The ICJ calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the 23 individuals, most of who are human rights defenders, arrested on 21 June 2014 in the context of a peaceful protest in Heliopolis, Cairo. All charges against them should be dropped.
The ICJ notes that the protest, forcibly dispersed by security forces and men in civilian clothes, was organized to call for the revocation of Law No. 107 of 2013, on public meetings, processions and protests, and for the release of all those detained under it.
The 23 individuals arrested were charged under this law with “participating in an unauthorized demonstration”, “damaging public property” and “demonstrating force with a view to terrorizing citizens”. They continue to be detained pending their trial, which is due to begin on 13 September 2014.
Law No. 107 of 2013 places overly restrictive limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly and gives security forces sweeping powers to disperse protests, including by using lethal force when it is not strictly necessary to protect lives.
The ICJ believes that this law is incompatible with Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law, including to respect the right to life, the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, and the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Among the 23 activists arrested on 21 June 2014 in Heliopolis is Yara Sallam, an Egyptian human rights defender currently working with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). While in police custody, she was questioned about the nature of her work at the EIPR.
The Public Prosecutor has failed so far to present any credible evidence to support the charges against Ms Sallam and the other detainees, including damaging public property and demonstrating force with a view to “terrorizing citizens”.
“The ICJ believes that the arrest, detention and criminal prosecution of Yara Sallam and the other 22 people detained in the context of the peaceful protest in Heliopolis, Cairo, are arbitrary, not least because they are based on a law that effectively criminalizes the enjoyment and exercise of the rights to freedom of association and assembly,” said Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ’s MENA Programme. “The Egyptian authorities should repeal this law as a matter of urgency and ensure that all those arbitrarily arrested under it are immediately and unconditionally released.”
Said Benarbia, ICJ Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, tel: +41 22 979 38 17, e-mail: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
Egypt-Release 23 Activists-news-press releases-2014-ara (full text in pdf)