Arrest and disappearance of Egyptian human rights defenders

Who we wrote to

We wrote to Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, president of the Arab Republic of Egypt. We wrote jointly with the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI).

What’s the issue

We’re concerned that since late October 2018 the number of arrests, enforced disappearances and incidents of detention against lawyers and human rights defenders has increased in the Arab Republic of Egypt.

We understand that, following a series of raids that took place early in the morning on 1 November 2018, approximately 30 people were arrested and many of them forcibly disappeared.

Among those arrested and disappeared were:

  • Hoda Abdul Moneim, a former member of the National Council on Human Rights
  • Aisha El-Shater
  • Sumayyah Nassef
  • Mohamed Abu Horira, husband of El-Shater and a lawyer and former spokesperson for the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms
  • Bahaa Ouda
  • Mohamed al-Houdaiby

We understand that after 20 days of enforced disappearance, these lawyers and human rights defenders re-appeared on 21 November 2018 at a state security prison.

A pre-trial detention of 15 days was ordered and they’re now allegedly facing charges of:

  • inciting harm to the national economy
  • belonging to an organisation that was established contrary to national law

On 4 November 2018, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms announced it was suspending its operations after the enforced disappearance of its director and co-founder Ezzat Ghoneim.

We understand that Azzouz Mahgoub, a lawyer at that organisation, has also been forcibly disappeared since 14 September 2018.

Both men were arrested in March 2018, and although their release was ordered on 4 September, they’ve been forcibly disappeared since 14 September.

We do not have any information concerning their whereabouts, the charges against them, or if pre-trial detention has been ordered.

What we asked for

We and the IBAHRI urge the relevant authorities to:

  • disclose the location where those who were forcibly disappeared are being held and ensure that they have access to a legal representative of their own choosing
  • ensure the conditions of those who are being detained comply with applicable international standards
  • ensure that any violation of physical integrity of those detained is fully and promptly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice
  • immediately release the lawyers and human rights defenders currently in detention and revoke any charges pending against them, unless sufficient evidence is available which is served upon them and their guilt is established in proceedings carried out in accordance with international fair trial guarantees
  • ensure that any credible allegations of lawyers and human rights defenders being threatened, arbitrarily arrested, and intimidated are investigated promptly and fully
  • comply with the Arab Republic of Egypt’s international obligations so that lawyers and human rights defenders can carry out their professional functions without harassment and improper interference


March 2018 – Azzouz Mahgoub, lawyer, and Ezzat Ghoneim, director and co-founder of the Egypian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, are arrested

14 September 2018 – Azzouz Mahgoub and Ezzat Ghoneim forcibly disappeared

1 November 2018 – around 30 lawyers and human rights defenders arrested and disappeared after a series of raids

4 November 2018 – Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms suspends operations

21 November 2018 – arrested lawyers and human rights defenders re-appeared at a state security prison