In a formal statement of concern published today, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has called on the Egyptian government to lift travel bans and asset-freezing orders imposed on human rights activists Azza Soliman, Malek Adly and others.
BHRC’s statement follows news that Ms. Soliman (a prominent women’s rights lawyer and co-founder of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance) has been banned from leaving Egypt, despite the lack of any formal legal process or prior notification, or reasons given for the ban. On 21 November, Ms. Soliman was informed that her personal assets and those of her law firm had also been frozen by the government, again without any prior notification or summoning for investigation.
These restrictions form part of an ongoing campaign by the Egyptian government to harass, intimidate and undermine the work of human rights defenders. Other lawyers and activists targeted include:
- Malek Adly, a human rights lawyer and director of Lawyers Network at the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), banned from travelling abroad with no notice or reasons given. Adly was released on 25 August 2016, having been held in solitary confinement for 115 days in contravention of international law.
- Aida Seif El Dawla, co-founder of the Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, who was stopped as she prepared to board a flight to Tunisia to attend a conference for NGOs on victims of violence.
- Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Mohammed Zaree, Cairo office director of the Cairo Institution for Human Rights, and Ahmed Ragheb, founder of the National Community for Human Rights and Law, who have been subjected to freezes on their personal assets and those of the organisations they work for.
In their statement, BHRC highlight Egypt’s obligations under international law to uphold the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one’s property, and the rights to freedom of expression and association. The statement calls for Egypt to revoke the bans and asset freezes currently in place, with immediate and unconditional effect, unless they are fully and lawfully substantiated with cogent evidence and reasoning, providing proper and appropriate recourse for appeal.
BHRC Vice-Chair Schona Jolly said:
“International law provides that everyone has the right to leave and return to their country, and protects against the State arbitrarily depriving individuals of their lawful property. Both of these rights have been grossly undermined by the Egyptian government’s opaque and unjustified travel bans and asset freezing orders.
Egypt must stop targeting human rights defenders and civil society with the arbitrary use of open-ended travel bans and asset freezing orders. Such orders infringe fundamental rights and seek to punish, close down and stifle legitimate dissent, debate and work on human rights and other critical issues affecting Egyptian civil society.”