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CESR calls for immediate release of Egyptian human rights defender Hossam Bahgat

9 November 2015

CESR is deeply concerned at the arbitrary detention of Hossam Bahgat, investigative journalist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), who is being held by the Egyptian military solely because of his work as a journalist and human rights defender.  

Hossam Bahgat was interrogated by military intelligence in Cairo on 8 November in relation to a series of investigative reports he published in the online magazine Mada Masr which were critical of the Egyptian army. He was then referred to the office of the military prosecutor where he was accused of “deliberately spreading false information with the purpose of harming public order and public interest” and “publishing, with malicious intent, false news that is likely to disturb public order”.

On 9 November, the military prosecutor ordered that he be detained for four days, but refused to inform his lawyers about his place of detention, raising additional concerns for his treatment and access to relatives, colleagues and legal counsel. The military prosecutor is due to decide on 11 November whether to release him or order his detention for a further 15 or 45 days.

Hossam Bahgat’s detention is part of a pattern of harassment, arrest and intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists in Egypt, where restrictions on freedom of expression and association, coupled with the broad application of military jurisdiction, have been used to silence dissent and restrict the space to defend human rights. CESR has been working with Egyptian human rights organizations including EIPR to draw attention to the deteriorating economic and social rights situation in the country since the 2011 revolution. But the crackdown against them has posed a serious obstacle to their attempts to hold the authorities accountable at both the national and international levels.

On the occasion of Egypt’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2014, the UN Human Rights Council called on Egypt to guarantee an environment conducive to the work of human rights defenders and civil society organizations, after the threat of reprisals prevented Egyptian human rights organizations from physically participating in the Review. While the Egyptian government agreed to abide by the UPR recommendations, the arrest of prominent human rights defender Hossam Bahgat makes a mockery of the commitments it has given internationally.

CESR calls on the Egyptian authorities to release Hossam Bahgat immediately and unconditionally, and to drop all charges against him. It also calls on them to ensure that human rights defenders, journalists and civil society organizations are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of arbitrary detention, harassment or intimidation, and that all detainees are  provided with full guarantees for their safety and for due process, in line with Egypt’s obligations under international human rights standards.

For further information, see the Joint statement by the Forum of Independent Egyptian Human Rights Organisations and the letter to the authorities issued by the International Network on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), on behalf of its 220 organizational members worldwide, which include CESR.  Hossam Bahgat is chair of ESCR-Net and a member of the Civil Society Advisory Committee of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and has played a prominent role in promoting economic and social rights at the international as well as domestic level.

  • For more on CESR’s work in Egypt, see here.