Submission to UN Human Rights Committee – Arab Republic of Egypt
During its 137th session, from 27 February to 24 March 2023, the Human Rights Committee will consider the 5th periodic report submitted by the Arab Republic of Egypt and adopt concluding observations that will assist the Arab Republic of Egypt in the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In the context of this review, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a report in which we highlight key areas of concern about the failure of the government of the Arab Republic of Egypt to comply with its international human rights commitments to guarantee effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession.
On 27 June 2022, the Human Rights Committee adopted a List of Issues in relation to the fifth periodic report of the Arab Republic of Egypt, in response to which the Arab Republic of Egypt submitted a reply. Prior to the adoption of the List of Issues on the Arab Republic of Egypt, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a contribution to the List of Issues on the Arab Republic of Egypt, particularly in relation to the obstacles to the independent exercise of the profession of lawyers and violations committed against them. With our new report, we wish to provide a concise update to our report submitted before the adoption of the List of Issues.
Since submitting our report for the adoption of the List of Issues in December 2021, new cases of interference with the work of lawyers have been brought to the attention of Lawyers for Lawyers. New types of interference with the work of lawyers have also emerged since submitting our report, amongst others in the form of harassing and intimidating lawyers, including cases of enforced disappearance. The issues mentioned below are highlighted in our report. All issues are illustrated by individual cases of lawyers.
Firstly, new cases of lawyers being arrested while executing their professional functions were brought to the attention of Lawyers for Lawyers. These problems were for example seen around the COP27, that took place in Sharm El-Sheikh. Secondly, lawyers in the Arab Republic of Egypt who are working on sensitive cases are sometimes subjected to attempts by investigative authorities to harass and disrupt their work. They face threats, intimidation and (physical) attacks in connection with their legitimate activities as lawyers.
Furthermore, lawyers have been subjected to attempts of enforced disappearance, in some cases being arrested and disappearing for multiple says without their families or legal representatives being notified. Their legal representatives are therefore not able to provide legal services.
One of the emerging issues that has been reported, is that lawyers have been subjected to prolonged arbitrary detention. Specifically, there have been reports of ‘prisoners of conscience’ and others in detention for political reasons being held in harsh conditions and denied access to health care as a measure of punishment. According to reports received by Lawyers for Lawyers, there has been an ongoing practice of ‘rotation’, meaning that entirely new cases are brought against defendants who already served their sentence, reached their maximum detention limit for a case or should have been released. The practical implications for lawyers can be found in our report.
We conclude our report by stating that the authorities of the Arab Republic of Egypt do not always uphold the necessary guarantees for the proper functioning of the legal profession in practice. Lawyers are regularly subject to improper interference and harassment. Some lawyers are even subjected to enforced disappearance in connection to their legitimate professional activities. Furthermore, lawyers are subjected to prolonged arbitrary detention and ‘rotation’ practice. As a result, lawyers are not in an equal position to represent their clients, in violation of Article of the 14 ICCPR. The recommendations that have been made to the Arab Republic of Egypt can also be found in our report.
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