The danger of being a lawyer in Egypt

The danger of being a lawyer in Egypt
Comment: Lawyers are increasingly coming under attack as the human rights situation in Egypt sinks to new depths, says Teresa Mayr.
3 min read
29 Apr, 2015
Witnesses to Shaimaa al-Sabbagh's death are being intimidated [Anadolu]

The human rights situation has been deteriorating in Egypt since the military took control in 2013. Activists, journalists, Muslim Brotherhood members and representatives of civil society and NGOs have felt the worst of it.

Lawyers have also been targeted. Imam Afifi and Karim Hamdi are two who recently died after being held in police custody in Mataria police station, north of Cairo.

Afifi was arrested on 10 April during a demonstration against the government in Mataria. The following day he was transferred to hospital, and he died there last week. He had allegedly been tortured and suffered a massive head trauma reported The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

Hamdi was accused of belonging to the Brotherhood and taking part in an unauthorised demonstration. Reportedly, he was beaten while in detention, and died later in hospital. Two members of the National Security Agency have been charged with torturing and murdering him.

The ICJ has asked Egyptian authorities to ensure prompt and impartial investigations, and expressed concern that the deaths are part of a widespread campaign that has been targeteing hundreds of lawyers since 2013.

     In 2014 at least 90 people died in police stations in Cairo and Giza.

Azza Soliman is a human rights lawyer who saw activist Shaima al-Sabbagh being shot by security forces on 24 January 2015 during a demonstration.

Soliman is now facing charges along with 17 others for giving evidence against the security forces involved in the shooting.

Amnesty International has criticised investigations into the hundreds of deaths at the hands of security forces since July 2013: "Most investigations have been half-hearted at best, and have failed to deliver accountability and justice."

The ICJ has reported about 10 other attacks on lawyers. They include three who were investigated last year after asking if their client, a human rights activist who was sitting in a sound-proof glass cage, could be heard in court.

These cases highlight the repressive situation in Egypt. The deaths of the two lawyers is especially worrying due to allegations of torture.

There have been frequent reports of torture in 2014 and 2015.

In 2014 at least 90 died in police stations in Cairo and Giza according to Al Watan newspaper. A detailed seven page report about alleged police abuse was published last week by the daily newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.

"Egyptian authorities are repeating, and in some cases have even increased, the same patterns of human rights violations committed under Mubarak," according to the International Federation for Human Rights).

The federation called for an immediate end to the judicial harassment of human rights defenders, peaceful activists, and political opponents, and for an independent judiciary.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.