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Egypt: Assault, ill-treatment and criminalisation of human rights defenders


Over the past weeks, partners have received new information and worrying reports of attacks against human rights defenders in Egypt, such as the charging, criminalisation, arbitrary detention, and ill-treatment of Ahmed Samir Santawy, a master’s student in Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Central European University (CEU) of Austria, in Vienna, whose academic work focuses on women’s rights in Egypt, particularly on the history of reproductive rights. On 23 February 2021, Ahmed Samir Santawy was presented before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) for a «continuation of investigations» hearing. The SSSP charged him with «funding a terrorist organization», based on alleged new evidence from the National Security Agency investigation. This new charge comes in addition to the three charges of “joining a terrorist organization”, “deliberately spreading false news and data”, and “use of a private account on the Internet to spread false news or data” brought against him during his first hearing on 6 February 2021, and based on screenshots from a Facebook account which allegedly belongs to Mr. Santawy.

On 31 January 2021, the defense lawyers of woman human rights defender Solafa Magdy submitted a complaint to several Egyptian authorities regarding the physical and sexual assault which Solafa Magdy was reportedly subjected to on 29 November 2020 and on 19 January 2021 in Al-Qanater women’s prison. Solafa Magdy is a journalist and a woman human rights defender. She is a co-founder of ‘Everyday Footage’, a school that provides training programmes in mobile journalism. As part of her work, she monitors and raises awareness on human rights violations in Egypt, particularly with regard to women’s rights, minority rights, and the rights of asylum seekers.

According to RSF, Egypt, ranked 166 in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index is now one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists, with some spending years in detention without being charged or tried, and others being sentenced to long jail terms or even life imprisonment in iniquitous mass trials. The press freedom situation is becoming more and more alarming in Egypt, with frequent waves of raids and arrests.