Egyptian Army Arrests Human Rights Defenders against Tyranny
Dakar, 5 February 2011
Contact: HIC Secretariat
The Habitat International Coalition (HIC) has learned that persons in plain clothes believed to be Egyptian military police have arrested or abducted at least 30 human rights defenders in Cairo on Thursday in yet-unclear circumstances and under unknown charges. The group of arrested human rights defenders includes three staff of the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights, a long-standing HIC Member organization. At the time of their arrest in Bulaq Abu al-‘Aila (a quarter of Cairo), they were purchasing blankets that they reportedly intended to distribute to protesters camping out in Cairo's central Tahrir Square.
Since 25 January, the demonstrators there and elswhere across Egypt have been protesting 30 years of government brutality against civil opponents and vulnerable groups in the country. The police and State Security are among the institutions, as well as numerous other executive-branch institutions long criticized for brutality under the direction of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak and his National Democratic Party.
These assaults appear to be part of the current pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions of human rights activists during the mass demonstrations across the country calling for Mr. Mubarak's immediate resignation and departure form the country, among other urgently needed correctives.
Other human rights defenders were taken away on Thursday in another military police raid on the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC), in downtown Cairo. They include staff of that organization, among them its director and prominent attorney Ahmad Saif al-Islam. According to Amnesty International, two of its staff members are also missing and believed to be held by the military police detention, as well as one staff member of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. The whereabaouts of all abducted human rights defenders remains unknown.
While convening the HIC Board meeting in Dakar, Senegal today, HIC President Davinder Lamba observed "the current spike in the pattern of intimidation and repression of journalists and human rights activists in Egypt only serves to deepen the present crisis and further tarnish the legacy of Mr. Mubarak."
“The discredited Egyptian authorities must cease and reverse this repressive practice," according to Lamba, "in order to avoid greater damage to the country and deepening anger and fear among Egypt's population."
This latest backlash against human rights and the crackdown against activists and journalists appear to be part of a hastily-organized assault on peaceful protesters and their supporters across Egypt, according to reports.
Eyewitnesses reported also that Thursday's raid on HMLC has involved the arrest of as many as 30 persons, including nine lawyers affiliated with HMLC, whom plain-clothes Egyptians believed to be security officers drove away in unmarked cars.
HIC's Middle East/North Africa coordinator, Joseph Schechla, also meeting at Dakar, said the “We are all deeply concerned for the safety of our Egyptian colleagues and all others currently suffering repressive treatment in the region." He added that "the Egyptian authorities remain responsible for any violations against the security of Egyptian and other human rights defenders in Egypt, and the safety of the protestors there.”
According to reports, military police also have confiscated computers and other equipment, and documents belonging to the HMLC and the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.
HIC Member ECHR is also part of an alliance of some 60 Egyptian human rights organizations forming the Front to Defend Egypt's Protesters, which has been responding to uphold human rights during the ongoing upheaval.
The following human rights defenders are believed to be among those arrested yesterday:
Muhsan Bashir (m)
Mustafa al-Hasan (m)
Nadia Hashim (f)
Ahmad Hamdi Mahmud (m)
Muna al-Masri (f)
al-Sayyidd Faky (m)
Ahmad Saif al-Islam (m)
Fatma Abid Shahdan (f)
Nadine Abu Shadi (f)
According to reports, the detainers have since released Daniel Williams, a Human Rights Watch researcher; Amnesty International researcher Said Haddadi and a female colleague; as well as two arbitrarily arrested foreign reporters.