On February 9, 2021, a group of human rights organizations and lawyers submitted the following letter to the embassies of the United States, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The letter condemns Egypt’s application of the “terrorist entities list” designation as a means to stifle peaceful and protected expression of rights. An appeal hearing for human rights defender Ramy Shaath and former parliamentarian Ziad el Eleimy, who were added to the list last April, briefly took place today, but the court postponed its decision until March 10. We were happy to see that representatives from several embassies attended the hearing and urge their continued engagement.
We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the use of Egypt’s terrorist entities list as a tactic to repress and stifle legitimate expression and association, specifically with regard to prisoners of conscience Ramy Shaath and Ziad el Eleimy. On the eve of their appeal, we implore you to raise this issue with the relevant authorities and urge the immediate removal of the two from the terrorist entities list and lifting of any injurious measures levied against them.
Shaath, a Palestinian-Egyptian human rights defender, and el Eleimy, a former Egyptian member of parliament and human rights lawyer will be heard in appeal on February 10, 2021; they were added to the terrorist entities list April 2020 in absentia, and without the presence of their lawyers. Their families learned of their addition only when the decision was published in local news. The decision carries a five-year travel ban, freeze of assets, disbarment for el Eleimy, and prohibition from participating in any political party; it may also allow the courts to strip Shaath of his Egyptian citizenship. The decision was condemned by human rights organizations and the European Parliament; no evidence was ever presented to attest to the defendant’s criminal activities. To date, the Court of Cassation has blocked access to the Prosecutor’s opinion on the appeal, further obstructing the right to defense.
Shaath and el Eleimy have been held in pretrial detention in Tora prison since July 2019 as part of Case 930 of 2019, also known as the “Hope Case,” in which they face allegations of joining a terrorist organization. Both Shaath and el Eleimy have been declared prisoners of conscience, as their detention is directly related to their political activism. The two-year maximum period for pretrial detention for the two will end in July of this year; if their addition to the terrorist entities list is upheld, however, and they are not able to leave the country or access their assets, any freedom would only be provisional.
The use of the terrorist entities list as an arbitrary and punitive tool against peaceful citizens raises serious concerns about the wide scope of legal and administrative mechanisms the current Egyptian government uses in its repression of free expression and association. In addition to Shaath and el Eleimy, rights activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and human rights lawyer Mohamed Baqer were also added to this list in November 2020.
The administrative decisions deprive the defendants of their ability to present defense and constitutes a violation of the right to presumption of innocence protected in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory. Furthermore, the application of the terrorist designation in Egypt is only one part of a politicized scheme that systematically violates the rights of those to whom it is applied. Amendment of the terrorist entities law to limit its application is necessary to ensure similar violations do not continue; this should take into account United Nations recommendations on combatting terrorism in a rights centric framework.
We thank you for your attention to this matter.
The Freedom Initiative
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Project on Middle East Democracy
Committee for Justice
MENA Rights Group
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Egyptian Forum on Human Rights
EuroMed Rights Network
European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH)
Michael Mansfield, QC
Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law, Princeton University
Bill Bowring, Professor of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London
Photo Credit: Free Ramy Shaath / Facebook