15 March 2023

Statement at 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 3: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Speaker:  Hossam Bahgat

Thank you Mr. President.  This is a joint statement. 

We commend the Special Rapporteur for choosing “resilience” as the theme of her report, and for highlighting how the simple survival of defenders is sometimes itself a form of success.

In Egypt, the human rights movement has survived for nearly 40 years under constant harassment, restrictions, criminalization, and even imprisonment. As the High Commissioner noted in his annual update, only last week four defenders from the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms received harsh prison sentences, under baseless terrorism charges, following an unfair trial by an emergency court that does not allow appeal.

Despite repeated calls by the Special Rapporteur, prominent rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer remains in prison, four years after his arrest inside a courtroom while representing another political prisoner.

Almost every independent Egyptian rights defender, including myself, remains under indefinite travel ban and asset freezes for over seven years now, under investigations in the infamous Case 173.

Survival could indeed be a form of success, but our survival alone is of little consolation to the countless victims of systemic abuses in Egypt. They need this Council to live up to its mission and address the situation in Egypt as it faces its worst ever human rights crisis.

We join the High Commissioner in calling on the Egyptian government to immediately release all political prisoners and lift restrictions on civic space.

  1. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  2. International Service for Human Rights
  3. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
  4. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  5. Nadeem Center for Victims of Violence
  6. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
  7. The Freedom Initiative
  8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  10. Committee for Justice
  11. West African Human Rights Defenders Network
  12. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
  13. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  14. CELS / Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales
  15. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  16. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).