The International Network
for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) sent a letter to the Egyptian Government today to express its condemnation of
the arrest of Mr. Hossam Bahgat, and calls on the Egyptian authorities to
ensure his immediate and unconditional release.
Mr. Bahgat was summoned by Egyptian military intelligence to
appear for questioning yesterday morning and continues to be detained today.
Mr. Bahgat serves as the
board chair of ESCR-Net, having been elected by its 220 organizational members
across more than 70 countries. Currently, Mr. Bahgat works as an investigative
journalist with Cairo-based news outlet, Mada Masr. He was the
founding executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (2002-2013) and continues to act as
chairperson. He also serves as a board member of the Fund for Global Human
Rights and an advisory board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative. In
2010, he was awarded the Allison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary
Activism by Human Rights Watch.
Reports indicate that Mr. Bahgat was summoned to appear for questioning
at the military intelligence headquarters in Cairo on Sunday, 8 November 2015,
and subsequently detained in connection with several articles that he published
about the Egyptian army. He has reportedly been charged by the military
prosecutor on charges related to publishing “false information that harms
national interests.” Egypt’s counter-terrorism laws and penal code
have been utilized to criminalize journalists who publish
information that differs from the accounts of the Ministry of Defence.
In the letter, sent on behalf of more than
270 international Human Rights organizations and individuals, ESCR-Net
“condemns the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Bahgat and the serious violation of his
human rights, particularly his right to freedom of expression” and notes that
the treatment of Hossam is “reflective of an ongoing practice of harassment,
arrest and incarceration of journalists and human rights defenders through the
application of widely criticized anti-terrorism legislation, with the apparent
purpose of silencing dissenting views and political debate.”
ESCR-Net calls for the immediate and unconditional release of
Hossam and the dropping of all charges against him. It also calls on the
Egyptian Government to take all possible measures to guarantee the right, for
all people in Egypt, to freedom of expression and opinion, to ensure protection
of human rights defenders in line with international standards, and to cease
the practice of military jurisdiction over civilians. The letter also
calls for protection of rights while in custody, including communication with
counsel of his own choosing. We have learned that Hossam’s lawyers have
been denied access to him and knowledge of his exact location since Sunday
To read the letter in English, please click here.
To read the letter in Arabic, please click here.