Ten human rights organizations today said they stood in full solidarity with leaders and members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, whose trial begins this Saturday, 11 September, before an Emergency State Security Criminal Court, over charges relating solely to their peaceful work in defense of victims of torture, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and the arbitrary deprivation of the right to life.
The case (no. 1552/2018) includes 31 defendants, 14 of whom are currently in custody. While the Supreme State Security Prosecution have accused all defendants of leadership, membership or support of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, the prosecution singled out four individuals for the charge of documenting and exposing rights violations via the social media accounts of the Coordination. The four include lawyer and former member of the State-affilaited National Council for Human Rights Hoda Abdel-Moneim; lawyer and executive director of the Coordination Ezzat Ghoneim; and lawyer Mohamed Abu-Horaira and his wife Aisha Al-Shatir.
According to the indictment order, issued on 23 August, the four members of the Coordination are charged with “using websites to promote ideas incting the commission of terror acts, by using Facebook, Twitter and Youtube under the name of the Egyptian Coordination for Human Rights to spread alleged notions of: the involvment of the police in illegal detentions, killings, torture and the use of force; the deilberate withholding of medical care for prisoners; the complicity of judicial authorities with regard to complaints submitted about these violatons and holding their perpetrator accountable; the issuing of death sentences without evidence; and the lack of fairness guarantees in criminal trials; all with the intent of advocating the use of force and violence against state institutions in orer to disturb public order, undermine society’s safety and security, and harm national unity and social peace.”
Moreover, the four have been indicted for “publicly broadcasting, domestically and abroad, false news and statements about the internal affairs of the country, via the official accounts of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms on Facebook and Twitter, and video clips on a channel using the same name on YouTube…which had the effect of weakening the resolve of the state, disturbing public security, causing terror among people, and harming public and national interests.”
The 10 undersigned human rights organizations consider both charges levelled against colleagues at the Coordination to be at the heart of legitimate defense of human rights, both a right and a duty, and fall under the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Egyptian Constitution as well as international law.
The groups reiterated their condemnation of the continued imposition of the State of Emergency since 2017 without interruption, in violation of the Constitution, and its use to refer civilians to Emergency State Security Courts. These exceptional courts fall far short of minimum fair trial guarantees, as their verdicts are not subject to appeal but instead require the final approval of the President of the Republic, who might abolish or reduce the sentence or order a retrial, in clear violation of judicial independence.
The four members of the Coordination have been subjected to prolonged, open-ended pretrial detention for nearly three years, in violation of Egyptian law. They were detained in March and November 2018 and have since been the targets of a series of violations of their rights that have been documented by Egyptian and international organizations as well United Nations officials that have declared their detention to be arbitrary and called for their immediate release.
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
El-Nadeem Center against Violence and Torture
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Committee for Justice
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
Regional Center for Rights and Liberties