Report on Human Rights Mission to Egypt October 2014

Raj Sahota, SAL Committee member writes of his experience as a member of a human rights delegation to Egypt.

As part of a 11 strong delegation I was invited to attend a human rights monitoring mission in Egypt between the 11th to 15th October 2014. The 11 delegation of independent lawyers, journalists and human rights activists was organised by the International Coalition for Freedom and Rights (“ICFR”). Our purpose was to observe the trial of Dr. Morsi and to investigate allegations of recent human rights violations.

The delegation heard evidence from lawyers, journalists, politicians, doctors, trade unionists, adult and child detainees and the families and friends of people killed or detained by the authorities following the election of a military dominated government in 2013. We also met representatives of the new military dominated government in Egypt since what has been described as a “military coup” took place on the 30 June 2013.

A common thread that emerged from the witnesses we spoke to is of the targeting of political opponents of the current regime. Those arrested who were identified as political detainees were not subject to the normal provisions of the Egyptian criminal code.

We heard many accounts of political detainees were often kept in custody for months without being produced before a court and denied access to lawyers or sight of the case against them.

Defence lawyers who also specialised in representing student protestors or anti-Government figures complained that they were often arrested and imprisoned for simply trying to perform their professional duties.

Unfortunately we were denied access to any Egyptian courts or prisons so were unable to verify these allegations. We did meet with the Egyptian Minister of Prisons who denied that any detainees were tortured or mistreated in their custody.

Based on the evidence we did hear, corroborated by the findings of a recent Human Rights Watch Egypt Country Report, it has been suggested that the delegation call on the Law Society and other national Bar Associations to consider making representations to the relevant Egyptian authorities concerning reports of the harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention of lawyers and human rights defenders for simply carrying out their professional duties and/or because of their political beliefs and religious affiliations.

Further details on the delegations work can be obtained from the ICFR website.

Raj Sahota
Society of Asian Lawyers

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