Letter to Egyptian President: Demanding the Closure of the Case No.173 and Revoking Travel Bans on WHRDs

July 21, 2016

His Excellency Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Abedine Palace,
Cairo
Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 23901998

Dear Mr. President,

We as women human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa, civil society organizations, NGOs, and INGOs are deeply concerned with the deteriorating situation of women human rights defenders in Egypt. We request that all charges against human rights organizations and defenders are dropped based on the Egyptian Constitution and international treaties to which Egypt is a state party.

Egypt has obligations under international law through its ratification of international instruments. Foremost, Article 75 of the Egyptian Constitution protects the right for associations and foundations to practice their activities freely. Whereas Egypt is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which Articles 21 & 22 assert that no restriction on the right to freedom of association is permissible. Additionally, Articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter reiterate the right to freedom of association and assembly. Finally, Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women emphasizes the States’ obligation to ‘take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life.’

Furthermore, Egypt accepted five UPR recommendations in March 2015 that address the protection of human rights defenders including two concerning women human rights defenders [1]. Within the spirit of international cooperation such recommendations, although advisory, remain important to Egypt’s position in the Human Rights Council.

Lastly, Egypt was a supporter of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and was in favour of the resolution during the General Assembly’s 53rd Session (A/53/PV.85) in 1998. The Declaration protects the rights of human rights defenders and we call on the Egypt to adhere to the Declaration with the same enthusiasm it had in 1998.

With this in mind, we are addressing you in the backdrop of the recent violations and travel ban imposed on Mozn Hassan, the Founder and Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies. As a prominent women’s rights organization, Nazra has taken leading roles and positions in defending women’s human rights and combating sexual violence. On the ground Nazra provides first hand psychological, legal and medical support to women survivors of sexual violence in the public sphere. Such services are critical to the wellbeing of female victims and are essential to end ongoing violations, prevent their repetition, and assist victims in accessing legal proceedings and achieving justice.

We acknowledge the State’s commitment to ending sexual violence through its strategies such as the new units on sexual harassment in the police force [3]. However, we remind the State that human rights organisations and defenders are fundamental in bridging the obligations of the State and the needs of the people.

We demand that Egypt:

– Revokes arbitrary measures such as travel bans on Mozn Hassan and other human rights defenders immediately,
– Drops all charges against Nazra and all defendants of the case 173,
– Establishes a mechanism to ensure the safety of women human rights defenders in the country. It should ensure a safe environment for women human rights defenders to work in, including working without any judicial harassment and the fear of reprisal and,
– Ensures that domestic legislation is in conformity with the Declaration on human Rights Defenders

Sincerely,

Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition in the Middle East and North Africa
Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Global Fund for Women
Article 19

Copies to:

Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights
Ms. Laila Bahaa El Din

Prime Minister of Egypt
Mr. Sherif Ismail

Minister of Justice of Egypt
Mr. Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rehim

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Sameh Shokry

Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
H.E. Ms. Wafaa Bassim

Embassy of Egypt in Brussels

________________________________________
[1] Recommendation numbers: 166.76, 166.155, 166.212, 166.218, 166.245. Available from http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/egypt/session_20_-_october_2014/recommendations_and_pledges_egypt_2014.pdf
[2] Article 13 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
[3] http://egyptianstreets.com/2015/05/10/egypts-police-adopt-new-strategy-to-combat-violence-against-women/

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