Egypt: At least 19 arrested in alarming escalation of crackdown on human rights workers

The Egyptian authorities have stepped up their onslaught against the human rights community by arresting at least 19 human rights lawyers and activists in a series of raids carried out today, said Amnesty International. So far at least eight women and 11 men were arrested in raids which began in the early hours of this morning.

The arrests prompted the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a prominent human rights organization that provides legal aid and carries out documentation, to suspend its activities, citing the hostile environment towards civil society in Egypt today. 

Among those arrested is the 60-year-old prominent human rights lawyer Hoda Abdelmoniem, a former member of the National Council for Human Rights. Security forces broke into her apartment and ransacked it before taking her to an undisclosed location.  

“Today’s chilling wave of arrests targeting the human rights community is yet another appalling setback for human rights in Egypt. With these arrests the Egyptian authorities have once more demonstrated their ruthless determination to crush all activism and dismantle the human rights movement in the country. Anyone who dares to speak out about human rights violations in Egypt today is in danger,” said Najia Bounaim Amnesty International's Campaigns Director. 

“The systematic persecution of human rights workers in Egypt has to stop. Human rights defenders should be allowed to carry out their work without fear of harassment, arrest or imprisonment. All those arrested for their human rights work should be immediately released.” 

Anyone who dares to speak out about human rights violations in Egypt today is in danger
Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International

ECRF, which documents enforced disappearances and the expanding use of the death penalty, has been hard hit with the crackdown. Another of those arrested today is Mohamed Abu Horira, lawyer and former spokesperson for ECRF, while human rights defender Ezzat Ghoniem, the co-founder of ECRF, and Azzouz Mahgoub, another lawyer at the organization, have been forcibly disappeared since 14 September. Both were arrested in March 2018 but a court ordered their release on 4 September. However, security forces ignored the court order and instead forcibly disappeared them from prison. 

In a statement published today announcing the suspension of its human rights work, ECRF cited the current climate in Egypt as incompatible with human rights work and demanded intervention by the UN Human rights Council. 

Amnesty International has consistently called on the Human Rights Council to comment on the rapidly expanding human rights crisis in Egypt.