ALERT: Egypt Targets Human Rights Lawyers

October 4, 2019

The World Movement for Democracy is deeply disturbed by recent attacks on civil society and human rights legal centers in Egypt, including the arbitrary detention of human rights lawyers and the intentional spread of dangerous misinformation in the media. These actions mark an escalation in the crackdown on civic space in the country, following peaceful anti-corruption protests that started on September 20, 2019.

Since protests began, the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has arrested more than 2,300 people, including respected civil society leaders and the lawyers defending them. In the wake of mass arrests, civil society organizations and legal centers coordinated the defense of peaceful protesters and collected data regarding the number and circumstances of arrests. In response to this, state-affiliated media outlets targeted several organizations with a defamation campaign, alleging that they belonged to, or were funded by, terrorist organizations. This allegation puts the safety and wellbeing of the staff of these organizations and legal professionals providing defense in human rights cases at risk and should be regarded seriously by the government and international community.

Notably, authorities have arrested at least 16 lawyers, including prominent human rights lawyers Mohamed al-Baqer, Mahienour el-Massry, and Mohamed Younes. Civil society organizations have spoken out against these arrests, calling out “authorities’ deliberate arrests of the lawyers, in many cases, inside the courts and judicial buildings, which intimidate not only lawyers but also defendants.”

The World Movement stands in solidarity with Egyptian civil society and legal professionals arrested or otherwise at risk simply for upholding the country’s constitution through their work. These actions represent a frightening new form of repression, and the World Movement urgently calls for the release of these detained individuals. Additionally, we call on the Egyptian government to immediately release the more than 2,000 people arrested in the past two weeks. Neither peaceful civic engagement nor providing legal services is a crime.