An Egyptian court upheld on Sunday a prosecutors’ decision to freeze the assets of three senior staff members of the country’s most prominent human rights groups, which Amnesty International said is an existential threat to the Egyptian human rights movement.
The development comes ahead of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s visit to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss bilateral matters.
The court’s decision to freeze the assets of three senior directors from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) followed their arrest last month on terrorism related charges.
Between Nov. 15 and 19, the Egyptian authorities arrested EIPR staff members following a meeting with western diplomats.
Mohamed Basheer, Karim Ennarah and Gasser Abdel Razek were released from detention on Dec. 03 in the wake of national and international pressure although Egyptian authorities say they are still under investigations.
Amnesty International said the ruling leaves no doubt that the human rights movement in Egypt remains at critical risk amid on-going arbitrary arrests, criminal investigations, asset freezes and travel bans against staff at civil society organizations.
“Though they are now free, these human rights workers should not have spent a single day behind bars, and their release will bring great relief to their families and to Egypt’s embattled human rights community,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.
“However, this is a bittersweet victory which highlights the on-going unjust detention of many other human rights defenders in Egypt”.
“Freezing the personal assets of three EIPR directors on the heels of the unprecedented assault on the organization demonstrates the authorities’ intent to eradicate the Egyptian human rights movement. “ Luther said.
Luther called upon “members of the international community must ensure sustained coordinated and public pressure on the Egyptian authorities to show their genuine commitment to the survival of the human rights movement in Egypt”.
Amidst the detention of other human rights defenders including EIPR’s gender researcher Patrick George Zaki, the Egyptian authorities continue to arbitrarily detain thousands, including prisoners of conscience, execute dozens after unfair trials, and commit widespread torture and enforced disappearances with absolute impunity.
During the sole hearing into the EIPR directors’ asset freeze case held on Dec. 01, the judge in a terrorism circuit of a criminal court in Cairo did not allow lawyers to present their defence, examine case files or speak to their clients in private, in serious violation to their right to a fair trial.
Amnesty International is calling on President Macron to act on his declared commitment to promote human rights in Egypt, and press President al-Sisi for the release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and the protection of the human rights movement. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)