Human rights organizations condemn harassments of opposition to constitutional amendments and demand closure of case 674/2019

The undersigned organizations affirm their total rejection of the arbitrary measures that Egyptian authorities have begun to target political activists against the backdrop of their peaceful rejection of the constitutional amendments approved by a popular referendum at the end of last April with an approval rate of 88.83%, according to the high electoral committee. The undersigned organizations call on authorities in Egypt to immediately and unconditionally release the arrested youth and hold security forces responsible for the physical safety of those persons in case of any violations during by their arrest and interrogation.

Egyptian authorities arrested political activist Ahmed Badawi, a member of the Strong Egypt party on the second day of the constitutional referendum on April 21, 2019, against the backdrop of his raising a banner calling on citizens to reject the constitutional amendments. On the same day, Ameer Issa, secretary of the popular activities committee of the Al-Dustour Party, was arrested by the police while taking pictures of procedural violations in front of a poll station at a school in Qalyoub. Abeer Al-Safti was also arrested on the third day of the referendum, 22 April 2019, while traveling alone in a microbus from Cairo to Alexandria. Abeer was on her way to the Kafr El Dawar police station, where she maintains and implements the precautionary measures prescribed in Case No. 718 of 2018, known in the media as the Metro detainees case. Police stopped the microbus upon arrival and ordered passengers to cast their vote in a nearby poll station. When passengers protested, one of them was arrested followed by the arrest of Abeer.

Badawi remained under enforced disappearance for 6 days before appearing in the Supreme State Security Prosecution, where he was interrogated in case No. 674 of 2019, charged by the prosecution of joining a terrorist group and using a private account on the Internet with the intention of committing crimes punishable by law to disturb public order and jeopardize the safety of society. He was not shown any evidence of the above. In the case report, Badawi’s lawyers proved that, after his arrest, he was taken to the fifth assembly I police station and illegally detained at National Security headquarters annexed to the police department. He was not brought before the prosecution but was interrogated by national security officers for four hours while being denied access to the outside world, both his lawyer and his family. He was blindfolded and tied with iron chains to a seat he was sitting on during six days of enforced disappearance, during which officers at the police station dined his arrest or presence in their facility. The Supreme State Security Prosecution decided to resume questioning of Badawi on May 9.

Amir Issa appeared on 30 April 2019 in the supreme state security prosecution, a defendant in the same case, facing the same charges, after 8 days of forced disappearance. The prosecution decided to extend his detention for 15 days pending investigations.

Abeer was also subjected to enforced disappearance for two days without her family being able to contact her, which drove them to submit complaints to the concerned authorities until she appeared on April 28, 2019 in the Supreme State Security Prosecution in the same case (No. 674 of 2019), where she was charged with joining a terrorist group with the knowledge of its purposes and using an internet account to commit a crime punishable by law with the aim of disturbing public order and security. The prosecution decided to detain her for 15 days pending investigations.

It is noteworthy that security forces arrested 4 members belonging to the Al-Dostur Party, from the governorates of Cairo, Giza, and Aswan, after announcing their rejection of the constitutional amendments. On February 22, 2019, Ahmad al-Rassam, party information secretary, and Ramadan Abu Zeid, a member of the party’s higher committee in Minya governorate, were arrested during their departure from the party’s general secretariat meeting at the party’s headquarters in Dokki, while Hilal Samir was arrested from his home in Cairo, and Jamal Fadel was also arrested from his home in Aswan. The Supreme State Security Prosecution decided to hold them in remand on account of two different cases: joining a terrorist organization in state security case no. 277/2019, while Ramadan Abu Zeid was held in case 1739/2018, accused of helping a terrorist organization achieve its objectives and using a personal social media account to disseminate and broadcast false news and rumors intended to harm national security. Both had posted videos on Facebook and Elmawqef Elmasry website expressing their refusal of the constitutional amendments.

The undersigned organizations reiterate their opposition to the security harassment of political opponents for their peaceful expression of their views on the issue of the constitutional amendments and detaining them with vague charges that are repeated in all cases processed by state security prosecution, under a continuous emergency state that has been repeatedly enforced in Egypt since 2017. The organizations are very concerned about a possible widening of the scope of arrests to include other citizens who have expressed their rejection of the amendments peacefully through available legal channels.

The organizations also assert that the detention of those rejecting the constitutional amendments, in addition to all the practices that coincided with the referendum process- such as forcing citizens to cast their vote in polling stations, voter bribery and preventing journalists from monitoring the counting procedures- had challenged the integrity and impartiality of the referendum process. These practices also violate Egypt’s international obligations to promote and consolidate democracy in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/96 of 2001, which calls upon Member States to promote and consolidate democracy by all means, including maximizing the participation of individuals in decision-making, and not by restricting their freedom of expression or arresting those opposing the constitutional amendments or putting them under enforced disappearance then sending them to prison for the mere expression of their views that are not in line with the current regime’s affiliations. The undersigned organizations reiterate Egypt’s international obligations to respect and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The undersigned organizations:

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Al-Nadeem Center
Adalah for Rights and Freedoms
Association forFreedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)