Release Hafez Abu-Se'da


EGY 004/ 9812 / OBS 085

Harassment and Detention


December 2nd 1998.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of FIDH and OMCT, requests your urgent intervention in Egypt.

Brief description of the situation :

The Observatory has been informed by the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, a member of both OMCT and the FIDH, of the detention as of 1 December 1998, of the Secretary General of the EOHR, Hafez Abu Se'da and the order to arrest EOHR lawyer Mustafa Zidan by the Attorney General of the Higher State Security Prosecution

According to the information received, on 1 December 1998, the Higher State Security Prosecution ordered the imprisonment of Hafez Abu Se'da, the Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) for 15 days pending investigations in relation to case no.695/1998-state security investigations.

In his capacity as the EOHR Secretary General, Hafez Abu Se'da is facing the following charges : accepting funds from a foreign country with the aim of fulfilling acts that would harm Egypt ; disseminating false information abroad, that would harm the country's national interests and receiving donations without obtaining permission from the competent authorities.

Hafez Abu Se'da was originally called as a witness based on a report made by journalist Mostafa Bakri, editor-in-chief of Al-Osbou' newspaper, and on inquiries made by the State Security Investigations. The journalist filed a report to the Public Prosecutor in which he accused the EOHR of issuing a report on human rights violations in Egypt in return for money from foreign governments seeking to undermine Egypt. The incidents refer to a report published by EOHR on an incident in the Al-Kosheh village which documented gross violations committed by the authorities. According to the report, following a murder in the village collective punishment was meted out to the villagers : this included hundreds of arbitrary arrests and the use of torture on men, women and children.

Following the publication of the report an article appeared in the London based newspaper the Sunday Telegraph alleging that the attack was part of a campaign of religious discrimination on the part of the Authorities (against the Christian Minority known as the Copts). It further wrongly implied that members of the village were crucified.

Following accusations of treason in Egyptian newspapers. The EOHR immediately issued a statement that that crucifixions had not taken place and any suggestion linking the violence to religious action was not part of their report.

As regards the allegation of foreign funding of the study the EOHR has categorically stated that the report was not funded from external sources. A check for US$ 25,703 from the British Embassy on behalf of the Human Rights Committee of the British House of Commons was given to EOHR for a project for women and handicapped persons. The same embassy funded the same project in 1996 without comment on the part of the authorities.

Following the arrest of the Secretary General the Attorney General of the Higher State Security Prosecution then ordered the arrest of EOHR's lawyer Mustafa Zidan, the lawyer who carried out the mission to investigate the events of Al-Kosheh village. In the morning of 1 December 1998, a force from the State Security Investigations went to his house but he was not there.

The Observatory is concerned that EOHR appears to have been made a scapegoat for Egyptian authorities anger over an article in a foreign newspaper.

The Observatory fears that the EOHR, an internationally renowned and independent human rights organisation known for the quality of its work, may become the victim of additional legal restrictions which are designed to further control the activities of non governmental organisations in Egypt. This is particularly paradoxical given that the EOHR has never been recognised by the Authorities.

The Observatory believes that this action against the Secretary General and the arrest warrant on Mustafa Zidan is intended to sanction the work of an organisation working for human rights in Egypt. The Observatory considers the detention of Mr Hafez Abu Se'da arbitrary and calls on the authorities to release him unconditionally.

Action requested :

Please write to the Egyptian authorities requesting that they :

i. guarantee the personal security and integrity of Hafez Abu Se'da and Mustafa Zidan and order the immediate release of the Mr Abu Se'da and the dropping of all charges against Mr Zidan ;

ii take the necessary measures to guarantee Hafez Abu Se'da and all members of the EOHR appropriate conditions for the free exercise of their activities in defence of Human rights and fundamental freedoms ;

iii. in general, abide by the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international and regional Conventions ratified by Egypt.

Addresses :

His Excellency Mohammad Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, ´Abedine Palace, Cairo, Egypt. Telex : 93794 WAZRA UN

His Excellency Major General Habib al-'Adly, Minister of the Interior, Ministry of the Interior, Al-Sheikh Rihan Street, bab al-Louk, Cairo, Egypt. Telex : 21361 MOICM UN - Fax : + 202 355 7792

His Excellency Mr. Faruq Sayf Al-Nasr, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, Midan Lazoghly, Cairo, Egypt. Fax : + 202 355 8103

The Diplomatic Representatives of Egypt in your country.

Paris - Geneva, 2 December 1998

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken, quoting the reference number given above.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency Line

FIDH: Fax: 33 (0) 1 40 39 22 42, Tel.: 33 (0) 1 48 05 82 46

OMCT: + 41 22 733 31 40,

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