In an escalatory and unjustified step, police forces have raided the premises of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) at around 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday December 18, 2013, in which they violently assaulted and arrested six of the staff and volunteers: Mostafa Eissa, the Head of the Documentaries Unit; Mahmoud Belal, Lawyer in the Criminal Justice Unit; and Hossam Mohamed Nasr, Mahmoud ElSayed, Mohamed Adel and Sherif Mansour, volunteers in the Media Unit. The police forces arrested them without legal basis, abducting them to an unknown detention location. Moreover, the police officers destroyed the Media Unit’s equipment, its furniture, as well as stealing computers.
Lawyers failed to reach the abductees mentioned above as a result of the abstinence and refusal of police officials in Abdeen and Kasr ElNile Police Stations and the Cairo Security Administration to provide them with any information on fate of the detainees. Consequently, a police report was made outlining details and information describing the raid, the arrest and abduction of the Center’s staff and volunteers, including the damage of the Center’s furniture and robbery of its equipment. All abductees and detainees were released this morning except for Mohamed Adel, the volunteer in the Media Unit, and his place of detention remains unknown.
The undersigned organizations confirm that the incident is a violation towards its employees and to the center’s headquarters. This incident is considered to be within the context of the continuous escalation of the systematic campaign being committed by the current authority against the different human rights and civil society organizations. It represents a shift from a phase of media distortion and incitement to another phase of targeting without any legal cover.
The Egyptian government continues to commit violence and terrorism against the society under the cover of its war against terrorism. This highlights the continuous attempts to reconstruct the police state and reviving its power in the public sphere as it was during the reign of the deposed dictator Mubarak. In this context, the demonstration law was issued, contradicting the Egyptian constitutions and Egypt’s international obligations, aiming to oppress the right to demonstrate and the right to peaceful assembly. It was used in the last weeks to oppress several demonstrators, arresting different human rights defenders, fabrication of criminal charges and bringing them to unfair trials. The campaigns of intimidation and terror committed against civil society organizations; specifically, human rights organizations, with no political affiliations or bias but rather specialize in the defense of citizens’ rights. Therefore there is no doubt that the real reason behind these violent actions is to subject the public domain to full security control – an attempt to revive the pre-January 25th state.
While the raid on ECESR and its staff occurred on the eve of a press conference that the center organized for workers in several companies who fell victim to unlawful termination of contracts, the center and other human rights defenders will carry on defending workers’ rights, and other victims of human rights violations, and working on the ongoing regressive social and economic policies, which represent a mere continuation of the Mubarak-era public policies. This is a reality that was illustrated weeks ago, when Egypt’s rights record was being reviewed by the UN committee on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights. ECESR alongside several other organizations had presented a joint parallel report to the UN committee illustrating the deterioration of the economic and social conditions in Egypt; especially the deteriorating conditions for workers, and the worsening records in the rights to health, education, housing, environment, food and others.
The raid that ECESR has been subjected to is the first of its kind during the rule of the interim government, which came to power post-June 30th. However, it will neither sway human rights organizations and civil society groups from performing their human rights work, nor stall our determination to pursue and prosecute those responsible for this raid through legal action. In addition, the undersigned organizations assure that the current policies of the interim government do not only threaten the roadmap for the transition period, but also ruins the prospects of the Egyptian people for the building of a civil country that preserves their rights and freedoms under the umbrella of justice and the rule of law. Egyptian authorities must work immediately on rectifying their actions by immediately undertaking extraordinary measures, starting with the repeal of the repressive law on demonstration and freedom of assembly, and the immediate release of all human rights defenders abducted under this law, and the immediate cancellation of all charges forged against them. These procedures also include the immediate halt of the inciting media speech against civil society and human rights organizations. In addition, a clear and transparent path for comprehensive transitional justice, which prioritizes the investigation of all human rights violations committed during the era of ousted president and subsequent governments must be initiated immediately, prosecuting and punishing those involved in heinous crimes, while ensuring the restitution of those harmed, both physically and morally, and reforming the institutions involved in these violations, specifically the Security Apparatus and Justice System.
While officials are trying to justify last night’s raid by suggesting that the aim was the arrest of activist Mohamed Adel, we articulate that this is misleading information, for the security forces have in fact been present in front of ECESR’s premises at the time when afore-mentioned activist Adel arrived and entered the building; this raises a key question of why Adel was not arrested on the street while entering the building, and why more than 30 security personnel were needed to arrest one person. Furthermore, if Adel was indeed the target, why have the security forces arrested 5 more, who were present at ECESR at that hour, and why did the security forces terrify everyone, entering the offices with guns and in fact inserting one of the guns in the mouth of M. Eissa, ECESR staff, to force him to shut up. Moreover, when ECESR lawyer Mahmoud Bilal asked the security forces for prosecutor’s permit to enter the office or arrest staff, he was beaten up; knowing who Bilal is, one of the policemen tried to interfere and to stop the beating of the ECESR lawyer: in consequence, the policeman was beaten up by other security personnel and his outfit was torn.
Lawyers from several human rights organizations have filed a report to the General Prosecutor regarding the raid of ECESR, and have held the General Prosecutor completely responsible for any violations that take place against Mohamed Adel, who remains detained in an unknown location, and demand announcing his place of detention, and the place of conducting investigations with him.