone to lodge a complaint in person to the Public Prosecutor after they were violently assaulted the day before in front of the gates of Tora prison in Maadi, Cairo, by a group of women in plain clothes, in plain view of the security forces who did not intervene to end the assault. The attack was in reaction to a small protest the three women organized in front of the prison where Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah is detained, after being barred from visiting him due to the ongoing COVID-19 ban on visits, or even from sending letters to him.

Following her abduction, Ms. Sanaa Seif was transported to the headquarters of the Supreme State Security Prosecution, which in turn ordered her pre-trial detention. After two months of detention, the case was referred to the Criminal Court. The proceedings of the trial began on September 12, 2020.

Seif’s lawyers have reported that several violations to Sanaa Seif’s right to a fair trial have been committed during the process against her, including the falsification of the official arrest report about the place of her arrest, and the complete disregard of her complaint about the wounds she suffered as a result of the assault committed on her and her mother, the prosecution having only recorded that the assault was committed by the four unidentified women in front of the prisons’ gates. Sanna Seif was also prevented, along with her lawyer, from having access to the investigation report, the arrest warrants and the investigations. Additionally, as a result of what the Prosecution called a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic, she was not allowed to attend the sessions held on July 5, 19 and 28 and August, 17, 2020 in which the Court ordered, without providing any debate, the renewal of her detention on paper.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the sentencing and arbitrary detention of Ms. Sanaa Seif and urges the Egyptian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances her physical integrity and psychological well-being and to release her immediately and unconditionally.

The Observatory further urges the Egyptian authorities to carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ms. Sanaa Seif’s abduction and assault against her, Ms. Mona Seif and Ms. Laila Souef, in order to identify all the responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law.

Finally, the Observatory condemns the ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Egypt, which is part of a crackdown on all dissenting voices in the country, and calls on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them, as their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Egypt, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Sanaa Seif, Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, as well as that of all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Sanaa Seif and Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah and all human rights defenders detained, as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee Ms. Sanaa Seif and Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah’s immediate and unhindered access to their family members and a lawyer of their choice and respect in all circumstances their right to a fair trial;

iv. Carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ms. Sanaa Seif’s abduction and assault against her, Ms. Mona Seif and Ms. Laila Souef, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

v. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Sanaa Seif, Ms. Mona Seif, Ms. Laila Souef and Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, as well as against all human rights defenders in Egypt and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance.

Addresses:

  • President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Email: p.spokesman@op.gov.eg, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
  • Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Kemal Madbouly Mohamed. Email: pm@cabinet.gov.eg
  • Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council for Human Rights, Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg
  • H.E. Mr. Alaa Youssef, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt@bluewin.ch

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, March 19, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
  • Tel FIDH: + 33 1 43 55 25 18


[1] This movement was set up in 2011 and denounced human rights abuses committed in particular by security forces and the army during the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) after the fall of former President Mubarak.

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