June 24, 2022 – Human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer must be released immediately and unconditionally, PEN International and 18 other human rights organisations said. El-Baqer has been arbitrarily detained, in an attempt to punish him for his legitimate human rights work, putting his life and psychological well-being at serious risk.
June 25, 2022 will mark 1,000 days of Mohamed El-Baqer’s arbitrary detention. El-Baqer, a human rights defender, lawyer and Director of Adalah Centre for Rights and Freedoms, is currently detained in Cairo’s Tora High Security Prison 2, which is notorious for its cruel and inhuman conditions. El-Baqer is forbidden to leave his cell to walk or see the sun, and is denied access to adequate healthcare, a bed or mattress and hot water. His relatives are only allowed to visit him once a month and cannot provide him with family photos, which he is not allowed to keep.
On September 29, 2019, El-Baqer was performing his duties as a human rights lawyer at the State Security Prosecution premises in Cairo representing writer and activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah—who had been arbitrarily arrested earlier that day—when he was himself arrested.
They were both accused within Criminal Case 1356/2019 of vague and unfounded charges that have been broadly used by the Egyptian authorities to criminalise dissenting voices in Egypt such as: “joining a terrorist group,” “funding a terrorist group,” “disseminating false news undermining national security,” and “using social media to commit a publishing offense”.
Nearly one year later, on August 30, 2020, El-Baqer was brought in for questioning and added to Case No. 855/2020 on nearly identical charges, a practice deployed by the Egyptian authorities commonly known as ‘’rotation.’’ Three months later, in November 2020, El-Baqer along with 27 other activists, including Alaa Abd el-Fattah, was added to Egypt’s “terrorist list” for a period of five years in connection with State Security Case 1781/2019. As a result of this designation, El-Baqer was placed under a travel ban, had his assets are frozen and was prohibited from engaging in political or civic work for five years. On November 18, 2021, the Court of Cassation rejected the appeal presented by his lawyers against the decision to include him in the “terrorist list”.
After more than two years in pre-trial detention, the Misdemeanours Emergency State Security Court sentenced El-Baqer to four years in prison and Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years, on charges of “spreading false news undermining national security” in yet another criminal case: Criminal Case 1228 of 2021. Rights defender and blogger Mohamed Oxygen was also sentenced to four years imprisonment under the same case. All were convicted of spreading false news on social media in 2019 as claimed by the prosecution. The verdict is not subject to appeal.
El-Baqer’s right to due process has been continuously violated through countless and unjustified renewals of his pretrial detention by both the Supreme State Security Prosecution and Cairo Criminal Court. His lawyers were not allowed to have a copy of the case files ahead of and during the trial and were hence de facto prevented from presenting their defence. Moreover, while in detention, El-Baqer has been subjected to threats and acts of ill-treatment.
Despite numerous international calls for the release of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Egypt, including public statements by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and two European Parliament resolutions on the situation of human rights defenders in Egypt, the authorities have turned a blind eye to these demands. Additionally, the European Union’s failure to set concrete and measurable human rights benchmarks as criteria for progress in the EU-Egypt bilateral relationship has contributed to the impunity for human rights violations in Egypt.
Egyptian authorities routinely employ repressive tactics such as prolonged pre-trial detention, recycling cases against dissidents, enforced disappearance, torture, unjust trials and judicial harassment to silence all critical voices, including through unfounded investigations for national security and counter-terrorism related charges.
The undersigned urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Mohamed El-Baqer and all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Egypt, including Alaa Abd el-Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen, and to put an end to all types of harassment against them.
We also call on the United States and the EU and its member states to strongly condemn the crackdown on rights defenders, journalists and political activists in Egypt and to use all instruments at their disposal to address the human rights crisis in the country, in order to comply with their own human rights commitments.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Committee for Justice (CFJ)
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
EgyptWide for Human Rights
El Nadeem Centre
FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Lawyer for Lawyers
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
World Organisation Against Torture, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders