HRC39: Egypt must stop prosecuting Human Rights Defenders and drop the charges against Mozn Hassan

On the 18th of September, during the 39th session of the Human Rights Council, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation urged the international community to closely monitor the situation of human rights defenders in Egypt.

For the past years, Egyptian human rights defenders have been subject to a number of attacks, which have included smear campaigns, reprisals, legal prosecution and harassment, in an attempt to silence critics of the government.

According to the  CIVICUS Monitor ”in spite of a large, vibrant and outspoken civil society, the Egyptian state’s respect for human rights and civic freedoms remains at an acute crisis point. Journalists and human rights defenders exercising their right to freedom of expression are routinely harassed, detained, prosecuted and jailed as part of a systemic crackdown on dissent”

Addressing the Council, the Foundation spoke about Mozn Hassan, 2016 Right Livelihood Award Laureate, who together with other Egyptian activists, is being prosecuted under criminal case number 173 of 2011, known as the Foreign Funding case.

Mozn Hassan is a feminist activist, co-founder and executive director of Nazra for Feminist studies who has been subject to harassment and prosecution due to the nature of her work, documenting sexual violence and promoting women’s right in the country.

Since 2016, Ms Hassan has had her personal and her organisation’s assets frozen and has been banned from travelling outside of the country. In March 2018, after months of harassment from the Egyptian government, Nazra for Feminist studies was forced to close down its office. In July, she was charged with establishing an entity in violation of the law and conducting activities to harm national security, receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security, and tax evasion. These charges – which are clearly politically motivated – could lead to life imprisonment.

Mozn Hassan delivering her acceptance speech at the Right Livelihood Award ceremony in Cairo on 25 March 2017. Photo © Roger Anis/Right Livelihood Award Foundation.
Mozn Hassan delivering her acceptance speech at the Right Livelihood Award ceremony in Cairo on 25 March 2017. Photo © Roger Anis/Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

In the statement, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation urged the government of Egypt to close case number 173 of 2011 and drop the charges against Mozn Hassan. The Foundation called on the Council to hold Egypt accountable to its international obligations and to stop prosecuting human rights defenders in the country.

However, exercising their right of reply during the session, the representative from the Egyptian government stated that “it rejected the content of fallacious statements aimed at camouflaging the reality. More then 50 thousand organisations, NGOs and 120 international organisations operate within Egypt in step with our international legislation governing their work, this includes financial matters. No country allows a flow of people and money without control.”

Contrary to these allegations, however, the situation of human right in Egypt is of great concern for the international community.

Egypt is currently a member of the Human Right Council and it has ratified all the main human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom of association, assembly, opinion and expression to all.

In this regard, any regulations aimed to control civil society which hinder civic space and their ability to function should be considered a violation of the country’s obligations towards its citizens and its international commitments.

Watch RLAF’s intervention

Read the full statement