Egypt: Gasser Abdel Razek’s life in danger as he endures abuse in prison for human rights meeting with Western diplomats

November 24, 2020

The Egyptian authorities’ abuse of veteran human rights defender Gasser Abdel Razek, Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), is condemned by the undersigned human rights organizations. Gasser’s arrest and punitive treatment in prison is in apparent retaliation by the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for his recent meeting with European and Canadian diplomats in Egypt to discuss the country’s human rights situation.

Gasser Abdel Razek has been held in solitary confinement since early Friday November 20, his lawyers learned during his interrogation session on Monday. He has not been allowed out of his cell since his confinement, with nowhere to sleep except on a metal bed without a mattress and cover, reported the EIPR. In addition to being stripped of all his personal belongings and money and having his hair entirely shaved off, Gasser was given only light summer clothing despite the cold winter weather, and was prohibited from using the prison canteen to attain basic necessities.

The cruel and degrading conditions of Gasser Abdel Razek’s imprisonment violate international human rights law. According to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), solitary confinement refers to “the confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact.” The arbitrary violations against Gasser corroborate the absence of minimum humane treatment in the Liman Tora prison, and have put his life in danger.

On November 23, the Supreme State Security Prosecution finished its investigation of Gasser Abdel Razek in connection with case no. 855 of 2020. He faces a predictable set of inane charges customarily fabricated against human rights defenders, such as “joining a terrorist group” and “spreading false information with the aim to disturb peace and public security.” During the interrogation, which lasted for about an hour and a half, he was questioned about the EIPR’s work, including several of the organization’s published reports on the human rights situation in Egypt. The prosecution informed Gasser’s lawyers that the investigations would resume at a later unspecified date.

The prosecution and abuse of Gasser Abdel Razek  occurs in the context of the Egyptian government’s reprisal campaign against the EIPR, which continues despite mounting local and international pressure to release Gasser and his colleagues. Mohamed Basheer, the EIPR administrative director, and Karim Ennarah, the director of EIPR’s criminal justice unit, were arrested last week, while Patrick George Zaki, another member of the EIPR team, has been held in custody since last February on similar unfounded charges. The state-run media is also unrelenting in its incitement and smear campaigns against the EIPR and other Egyptian rights organizations and defenders, in addition to its targeting of international institutions and governments in solidarity with the EIPR.

In shameless disregard for Egypt’s international human rights obligations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced its rejection of international calls to release EIPR staff. The signatory organizations underscore that the government’s systematic and escalating reprisals against civil society members and others for conducting their legitimate work or engaging with international human rights mechanisms -whether cooperating with the UN or meeting with foreign diplomats – are intended to intimidate Egyptian human rights organizations and obstruct their work in exposing ongoing human rights in Egypt.

The signatory organizations reaffirm their rejection of the state security attack on the EIPR, and hold the Egyptian authorities responsible for the physical and psychological safety of Gasser Abdel Razek and his colleagues. It is imperative their rights as pre-trial detainees are upheld in accordance with the Egyptian constitution and international conventions binding Egypt.

The signatory organizations urge all organizations and institutions, within Egypt and internationally, to take a decisive stance against the Egyptian government’s ruthless and relentless campaign of harassment and reprisals against human rights defenders. The life of Gasser Abdel Razek, and the lives of countless other prisoners of conscience held in abject detention conditions, are at stake.

 

Signatory organizations

– Foundation for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)

– Nadeem Center for Torture Victims

– Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

– The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

– Community for Justice (CFJ)

– The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

– Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

– Freedom Initiative

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