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BRIEFING NOTES - (1) Ecuador, (2) Egypt

BRIEFING NOTES - (1) Ecuador, (2) Egypt

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani

Location: Geneva

Date: 18 October 2019

Subject: (1) Ecuador

(2) Egypt

1) Ecuador

A team of three from the UN Human Rights Office is due to visit Ecuador from 20 October to 8 November to look into allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed in the country in the context of the recent protests.

The mission will be conducted at the invitation of the Government of Ecuador.

During their visit, the team will seek to meet with Government officials, indigenous leaders, civil society representatives, journalists and other stakeholders to collect first-hand information on the circumstances of the violence that spread across the country from 3 October.

Our Office has received allegations of human rights violations committed by state security forces, as well as reports of crimes committed by third parties.

We call on the authorities to conduct a prompt, effective, transparent, independent, and impartial investigations into all human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the protests.

We are also concerned about reports of arrests in Ecuador --including of political actors and elected officials – in relation to recent protests in the country. We call on authorities to ensure the full respect of due process guarantees and relevant immunities.

We welcome all parties’ willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue and we encourage the Government of Ecuador and indigenous organizations to continue working towards a peaceful solution to the pressing challenges facing the country.

2) Egypt

As you may recall, in September, the High Commissioner expressed serious concerns about the widespread arrests that had been taking place in Egypt during and after a series of protests in the country highlighting a range of socio-economic issues. Unfortunately such arrests are continuing, and have included a number of well-known and respected civil society figures. The following are some such cases:

On 12 October, plainclothes security officers arrested Esraa Abdelfattah, a journalist and prominent human rights defender, in Cairo. Ms. Abdelfattah was taken to an undisclosed place, where she was reportedly beaten because she refused to unlock her mobile phone. She was then allegedly forced to stand facing a wall for seven hours, after her phone was unlocked through enforced use of her fingers or thumb, enabling the contents of her phone to be searched. The following day, 13 October, she appeared before the prosecutor, who ordered her detention for 15 days pending investigation on charges of “collaborating with a terrorist organization to achieve its goals”; “defamation and the spread of false news”; and “misuse of social media”. On the same day, she began a hunger strike. She currently remains detained at Al-Qanateer women's prison.

Two weeks earlier, on 29 September, security forces arrested Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent blogger and human rights defender, as he fulfilled his probation conditions by reporting to the Dokki police station in Cairo. Allegedly, prison officers blindfolded Mr. Abdel Fattah, forced him to strip down to his underwear and walk down a prison corridor while being struck on his back and neck. Prior to his arrest, Mr. Abdel Fattah had served a five-year prison sentence for organizing a protest without permission. He has been serving probation by having to spend each night in a police cell since his conditional release in March 2019.

Later the same day, on 29 September, Mr. Abdel Fattah’s lawyer Mohammed El-Baqer – a well-known human rights lawyer and director of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms – was also arrested while attending the interrogation of his client Mr. Abdel Fattah at the State Security Prosecution. Since his arrest, he has allegedly been on occasion subjected to physical and verbal abuse, denied access to drinking water and sanitation, as well as medical assistance.

Mr. Abdel Fattah and Mr. El-Baqer have both been accused of the following: “belonging to a terrorist group”; “funding a terrorist group”; “spreading false news undermining national security”; and “using social media to commit publishing offenses”. On 9 October 2019, the detention of both men, who are being held at Tora Maximum Security Prison, was renewed for an additional 15 days.

These are by no means the only such cases – simply three of the most prominent ones.

Once again, we remind the Egyptian Government that under international law people have a right to protest peacefully, and a right to express their opinions, including on social media. They should never be arrested, detained – let alone charged with serious offences such as terrorism – simply for exercising those rights. The actions of the authorities at all levels – police, intelligence services, prosecutors and judiciary – should be in line with international norms and standards regarding the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as due process and fair trial, including the right to legal assistance and not to be compelled to incriminate oneself.

All those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights, or lending legal assistance to others who have been arrested, should be released immediately.

We also remind Egypt of its obligations under international law to respect and protect the right of a person not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This is a non-derogable right. We call on the Egyptian authorities to promptly and effectively investigate any allegations of torture or ill-treatment in detention and to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent such acts.

ENDS

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