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Egypt must release and drop charges against lawyers and human rights defenders

11 October 2019

The independence of Egypt’s legal processes is under siege as an increasingly authoritarian government systematically undermines the rule of law, the Law Society of England and Wales warned today.

Unveiling a damning list of attacks on legal process, on lawyers and on human rights defenders, Law Society president Simon Davis said: “What is happening in Egypt demonstrates a flagrant disregard for a fundamental principle that underlies any free and fair society: the rule of law.

“The politicisation of key judicial and prosecutorial appointments has affected the separation of powers, which in turn has allowed the consolidation of authoritarian rule.

“Likewise, lawyers must be able to provide legal representation freely and without hinderance to secure citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights.”

The Law Society has submitted its concerns to the UN Human Rights Council with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

A recent crackdown by the Egyptian authorities has contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law. Lawyers and human rights defenders are routinely subjected to harassment, arrest and prosecution. Their work is being curtailed by the application of various laws.

Key findings detailed in the Law Society’s factsheet:

  • Following amendments to the constitution in 2019, judicial appointments can be made by the president. There is no transparency in the selection of judges and appointments of prosecutors.
  • Prolonged pre-trial detention, mass trials, and the use of the death penalty, especially for those critical of the government, have increased.
  • Military courts try civilians without fair trial guarantees.
  • Since April 2017, a state of emergency has been in force, bringing about the re-emergence of state security emergency courts with broad jurisdiction.
  • Between July 2013 and January 2016, 341 decrees with force of law, including the Protest Law and Counter-terrorism Law, were issued by the executive in absence of a sitting parliament.

Simon Davis added: “For the regime to comply with Egypt’s international legal obligations, it must amend the Protest Law, Media Law, and other laws which are being used to violate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

“It should repeal all of the amendments that affect judicial and prosecutorial independence and extend military jurisdiction.

“Most of all, it must immediately release and drop charges against all human rights defenders and lawyers who are being prosecuted just for doing their jobs.”

Notes to editors

Download the advocacy factsheet

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact:  Liam McCafferty | 020 8049 4028