World Organization Against Torture
Egypt: Security Forces Raid The Egyptian Center For Economic And Social Rights, Alexandria Branch, And Sexually Harass Females
Thursday, May 22nd 2014
The undersigned organizations condemn the security forces storming of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Alexandria Branch, and note that such attack is an expected escalation, amidst the growing incitement in the media, and defamation campaigns, which have been targeting human rights organizations and human rights defenders in Egypt.
Egyptian security forces, alongside security personnel dressed in civilian attire, raided the Alexandria Branch of The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, arresting 15, including two minors, and two ECESR staff, and confiscating several computers and documents. The arrested were taken to the Alexandria Security Department where they were held, until released hours later.
Security forces raided ECESR’s office while a press conference was being held in solidarity with imprisoned labor activist Mahinour Al-Massry, who was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of protesting. Al-Massry’s appeal was recently rejected, and her sentence was reaffirmed. The press conference came in solidarity with imprisoned activist Al-Massry, who was taking part in a protest demanding justice for martyr ‘Khaled Said’, tortured to death by security forces in 2010, the latter incident is considered a driving force of the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011.
In addition, the undersigned organizations express deep concerns about the sexual harassment and molestation of females attending the press conference, by the security forces, which can only be considered an attempt to discourage females from participating in the public space.
The aforementioned press conference is part of ECESR’s ongoing campaign against the Protest Law No. 107/2013, which was issued by Al-Beblawi’s government in November 2013. It also comes in light of ECESR’s ongoing court case, disputing the constitutionality of the aforementioned protest law.
It is noteworthy that this is considered the second raid on ECESR premises in the past 6 months, and the third since January 2011.
This raid comes in light of systematic and widespread crackdown carried out by the interim regime of July 3rd on human rights defenders, in an attempt to silence the voices of those speaking out against human rights violations committed by the security state, and demanding justice and fair compensation to victims of human rights violations.
Notably, this raid comes a few days before the presidential elections in Egypt, scheduled May 26 and 27, a period expected to enjoy a larger space for freedom of expression. Instead, the raid that targeted the Egyptian Center only reflects a repressive atmosphere, and rising threats to the existence and function of civil society organizations, impeding them from executing their key role in Egypt’s transition.
The undersigned organizations request the immediate release of all those detained and arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and calls for a speedy end to these unfair practices, including the police harassment of civil society organizations and human rights defenders. The state should stop targeting human rights defenders, and restricting their work. In addition, we call for immediate investigations into the sexual harassment that females faced at the premises of ECESR at the hands of the security forces.
Finally, the undersigned organizations articulate that they will take all legal measures against those responsible for the raid of the ECESR office, and will register a complaint to the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the relevant United Nations Special Rapporteurs.
-Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
-Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
-Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
-Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
-Nazra for Feminist Studies
-Hisham Mubarak Law Center
-New Woman Foundation
-Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
-Andalus institute for tolerance & Anti-violence studies
-National Community for Human Rights and law
-Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of Childhood Conditions
-Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
-FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders-World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders