The Human Rights Committee publishes Concluding Observations on Egypt’s fifth periodic report
Lawyers for Lawyers welcomes the news that on March 20th 2023, the Human Rights Committee adopted its concluding observations regarding the implementation of the ICCPR in Egypt. The Committee specifically points out the issue of intimidation of lawyers and shares its concerns over excessive use of counter-terrorism measures to target lawyers and other human rights defenders, as well as the issue of forced disappearances.
In Lawyers for Lawyers’ report for the adoption of the List of Issues submitted in December 2021, we described that, in recent years, repressive tactics such as enforced disappearance and prolonged pre-trial detention have been increasingly used by the Egyptian authorities to silence dissidents and human rights activists, including lawyers. The Penal Code, Anti-Terrorism Law No. 94 of 2015 (Antiterrorism Law) and the Law Regulating the List of Terrorist Entities and Terrorists No. 8 of 2015 (Terrorist Entities Law) are being used as repressive tools by the authorities against human rights defenders, who are often charged on the grounds of ‘joining a terrorist group’, ‘inciting the commission of terrorist acts’ or ‘spreading false news.’
In their reply to the List of Issues, the Egyptian authorities did not adequately respond to questions from the Committee about the prevention or punishment of harassment or acts of intimidation against lawyers. It neither responded to allegations that lawyers have been subjected to numerous forms of harassment and intimidation, long and illegal pretrial detention, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance.
In a following report, after the Egyptian reply to the list of issues, Lawyers for Lawyers described more cases of harassment, enforced disappearance and prolonged arbitrary detention that occurred since May 2020. These issues were highlighted in an oral statement by Lawyers for Lawyers at the 137th session of the Committee in Geneva.
The observations of the Committee highlight the issue of intimidation of lawyers in section 41, stating that “lawyers involved in politically sensitive cases are reportedly often subjected to harassment and intimidation, and in some cases also to arbitrary detention, prolonged pretrial detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and enforced disappearance”.
The concluding observations further address the excessive use of the counter-terrorism measures in section 13, stating that “The Committee is concerned by reports that these laws are used, in combination with restrictive legislation on fundamental freedoms, to silence actual or perceived critics of the Government, including peaceful protesters, lawyers, journalists, political opponents and human rights defenders”.
Related to the harassment of lawyers, the Committee observed the State Party should
- Halt the misuse of counter-terrorism measures to crack down on peaceful protesters, lawyers, journalists, political opponents and human rights defenders, and take steps to protect fundamental freedoms, including by lifting asset freezes and travel bans resulting from such measures;
- Ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place, both in law and in practice, to guarantee the full independence and safety of lawyers and ensure that they are able to carry out their duties without any harassment, undue interference or fear of arbitrary criminal prosecution and conviction or of other retaliatory measures, in line with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers;
- Release all lawyers arbitrarily detained solely as a result of the exercise of their profession and provide them with adequate compensation.
Lawyers for Lawyers welcomes these concluding observations and hopes Egypt will implement them.
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