The Egyptian Front for Human Rights published a report entitled: “A Judiciary President” on using Emergency State Security Courts to Prosecute Political Activists and Human Rights defenders, to shed light on continued human rights violations targeting different segments of civil society by the Egyptian authorities, including human rights defenders, journalists, and political activists. The authorities have developed their tools for the crackdown on the opposition to keep them detained as long as possible.
Since 2019, “rotation” has become prevalent as a practice used by security services, with the participation of Public Prosecution, to repress political opponents. Rotation takes many forms, all within the scope of pretrial detention. In mid-2021, the Supreme State Security Prosecution developed forms of rotation and introduced a new form, which is duplicating cases to get around pretrial detention and ensure keeping people in prisons under final judgments.
The authorities took advantage of the declared state of emergency and referred detainees in cases of conscience, after exceeding the pretrial detention period stipulated by law, to the Emergency State Security Courts specified by Emergency Law No. 162/1958, resulting in depriving individuals of trial before their natural judge, and instead, trying them before extraordinary courts, where they don’t receive fair trials. The Supreme State Security Prosecution referred those individuals to trial by duplicating cases to the Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Court or referring cases to the Emergency State Security Criminal Court.
2021 saw increased use of Emergency Law against political activists and human rights advocates, as the State Security Prosecution referred 5 cases of conscience to the Emergency State Security Courts, during the second half of 2021.
The first of the cases referred to the Emergency State Security Courts is that of researcher Ahmed Samir which was referred by the State Security Prosecution to trial before an Emergency State Security Court in May 2021 in duplicate case no. 877/2021. On July 14, 2021, human rights lawyer and former MP Zyad El-Elaimy, journalist Hussam Mo’nis, and labor leader Hisham Fouad, among others were also referred to an Emergency State Security Court in duplicate case no. 957/2021. In August of the same year, the Supreme State Security Prosecution referred the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms case, in which human rights lawyer and former member of the National Council for Human Rights Hoda Abdel Moneim and human rights lawyer Ezzat Ghoneim, among others, were detained, to the Emergency State Security Criminal Court in case no. 1552/2018 after three years of pretrial detention.
To write this report, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) used nine online voice chats with nine lawyers who defended detainees before Emergency State Security Courts in nine cases, in which a number of political opponents and human rights advocates were detained from early 2021 until the time of writing this report. All conversations were made between mid-April and early June 2022, and touched upon the legal characterization of referring their clients to trial before Emergency State Security Courts, the constitutionality of some relevant legal texts, violations against fair trial guarantees by these courts, legal defences used, and the sentences rendered against their clients.
The report is also based on an examination and analysis of the official documents of 5 cases referred by the Supreme State Security Prosecution to Emergency State Security Courts between mid-2021 and October 25, 2021, before lifting the state of emergency. It is also based on a perusal of three defense statements filed by the lawyers to the Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Jurisdictions during pleadings.
In addition, the report is based on an examination of the provisions of Egypt’s constitution, Emergency Law, Criminal Procedure Code, Penal Code, and Anti-Terrorism Law, to consider the issues of the provisions of the Emergency Law, the charges against political opponents brought to trial before Emergency State Security Courts, and the legal procedures specified in the Criminal Procedure Code and their compatibility with the Emergency Law.
Finally, the report is based on an examination of some International Law resources, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Amnesty International Fair Trial Manual.