The ICJ today called for the immediate release of lawyer Mahienour al-Massry and hundreds of peaceful protestors who have been arbitrarily arrested by the Egyptian authorities in the context of recent protests against government corruption and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
On 22 September 2019, Mahienour al-Massry was arrested by plain-clothes police officers outside the Supreme State Security Prosecution headquarters in Cairo, after representing five detainees in judicial investigations.
The next day she was brought before the same Supreme State Security Prosecution on unknown charges.
The detainees represented by Al-Massry had been arrested during the recent protests against President Sisi, which commenced on 20 September 2019 when hundreds of Egyptians took the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta, Mahalla al-Kubra and Suez, among other cities.
Police responded by firing tear gas and arresting hundreds.
Media accounts indicate that nearly 500 people have been arrested, most or all arbitrarily, since the protests commenced. However, documentation by local NGOs indicates that as many as 800 people may have been arrested, apparently for “participating in a ‘terrorist group’ operation” and “distributing fake news to disturb the public opinion.”
“The Egyptian authorities must drop the charges against Mahienour al-Massry, promptly release her and immediately stop persecuting, intimidating and interfering with the work of lawyers protecting the rights of others,” said Said Benarbia, Director of ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
Mahienour al-Massry was charged in 2013 and again in 2015 for taking part in peaceful protests, for each of which she received one year-long terms of imprisonment.
Mahienour al-Massry’s recent arrest constitutes an effective sanction that violates her right to liberty under article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
It also impedes the right of her clients to legal representation under article 14 of the ICCPR.
The ICJ previously filed a submission to the Universal Periodic Review regarding arbitrary arrests and detentions and systematic use of pre-trial detention in Egypt, and documented the use of the Egyptian justice system as a repressive tool to eradicate political expression and human rights work.
“The systematic use of arbitrary arrest and detention by State authorities is one of the very reasons Egyptians took to the street in protest,” said Benarbia.
“The authorities’ response provides further evidence of the widespread violations of rights Egyptians face under the current regime,” he added.
Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
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