Human Rights Watch said Egyptian authorities have carried out arrests, house raids, interrogations, and travel bans against dozens of relatives of dissidents who live abroad, apparently in reprisal for their activism.
“Egyptian authorities, determined to stifle dissent, have been punishing families of opponents abroad,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should cease these vindictive attacks, which amount to collective punishment.”
Human Rights Watch documented 28 cases of Egyptian journalists, media workers, and political and human rights activists who have criticized the government and now live abroad.
In each case, authorities have harassed or threatened one or more family members in Egypt, or in some cases subjected family members to extrajudicial punishments, apparently as reprisals for their relatives’ activism. The cases Human Rights Watch documented occurred between 2016 and 2019.
Of the cases Human Rights Watch documented, security forces raided or visited homes of relatives of 14 dissidents, and in 5 of these raids ransacked or damaged belongings. In no instance did security forces show any arrest or search warrants. Authorities have also banned from traveling or confiscated the passports of 20 relatives of 8 dissidents.
The authorities also detained or prosecuted 20 relatives of 11 dissidents. In 13 cases, authorities accused or charged the relatives themselves, including in one instance a child, with joining “terrorist” groups and disseminating “false news.” Authorities sent to trial at least 5 relatives, and courts acquitted 1.
More than five other activists and journalists living outside Egypt said that they avoid criticizing the government publicly or engaging in other opposition activities because they fear for their families’ safety in Egypt.
“The message Egyptian authorities want to send is clear” Stork said. “Don’t criticize, don’t oppose, and don’t talk. Even if you live abroad, we can hurt your loved ones.” (Source: HRW)