EIPR founder and other human rights defenders’ assets frozen while facing criminal charges in Egypt
A criminal court in North Cairo ruled in favor of freezing the assets of 13 human rights defenders and their family members, including Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and former ESCR-Net Board Chair. In a statement issued immediately following the ruling, EIPR affirmed that it will continue defending human rights and liberties and working to change public policies and security practices that run counter to economic, social, civil, and political human rights, despite “the continued state assault on all forms of civil association and initiative in Egypt over the last three years.”
In a move widely denounced by diplomatic and civil society groups worldwide, the ruling comes after 12 travel bans were issued as part of the investigation related to the criminal prosecution case against them. Seventeen individuals have been called forth for interrogation concerning the upcoming criminal case, Case No. 173/2011, that could result in life sentences .
The human rights NGOs are facing charges based on the Articles 78, 98c, and 98d of the Egyptian Penal Code, which penalize receiving money from international sources and the creation of an organization without a license. This use of legal frameworks to criminalize human right defenders is a distressing trend as it restricts the work of civil society and NGOs and their ability to protect human rights.
Since 2002, EIPR has been working to strengthen and protect basic rights and freedoms in Egypt with an understanding that the importance of public freedoms and political rights must be grounded in an understanding of the indispensability of full protection for personal rights. EIPR focuses on research, advocacy, and supporting litigation in the fields of civil liberties, economic and social rights, and criminal justice.
EIPR’s founder, Hossam Bahgat, was previously detained in November 2015 after being summoned for questioning at the military intelligence headquarters in Cairo. Mr. Bahgat is an investigative journalist with Mada Masr, serves as a board member of the Fund for Global Human Rights and as an advisory board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative. In 2010, he was awarded the Allison des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism by Human Rights Watch.
The other human rights organizations targeted in this case are the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Egyptian Center on the Rights to Education.
The asset freeze is the latest pressure from the Egyptian state against civil society organizations and NGOs, and is intended to restrict their ability to pursue their work defending human rights.
Following EIPR’s call for solidarity with the Egyptian human rights movement, ESCR-Net has reiterated its support for its members and the wider human rights community in Egypt and its unequivocal recognition of their valuable work to enable all people to live in dignity and enjoy social justice.
Photo credit: Mohamed Elraa/AP.