Egypt: Peaceful activists among hundreds subjected to arbitrary overnight probation measures

Egyptian authorities are continuing their use of arbitrary and excessive overnight probation measures to further punish peaceful activists by forcing them to overnight in crowded police cells after their release from prison, said Amnesty International today.

The Egyptian authorities are relying on arbitrary and excessive probation measures as a repressive tactic to intimidate peaceful activists into silence after their release from prison
Magdalena Mughrabi

According to the organization’s findings, people on probation are being forced to spend up to 12 hours overnight at police stations without any explanation as to why they cannot stay at their own residences. Police officers deny most of them visits or mobile phones and laptops during this time. They are left in overcrowded spaces with poor ventilation and limited access to sanitary facilities.

“The Egyptian authorities are relying on arbitrary and excessive probation measures as a repressive tactic to intimidate peaceful activists into silence after their release from prison,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“These punitive measures not only violate their rights to freedom of movement, expression, peaceful assembly and association, but  can lead to further violations including torture or other ill-treatment, forced labour and exploitation.”

The organization is aware of more than 400 people currently on probation after their conviction in five grossly unfair mass trials. Hundreds more convicted in the same trials, and still detained, could face similar arbitrary and excessive probation conditions upon their release.

They include prisoners of conscience who were detained solely for their peaceful participation in protests or in relation to their journalistic work and who should never have been in prison in the first place.

These punitive measures not only violate their rights to freedom of movement, expression, peaceful assembly and association, but can lead to further violations including torture or other ill-treatment, forced labour and exploitation
Magdalena Mughrabi

Amnesty International’s research also reveals that the Egyptian authorities threaten family members of former prisoners with detention if their relatives fail to comply with the abusive probation requirements.

“The use of these draconian probation measures arbitrarily violates people’s rights to move around freely and to communicate with the outside world during their overnight probations. This must stop immediately," said Magdalena Mughrabi.

The organization’s findings also indicate that the measures severely impact on the ability of those affected to lead a normal life during their hours of freedom, restricting their enjoyment of the rights to work, education, family and private life. In some cases, probation conditions also interfere with the enjoyment of the right to an adequate standard of living. 

Harsh probation measures are yet another means through which the Egyptian authorities are seeking to consolidate their iron grip on power to stoke a climate of fear and intimidation
Magdalena Mughrabi

Among those facing probation measures are political activists including Ahmad (not his real name) who reported being subjected to repeated threats by police officers during his overnight probation to coerce him into becoming an informant. He also told Amnesty International that when he was continually refusing to collaborate, police officers beat him and threatened him with electrocution and renewed imprisonment several times.

“Harsh probation measures are yet another means through which the Egyptian authorities are seeking to consolidate their iron grip on power to stoke a climate of fear and intimidation. Instead of resorting to sinister police tactics to reinforce their authority, the Egyptian authorities must urgently halt their use of arbitrary and excessive probation measures and promptly and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and forced labour in police stations,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

Other political activists facing harsh probation measures include Alaa Abed El-Fattah, a 38-year-old software engineer, Ahmad Maher, a 39-year-old leader of the April 6 Movement, and Mohamed Adel, also a co-founder of the April 6 Movement, who is serving a prison term for pursuing his activism and social media writings while on police probation.