Egypt | End harassment of human rights defenders and organisations


Egypt must end its harassment of human rights defenders and organisations and respect fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, ISHR said today after Egyptian authorities froze the assets of many of the countries leading independent human rights advocates. 

On 17 September, an Egyptian court ordered a freeze on the assets and bank accounts of a number of the country's leading human rights defenders and organisations on the spurious grounds of using 'foreign funds' for illegal purposes.

The affected organisations and individuals include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and its director Bahey el-Din Hassan, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) and its director Mostafa al-Hassan, the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education (ECRE) and its director Abdel Hafez Tayel, together with Hossam Bahgat, an investigative journalist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and Gamal Eid, founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

'The prosecution of these individuals and organisations and the freezing of their assets in connection with their vital and legitimate human rights work is both illegal and ill-advised,' said ISHR Director Phil Lynch.

'It is illegal because the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognise the right to defend human rights, together with the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and public participation. Prosecutions in connection with the exercise of these fundamental rights and freedoms are plainly incompatible with international law,' Mr Lynch said.

'It is ill-advised and myopic because respect for human rights and the rule of law are essential building blocks for secure, inclusive communities and for sustainable development. These kinds of prosecutions are absolutely inimical to Egypt's national interest and future peace and prosperity.'

ISHR calls on Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally reverse the freeze and to respect human rights and their defenders.

With Egypt having declared itself a candidate for the UN Human Rights Council for 2017-2019, ISHR stressed that the concerted attack on Egyptian civil society is incompatible with membership and urged States to take this into account when voting on membership at the General Assembly in forthcoming elections.

'Members and prospective members of the UN Human Rights Council should respect and protect civil society participation at the national and international levels. A state that systematically represses human rights defenders and other civil society actors is certainly not worthy of a seat at the UN's human rights high-table and we urge States to send this message to Egypt loudly and clearly,' Mr Lynch said.

Egypt scored just 3 out of 10 on ISHR's Council membership 'scorecard'.

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, ISHR on

Photo: Mohamed Abd El Ghany



  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Egypt