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Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

Egypt: Detention of Human Rights Lawyer Hafez Abu Se’da

Statement 3 December 1998

The Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL) wrote today with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to the government of Egypt expressing concern about the detention of Lawyer Mr. Hafez Abu Se’da, the Secretary-General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and expressed fear for his safety. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights is a ICJ affiliate. We also respectfully urged the Government to take immediate measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Hafez Abu Se’da and order his immediate release.

According to our information, on 1 December 1998, the Egyptian Higher State Security Prosecution Service ordered the detention for 15 days of Mr. Hafez Abu Se’da. This took place as soon as he appeared as a witness in a court-hearing about EOHR financing. The case commenced after EOHR published two reports in August and September concerning death in custody in Egyptian prisons and torture of Coptic Christians in the village of al-Kusheh in Upper Egypt.

It has been reported to us that Mr. Hafez Abu Se’da faces charges of allegedly 1) “accepting funds from a foreign country with the aim of fulfilling acts that would harm Egypt.” 2) “Disseminating false information abroad, that would harm the country’s national interests;” and 3) Receiving donations without obtaining permission from the competent authorities.”

We are extremely concerned that the State Security Prosecution, through this action, has seriously interfered with the work of EOHR. The aim of such an action seems to be to silence the voice of a major, and international-recognized, Egyptian human rights organization.

We understand that the whereabouts of Mr. Abu Se’da are currently unknown and that his lawyers and family were neither informed or where he is being held, now allowed to visit him. We seriously fear for Mr. Abu Se’da’s safety.

The detention of Mr. Hafez Abu Se’da stands out as particularly shocking in view of the commendable and positive role played by the government of Egypt during the final drafting process of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders earlier this year. This Declaration reiterates, in its Article 13, that everyone has the right to solicit, receive, and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights. This draft is expected to be adopted by the UN general Assembly on 1 December 1998, the day of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Considering that Mr. Hafez Abu Se’da is also a lawyer, we wish to draw attention to the provisions of the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and in particular of Article 16. It states:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers

a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;

c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic, or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards, and ethics.

We therefore urged the Government of Egypt to take immediate measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Hafez Abu Se’da and order his immediate release. We also urge the government to ensure in all circumstances respect for Mr. Hafez Abu Se’da’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards.

Please support the CIJL in its action and write to:

His Excellency Mohammed Hosni Mubarak

President of the Arab Republic of Egypt

‘Abdeen Palace

Cairo, Egypt

Fax # + 20 2 390-1998

Mr. Raga’ al-Arabi

Public Prosecutor

Dar al-Qadha al-‘Ali

Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt

Fax # + 20 2 574-0881

Ms. Nayla Gabr

The Human Rights Department

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Corniche al-Nil, Cairo, Egypt

Fax # + 20 2 574-9533


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