Law organisations call for end to persecution of lawyers in Egypt

updated on 26 January 2018

The Bar Council and the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) have called attention to lawyers in Egypt facing persecution as they try to uphold citizens’ human rights.

Lawyers’ organisations across Europe expressed solidarity with Egyptian colleagues who face state surveillance and imprisonment in the course of their work, as the country’s authorities stamp out dissent against authoritarian security legislation which denies basic human rights such as the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression. A number of international organisations report that those detained by Egyptian security forces are at risk of being tortured.

The calls coincided with the eighth annual international Day of the Endangered Lawyer, although they are likely to be ignored by the Egyptian government, which fundamentally does not see democracy and human rights as desirable. The Bar Council has said that hard international law is needed to protect lawyers who are subject to threats and attacks, and news is expected soon on whether the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has voted to draft a European Convention setting out the rights and responsibilities of lawyers.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, chair of BHRC, said: “In 2016, BHRC called upon the president of Egypt to end the persecution against lawyers in Egypt. The Egyptian government continues to issue travel bans, freeze assets and detain human rights lawyers as part of an ongoing and sustained campaign to intimidate and undermine their work.

 “Prominent figures currently facing persecution include Azza Soliman, a women’s rights lawyer and co-founder of the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, Malek Adly, a human rights lawyer and director of Lawyers Network at the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights and Khalid Ali, a workers’ rights lawyer. They have been subject travel bans, asset freezes, and imprisonment with hallmarks of solitary confinement, beatings and denial of family and lawyer visitation.”

Andrew Walker QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: “Through the intimidation of lawyers, authorities dismantle and undermine the fundamental freedoms of their citizens. For the rule of law to exist, citizens (and others) must have a right of access to an independent lawyer who is able to defend their freedoms without fear or interference, and to ensure that their individual rights are protected against abuses and excesses of power by the state and by those acting in its name.

“On this Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the Bar Council along with BHRC stands in solidarity with those lawyers across the world, and in particular the lawyers of Egypt, who show courage and determination in striving to uphold the rule of law in the face of persecution.”