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Seven women rights defenders on trial in Egypt

Sanaa Seif, Yara Sallam, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, and Fikreya Mohammed at the jury deliberation
Sanaa Seif, Yara Sallam, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, and Fikreya Mohammed at the jury deliberation

Radwa Medhat/Twitter

UPDATE (12 October 2014): Trial adjourned to 16 October 2014

This article first appeared on pen-international.org on 9 October 2014:

In the lead-up to the October 11th trial of seven Egyptian women human rights defenders (WHRDs), who have been detained since June 21, 2014 on charges of violating Egypt's strict Protest and Public Assembly Law, over 220 women's and human rights organizations representing nearly 70 countries issued a statement demanding their immediate release.

The signatories to the statement, which include local, national, regional and international groups from across the globe, urge the Egyptian authorities to unconditionally release the WHRDs and drop all charges against them and others detained for exercising rights to peaceful assembly. Those signing the statement also strongly urged Egyptian authorities to revise the Protest and Public Assembly Law, which severely limits freedom of expression, assembly and association rights of Egyptians, to bring it in line with the Egyptian Constitution and African and international human rights standards. Egyptian authorities have in the past year taken a tough stance against civil society groups and civil activism, including public protests. Human rights organizations inside the country and internationally have criticized Egyptian authorities for what they view as serious repressive policies when it comes to civil society activism and public civic engagement and have repeatedly encouraged the adoption of measures that encourage civic participation and free expression and are in line with the spirit of the January 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

Those interested in publicizing the statement are encouraged to post it on their websites and to distribute it broadly to their networks including to media outlets. The hashtag #FreeEgyptWHRDs can be used in this regard on social media.

The text of the statement follows:

Free Egyptian Women Human Rights Defenders

We, the signatories to this statement representing women's rights and human rights organizations internationally and based in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, call upon Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo) and Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh), seven women human rights defenders (WHRDs) detained since June 21, 2014 on charges of violating the Protest and Public Assembly Law. We strongly urge Egyptian authorities to unconditionally drop all charges against these WHRDs, and other human rights defenders, relating to the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Further, we call on the Egyptian authorities to revise the Protest and Public Assembly Law in accordance with the Egyptian Constitution and international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.

Background:

On June 21, 2014, the seven WHRDs were arrested in Heliopolis, Cairo on the sidelines of and in relation to a peaceful protest against the Protest and Public Assembly Law. After using tear gas and birdshot to disperse the crowd, the police arrested Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif and Fikreya Mohamed, in addition to several other human rights defenders. Since their arrest, they have been detained in Qanater women's prison. The charges against all those detained stem from the Protest and Public Assembly Law and include: participating and organizing an unauthorized demonstration that “threatened public security”, “use of force and violence to terrorize and intimidate citizens”, and “intentional destruction of property”.

The first session of their case, also known as the Ittihadia Presidential Palace Case, was held on June 29, 2014. During this hearing, the judge adjourned the session and postponed it until September 13, 2014. At the second session, on September 13, 2014, the prosecution's evidence was presented to the court. The defense attorneys requested the postponement in order to allow a technical expert to examine and determine the veracity of the video footage evidence presented during the session. The judge again postponed the trial until October 11, 2014, at which time the defense is supposed to be given an opportunity to present its case.

As a result of these delays, these seven WHRDs have remained in prison for over three months pending investigations. Two of the detainees, Ms. Fikreya Mohammed and Ms. Sanaa Seif, were on hunger strike to protest their arbitrary arrest. Ms. Seif's hunger strike began on August 28 and Ms. Mohammed began her strike on September 11, 2014, and latest news is that she has had to suspend her hunger strike. As a result, both face serious health risks and are extremely weak.

It should be noted that while in detention, the father of Sanaa Seif, prominent Egyptian HRD Ahmed Seif El-Islam passed away. He was also the father of prominent Egyptian HRD Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was recently released on bail.

Signatories to the statement:

Organization Name Country
1. 1325 Action Group Nepal
2. ABANTU FOR DEVELOPMENT Ghana
3. ABIA Brazil/USA
4. Access Chapter 2 South Africa
5. ACDemocracia Ecuador
6. ACEP New Zealand
7. ACT Egypt
8. Action Canada for Population and Development Canada
9. Acuarelas, Mujeres en Movimiento Asociación Civil Argentina
10. ACUNS Vienna Austria
11. Advocacy for Widows Empowerment Foundation (ADWEF) Nigeria
12. Advocates for Youth USA
13. Afghan Women's Network (AWN) Afghanistan
14. African Women's Active Nonviolence Initiatives for Social Change (AWANICh) Ghana
15. AIDOS. Italian Association for Women in Development Italy, The Middle East
16. Akahata A.C. Argentina
17. Alliances for Africa Nigeria
18. Alternativas Pacificas AC Mexico
19. AMDH Morocco
20. Amnesty International Nepal Nepal
21. Amnistía Internacional Venezuela
22. Ankiram Woman and Child development Society India
23. Asamblea de Mujeres de Quito Ecuadir
24. Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center Japan
25. Associação ComuniDária Portugal
26. Association Dea Dia Serbia
27. Association for Progressive Communications South Africa/International
28. Association of War Affected Women Sri Lanka
29. Association Tunisienne Femmes Démocrates (ATFD) Tunisia
30. AWID (Association for Women's Rights in Development) International
31. Azidi Solidarity and Fraternity League Iraq
32. Barbra Schlifer Clinic Canada
33. Beit el Hanane Lebanon
34. BRIDGE, IDS United Kingdom
35. Bridges for Women Iran
36. Calala Women's Fund Spain
37. Cambodian Center for Human Rights Cambodia
38. Catapult USA
39. CEE Network for Gender Issues Slovenia
40. CEJIP Bolivia
41. Center for Gender Studies Ethiopia
42. Center for Health and Gender Equality USA
43. Center for Peace Education, Miriam College Philippines
44. Centre for Action Research Pakistan
45. Centre for Economic Social Cultural Rights in Africa (CESCRA) Uganda
46. Centre for Research, Advocacy, Women and Youth Development Nigeria
47. Centre for Secular Space (CSS) United Kingdom
48. Centro de Información y Servicios de Asesoría en Salud Nicaragua
49. Centro de Promoción y Estudios de la Mujer Andina “Lulay” – CEPEMA “Lulay” Perú
50. Change for Equality Iran
51. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation International
52. C AL Network South Africa/Africa, regional
53. Colectiva Ciudad y Género AC Mexico
54. Colectiva Feminista en Construcción Puerto Rico
55. Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local El Salvador
56. Colectivo Feminista Panteras Rosas Nicaragua
57. Collation on Rights and Responsibilities of Youth Pakistan
58. Comercio Justo Uruguay
59. Consutoría Multidisciplinaria en Desarrollo Humano México
60. Coordinadora Paz para la Mujer Puerto Rico
61. Corporación Red Nacional de Mujeres Comunales, Comunitarias, Indígenas y Campesinas de la República de Colombia Colombia
62. Crossroads International Canada
63. Department of Women Affairs Bangladesh
64. Development and Leadership Centre Lesotho
65. Development Organization for Community DOC Pakistan
66. Development Organization for Social Transformation (DOST) Pakistan
67. EIMAN UK
68. Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives Romania
69. FDH-NGABO asbl Democratic Republic of Congo
70. Federation for Women and Family Planning Poland
71. FeministsSA.com
South Africa
72. FGHR India
73. FOCO INPADE Argentina
74. FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development Norway
75. UN CEDAW Committee Bangladesh
76. Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) Uganda
77. Freischwimmen e.V. Germany
78. FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund México
79. Front Line Defenders (FLD) Ireland
80. Fundacao Feto iha Kbiit Servisu Hamutuk (FFKSH) Timor-Leste
81. Getting Right for Every Runaway Child UK
82. Global Concerns India India
83. Global Fund for Women San Francisco
84. Global Network of Women Peacebuilders USA
85. Good Shepherd Centre for Teenage Mothers Lesotho
86. Gulf Foundation Netherlands/Gulf region
87. Haurralde Fundazioa Spain
88. Hisar Anadolu Support Society (HADD) TURKEY
89. Human Rights First USA
90. Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos) The Netherlands
91. Humanity Support Foundation Pakistan
92. Hunger Reduction International Somalia
93. IDAHOT International
94. IEWO International
95. IKFF Växjökretsen Sweden
96. IM – SOIR Sweden
97. INCIEDYT México
98. Institute for Science and Human Values, Inc United States
99. Instituto de Educación para las Mujeres México
100. Instituto RUNA Perú
101. Integrated Women and Children's Development Activities (IWCDA) Uganda
102. InterLGBT France
103. International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) International
104. International Women's Rights Project Canada
105. Intitut Hak Asasi Perempuan Indonesia
106. Iraqi Al-Amal Association Iraq
107. Iraqi Women Network Iraq
108. Iraqi Al-Firdaws Society Iraq
109. JASS (Just Associates) International
110. JASS Southern Africa South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi
111. Jessica Reyes Sánchez México
112. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) – New York City chapter USA
113. Justice and Peace Commission Mexico
114. Kalidasdih Mohan Mahato Foundation India
115. Knights For Peace, International Philippines
116. Labour Education Organisation Pakistan
117. Ligue du Droit International des Femmes France
118. Ligue Life ONG Bénin
119. Linksbridge SPC United States
120. MADRE United States
121. Makerere University Uganda
122. Mauj Development Foundation Pakistan
123. Media Advocacy Group (MAG) Nepal
124. Medica Mondiale e.V. Germany
125. Metamorphosis Serbia
126. MGARO Tanzania
127. Middle East Studies Association (MESA) United States
128. Mothers for Active Non-Violence (MOFAN-V) Ghana
129. Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres Puerto Rico
130. Movimiento Amplio de MujeresP Puerto Rico
131. Mujer y Salud en Uruguay – MYSU Uruguay
132. Mujer y Sociedad Perú
133. Mujeres por la Vida Contra la VD Uruguay
134. Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) USA
135. Najaat Welfare Foundation Pakistan
136. National Council of Social Welfare India
137. Noble Aims Welfare Association Pakistan
138. O-livestream USA
139. Oficina Jurídica Para la Mujer Bolivia
140. ORGENS Senegal
141. Parliament of the World's Religions USA/International
142. Peace Foundation Pakistan Pakistan
143. Pen International International
144. PEN International, UK Chapter UK
145. Planeta Mujer Mexico
146. Plataforma Española de Jovenes contra la violencia de genero Spain
147. Prabha Khosla Consulting Canada
148. Pro Mujeres Puerto Rico
149. PRO-LINK Ghana
150. Progressive Center for Equality, Symbiosis & Solidarity (PROCESS) India
151. Quality of Citizenship Jamaica Jamaica
152. Reach India India
153. Red de Empoderamiento de Mujeres de Cartagena Colombia
154. Red Mesa de Mujeres de Cd Juárez A.C. México
155. REFH France
156. Refugees Solidarity Movement Egypt
157. RIFA Rights For All Rwanda
158. Runu India
159. RUPSA Bangladesh
160. Rural Women's Development and Unity Centre Nepal
161. Rwanda Association of University Women Rwanda
162. Saathi Nepal
163. SAFECO – Synergy of Congolese Women's Associations DR Congo
164. Samanata-Institute for Social and Gender Equality Nepal
165. Samsara Indonesia
166. Save The Children Egypt Syria
167. Sawt al Niswa Lebanon
168. Seres Portugal
169. Sexuality Policy Watch Brazil & US
170. Sharedream Ireland
171. Shreela Debi India
172. Sisters in Islam Malaysia
173. Social Transformative Action Network for Development (STAND) Sri Lanka
174. Socialist Feminist Collective Turkey
175. Solveig Senft Germany
176. Somali Youth Voluntary Group Association (SOYVGA) Somalia
177. SOS Sexisme France
178. Sree Saraswathi Thyagaraja College India
179. Steps Towards Development Bangladesh
180. STEWARDWOMEN South Sudan
181. SWL Syria
182. Takal Welfare Organization Pakistan
183. Tanagra M. Melgarejo Puerto Rico
184. TESO WOMEN PEACE ACTIVISTS (TEWPA) Uganda
185. Association of British Muslims United Kingdom
186. Coalition for Action 1325 Uganda
187. MATCH International Women's Fund Canada
188. Trailblazerz Mentoring Foundation Uganda
189. Trinamul Nari Uddyakta Society (Grassroots) Bangladesh
190. Uganda Public Rescue Foundation Uganda
191. Under the Rainbow South Africa
192. Union de l'Action Féministe Morocco
193. Urgent Action Fund (UAF) Africa
194. Ved International Society India
195. VIDA LESBI Peru
196. Warvin Foundation for Women's Issues (WFWI) Iraq
197. West Africa Social Entrepreneurs Network Ghana
198. WHER Nigeria
199. Wi'am, Palestinian Conflict,Transformation Center Palestine
200. WILPF French section France
201. ًWogood for Human Security Foundation Yemen
202. Women & Children's Empowerment Network in Africa Uganda
203. Women Business Center South Africa
204. Women Development Initiatives (WODI) Nigeria
205. Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR) – NEW WAYS Turkey
206. Women in Action against Gender Based Violence (WACameroon) Cameroon
207. Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) International
208. Women of Halton Action Movement Canada
209. Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) Philippines
210. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Switzerland
211. Women's Information Center Georgia
212. WomenCentre UK
213. World Learn, School for International Training Uganda
214. World March of Women France
215. WUNRN Global
216. YFW Belize
217. Young Knights Zimbabwe
218. Young Professional Development Society Nepal (YPDSN) Nepal
219. Young Women for Change Mongolia
220. Youth Afrique Leadership Forum Nigeria
221. Zawadisha USA

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