Release Hafez Abu-Se'da

Release Date: December 2, 1998





 December 2 at 10 a.m., Center for Human Rights Legal Aid,

29 Tahrir St., Doqqi


Today, December 1, Egypt's State Security Prosecutor imprisoned Egyptian Organization for Human Rights Secretary General Hafez Abu-Se'da for 15 days of "preventative detention". The Government filed charges against Abu Saeda because the EOHR published a report on police torture and collective punishment in al-Kusheh village in Sohag in August.

Egyptian human rights organizations will hold a joint press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 10 a.m. to protest this dangerous upsurge in the Government's attacks on Egypt's human rights organizations. Egypt's human rights organizations strongly condemn this attack on a leading human rights activist and human rights organization. This arrest may be the first step in a comprehensive strategy to liquidate and eradicate the 13-year-old human rights movement in Egypt.

The Egyptian human rights organizations demand:

The investigation of Abu-Se'da began when the Editor-in-Chief of al-Osbou newspaper, who has close relations with Egypt's security forces, accused EOHR of receiving a cheque from the British Embassy in Cairo to produce a false report about police abuse in Sohag. The State Security Prosecutor accuses Abu-Se'da of receiving foreign government money with the intention of harming national interests, a crime punishable by up to 15 years of hard labor. He also faces charges of publishing false rumors abroad to harm national interests, punishable by up to five years imprisonment. The prosecutor also filed charges against him for receiving donations without a prior permission from the Government.

These accusation constitute a flagrant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to receive and spread information across state borders. They also violate the draft Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Activists, which will be adopted by the United Nations this month, which guarantees the right of each person, individually or in association with others, to obtain, receive, or seek information on human rights and freedoms, including information on human rights practices by domestic governments. The draft Declaration also guarantees the right of each person, individually or in association with others, to receive, use, and apply for financial or other donations from international or domestic sources for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Egyptian authorities have so far refused to publish the results of their investigation into EOHR's report on the August events in Sohag. However, Government officials have confirmed that misconduct did occur in al-Kusheh. Presidential Advisor for Political Affairs Dr. Usama al-Baz and the Prosecutor General affirmed the involvement of some police elements in some "encroachments". This appears to be the established official term for minimizing the importance of torture crimes in Egypt.

We understand that some Western press reports have exaggerated the events in Sohag. We must stress, however, that the Egyptian Government should understand that it cannot protect Egypt's reputation, in and outside the country, by suppressing and harassing human rights activists. To protect its reputation, the Government must reveal the truth to the public. The Government should carry out a serious and fair investigation on the crimes committed by police in al-Kusheh, as well as investigate all similar violations by police against ordinary citizens throughout Egypt. These flagrant violations of human rights, whether isolated incidents or part of a systematic policy, continue to defame Egypt's reputation.

Egypt's human rights organizations will not be intimidated by the Government's investigations and the expected trials against their activists. The Government's prosecutors should target their investigations against the policemen who were involved in torture, the directors of the official press who throw dark shadows on the constant violation of human rights, and the authorities who often refrain from carrying out their duty to bring official offenders to trial. Security forces should not feel immune to questioning, prosecution, or punishment when they violate citizens' rights.

We call on all people committed to democracy and the rights of Egyptian citizens to resist this attack against the voice of the victims of human rights abuse in Egypt. We reiterate our call to United Nations bodies and all international human rights organizations to support the human rights movement in Egypt.

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