General: Egypt: Family of human rights defender Mostafa Fouad harassed and threatened with reprisals

05.06.20

The members of the MENA Network for Countering Hate Speech express their serious concern over an ongoing campaign of reprisals and harassments against the family of its Media Officer, the Egyptian human rights defender Mostafa Fouad.

Fouad himself was subjected to threats while he was living and working in Egypt. The series of threats started in 2014 after he publicly said in a TV interview that Egyptians should not elect President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for a second term. The threats continue following his human rights work until he managed to travel outside the country just before his name was put on the travel ban list.

In 2018, Fouad joined HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement as its Deputy Director. This led to persistent targeting of his family by the National Security Forces, who have raided their house many times asking for information about his work with Humena. On one occasion they entered Fouad’s room and confiscated some of his personal belongings. Also, his brother was targeted and asked recently for detailed information about the work Fouad is doing with Humena and its sources of funding.

The family was targeted again in January 2019 when Humena launched the “Unmask them Campaign”, that aims to expose those who committed human rights violations in Egypt and calls on the government to repeal the law 70/2017 that puts restrictions on the work of NGOs in the country.

More recently, on 26 April 2020, a National Security force entered the family house in Cairo and summoned his parents for interrogation at National Security headquarters about the human rights activities of Fouad. After two postponements, the interrogation took place during the third appointment. It focused on the visit of Fouad’s mother to see him in Istanbul in November 2019, in addition to many questions about Fouad’s various human rights activities and his communications with Egyptian human rights defenders including Bahey El-Din Hassan, the Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).

The interrogation concluded with a direct threat to his parents that if Fouad won’t stop his human rights activities then it is possible for the authorities to target him and also to target his brother, who lives in Egypt with his wife and two kids.

On 20 May 2020, his brother received a threat over the phone from someone who identified himself as a member of the so-called “national security”. He asked for detailed information about the activities of Fouad, and warned the brother that he would risk getting arrested and put on trial if he won’t cooperate with authorities by providing them with information on Mostafa’s work and activities.

The members of the MENA Network for Countering Hate Speech believe that human rights defender Mostafa Fouad and his family have been targeted solely due to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and in particular his role in documenting and reporting the continued human rights violations in Egypt, which have been well documented and exposed by the international community in recent years.

Reprisals, attacks and intimidation against Egyptian human rights defenders for engaging in human rights work have increased in recent years. Authorities continue to systematically target defenders, who collaborate with international mechanisms including the United Nations system, with politically-motivated charges using the judiciary, which lacks both independence and the most basic international standards.

The members of the MENA Network for Countering Hate Speech urge the UN, the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom as well as other governments that have influence in Egypt, and leading human rights organisations to put pressure on the Government of Egypt to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally end the campaign of reprisals and harassment against the family of human rights defender Mostafa Fouad;
  2. Immediately end the judicial harassment of human rights defenders, drop all charges against them and stop the exploitation of the judiciary for political purposes;
  3. Immediately end daily human rights violations as well as escalating attacks on human rights defenders; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Egypt are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

The MENA Network for Countering Hate Speech respectfully reminds the government of Egypt that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals.

We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (b) which states that: “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups;” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration."

The MENA Network for Countering Hate Speech was formed in September 2019 and is composed of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement (HuMENA), Maharat Foundation, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)و and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM).