Human rights defenders in Egypt face criminal charges in connection with their work

Publish Date: 
Sunday, July 31, 2016

As the crackdown against human rights organizations in Egypt continues, the accountant and a former administrative assistant of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) were summoned to court during the month of July in connection with the 173/2011 case against Egyptian NGOs.

The case has resulted in a travel ban against Hossam Bahgat, founder of EIPR, and a request to freeze Bahgat’s assets is being considered by an Egyptian court. Travel bans and asset freeze requests are affecting other human rights defenders in Egypt as well. This is the second court summons issued this month.

The latest in a trend of laws and regulations aimed at restricting human rights advocacy in Egypt, Case 173/2011 is being brought against several human rights organizations, including the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, among others. Those accused in the case might face charges based on articles 78, 98 c, 98 d of the penal code.

Article 78 of the Penal Code, amended by President Sissi in September 2014, increased the penalty for charges that include receiving money from abroad “with the aim of pursuing acts harmful to national interests or destabilizing general peace or the country’s independence and its unity.”  At present, individuals charged with violation of Article 78 could be subjected to life imprisonment.

Article 98(c)(1) prohibits the creation or management of an association without a license, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of 500 EGP. The sanction for an individual who joins an unregistered Egyptian organisation or who becomes affiliated without government authorization with an organization based abroad, under Article 98, is subject to imprisonment for up to three months, or 300 EGP.

Article 98(d) provides for punishment of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of not less than 100 and not more than 1000 EGP for any individual who receives or accepts (either directly or via an intermediary) money or benefits from outside the country or from within when that money is intended to be used to commit a crime listed in 98(1), 98(1)(bis), 98(b), 98(c), or 174 of this code.

Via these laws, and their arbitrary implementation, the Egyptian government has continued to restrict the space available for the legitimate and legal activities of the country’s human rights defenders and their organizations. In this context, broad international solidarity is critical in order to resist any effort to isolate groups working within Egypt, and to support their ongoing activities to advance the shared goals of the international human rights community.

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