The CCBE – European Council of Bars and Law Societies – recently honoured seven Egyptian lawyers with its prestigious Human Rights Award to draw attention to the Egyptian regime’s ongoing repression of civil society. By Sofian Philip Naceur
The arrest of three employees of human rights group Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) by Egyptian authorities in November made headlines around the globe for weeks, becoming something of a boomerang for the authoritarian regime of Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. After all, Egypt’s systematic crackdown against civil society has not attracted that much international attention for quite some time. Following a veritable wave of declarations expressing solidarity with the three human rights advocates and an EIPR researcher, the latter imprisoned since February 2020, the three EIPR staffers were released on bail last week. Nevertheless, the situation for Egypt’s civil society remains tense.
These days, it is not only human rights groups such as EIPR that are being targeted by the Egyptian authorities. Journalists, academics and opposition politicians are also facing persecution in the country on political grounds. At the same time, Egyptian legal professionals, who have likewise been a target for state reprisals at the hands of the Sisi regime for years, have received far less attention than those professions mentioned above.
CCBE Human Rights Award for incarcerated lawyers
Against this background, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), a Brussels-based federation of bar societies from 45 countries, has awarded its annual human rights award to seven Egyptian human rights lawyers, all of whom are currently behind bars in Egypt. According to a CCBE statement, they were honoured «for their courage, determination and commitment to defending human rights in Egypt».
The award was granted to prominent left-wing human rights lawyer and activist Mahienour al-Masry from Alexandria, labour rights defender Haitham Mohammadein, known for his longstanding engagement for trade unionists, the co-founder of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) Ziad al-Elaimy, human rights lawyers Mohamed al-Baqer and Mohamed Ramadan, as well as Hoda Abdelmoneim and Ibrahim Metwally, who have been working for the human rights group Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom (ECRF).
The Turkish lawyer Ebru Timtik, who died in a Turkish prison in August 2020 after a 238-day hunger strike, was also posthumously decorated. Last year, Timtik was sentenced to 13 years and 6 months for alleged membership of a terrorist organisation in a controversial trial considered politically motivated.