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Security forces raid the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights and sexually harass women

The statement below was issued by CESR's partner organization the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights after its offices were raided by security forces on Thursday 22 May. Several of those present were arrested while female members of staff were sexually harassed. CESR expresses its solidarity with the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights and calls for the cessation of acts of repression against human rights defenders in the country.

PRESS RELEASE

22 May 2014 / Cairo: The undersigned organizations condemn the security forces storming of the Alexandria Branch of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, and note that this attack represents an act of escalation amidst the growing incitement from the media and defamation campaigns targeting human rights organizations and human rights defenders in Egypt.

Egyptian security forces, alongside security personnel dressed in civilian attire, raided the Alexandria Branch of The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. They arrested 15 people, including two minors and two ECESR staff, and confiscated several computers and documents. The arrestees were taken to the Alexandria Security Department where they were held, and released some hours later.

The raid took place while a press conference was being held in solidarity with imprisoned labor activist Mahinour Al-Massry, who was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of protesting. Al-Massry’s appeal was recently rejected, and her sentence was reaffirmed. The imprisoned activist Al-Massry had taken part in a protest demanding justice for martyr ‘Khaled Said’, tortured to death by security forces in 2010. The latter incident was considered one of the driving forces of the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011.

In addition, the undersigned organizations express deep concerns about the sexual harassment and molestation of females attending the press conference by the security forces. These actions can only be considered an attempt to discourage females from participating in public spaces.

The aforementioned press conference was part of ECESR’s ongoing campaign against Protest Law No. 107/2013, which was issued by Al-Beblawi’s government in November 2013. It also comes in light of ECESR’s ongoing court case, disputing the constitutionality of the aforementioned protest law.

This was the second raid on ECESR premises in the past 6 months, and the third since January 2011. It comes in the context of a systematic and widespread crackdown by the interim regime on human rights defenders. These actions represent an attempt to silence the voices of those speaking out against human rights violations committed by the security state, and demanding justice and fair compensation to victims of human rights violations.

It is also noteworthy that this raid comes a few days before presidential elections in Egypt, scheduled for May 26 and 27, in a period supposedly allowing a larger space for freedom of expression. Instead, the raid reflects a repressive atmosphere, and rising threats to the existence and function of civil society organizations, impeding them from executing their key role in Egypt’s transition.

The undersigned organizations request the immediate release of all those detained and arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and calls for a speedy end to these unfair practices, including police harassment of civil society organizations and human rights defenders. The state should stop targeting human rights defenders, and restricting their work. In addition, we call for immediate investigations into the sexual harassment faced by women on the premises of ECESR at the hands of the security forces.

Finally, the undersigned organizations affirm that they will take all legal measures against those responsible for the raid of the ECESR office, and will register a complaint with the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as relevant United Nations Special Rapporteurs.

Signatories:
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Andalus institute for tolerance & Anti-violence studies
Al-Nadim Center
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of Childhood Conditions
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
National Community for Human Rights and law
Nazra for Feminist Studies
New Woman Foundation

If your organization would like to add its endorsement to this statement, please contact ECESR Head of Media and Communications at Nadim Amin at nadimx@ecesr.org.