Last week the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association presented his report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly urging states and private sector to respect the exercise of human rights of those mobilising peacefully to address the climate crisis.
On the occasion of awarding human rights defender Abdulrahman Tarek, the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award, the undersigned organisations urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release him and end all violations against him.
Abdelrahman Tarek (widely known as Moka) is a human rights defender working with Al-Nedal Centre for Rights and Freedoms. His work includes defending free expression in Egypt and prisoners’ rights, especially in cases of forced disappearances. On 12 September 2021, Moka was awarded Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award in recognition of his campaigning work. The award celebrates individuals or groups who have had a significant impact fighting censorship anywhere in the world.
Moka was first arrested on 26 November 2013 in relation to the “Shura Council” case, when a number of activists organized a protest against military trials for civilians in front of the Egyptian Senate (Shura Council) and were subsequently arrested.
On 11 June 2014, he was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of police probation. He was held in Tora El Mazraa Prison; during his detention, he was frequently subjected to torture, as a result of which he still suffers psychologically. After his release in October 2018, he began to serve his three-year probationary period, during which he had to spend 12 hours a day at the Qasr Al Nil Police Station in Cairo. On 10 September 2019, Moka was forcibly disappeared during his daily probation session at Qasr Al Nil Police Station. A day later, he re-appeared at the office of the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), where he was interrogated in Case No. 1331 of 2019. He was accused of “joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media” by the prosecutor during the interrogation, and was ordered into pre-trial detention.
On 10 March 2020, a court ordered his release on probationary measures, which included reporting to a police station every few days. He was, however, never released. Instead, he was forcibly disappeared for 50 days. On 30 April 2020, the SSSP ordered Moka into pre-trial detention on new charges of “joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media” – the same accusations he faced in the previous case.
On 22 September 2020, a court ordered the release of Moka. However, once again, the release order was never implemented. On 3 December 2020, after being held arbitrarily for over 70 days, the SSSP interrogated Moka for “establishment and funding of a terrorist organization.” On 3 December 2020, he was ordered into pretrial detention in that case. He started a hunger strike to protest the Prosecutor’s decision.
In mid-January 2021, Moka was transferred to Tora Prison, which is known for its inhumane detention conditions, such as lack of clean water, poor ventilation, and overcrowding. On 17 January 2021, he was hospitalized at Tora Prison Hospital for the first time, due to his deteriorating health. He had to be hospitalized several times afterward. On 3 February 2021, he ended his hunger strike.
Since Moka was detained in September 2019, two consecutive orders for his release have been preempted by the addition of new cases, allowing authorities to evade the two-year legal limit on pre-trial detention in Egypt.
In the first week of August 2021, Moka attempted suicide after he was denied a family visit. As punishment, Moka was placed in a disciplinary cell for 24 hours.
Accepting the award on behalf of Moka, one of his family members said: “I am sure that when Moka hears that he won this award he will be extremely happy and he will spend a happy night but when he wakes up the next day, he will be feeling disappointed and frustrated that he will be spending another day in prison.”
Moka is among the thousands of people arbitrarily detained in Egypt, including human rights defenders, journalists, politicians, lawyers, and social media influencers. They remain in prolonged detention solely for exercising and defending fundamental human rights.
“Today I tried to be Moka’s voice, and I want each of you to be his voice, until he comes out of prison alive,” his family member said. “Freedom for Moka and all detainees.”
We, the undersigned organizations, call on the Egyptian government to immediately and unconditionally release Abdulrahaman Tarek.
Signatories: ARTICLE 19; Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN); FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; Freedom House; Index on Censorship; International Service for Human Rights (ISHR); MENA Rights Group; The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms; The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP); World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.
Today, UN member States elected members to the UN's top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, for the 2022-2024 term. 18 candidates ran for 18 seats, and all were elected, leaving civil society disappointed in a process that can hardly be called an election.
Mozambique has accepted 236 of the 266 recommendations received. While this highlights a slight progress since their last Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the human rights situation in the country still needs large structural improvements.
During the adoption of the outcome of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Niger manifested its willingness to cooperate with human rights mechanisms by accepting almost all the recommendations. However, more efforts for an efficient implementation remain necessary.
Despite Sierra Leone's acceptance of recommendations aiming to improve civil society’s space, cases of reprisals against human rights defenders are still reported.
The DRC has noticeably improved the protection of human rights in the Kasaï region but progress remains slow and action is still needed towards transitional justice and the protection of defenders in this region.
Defender Zhang Haitao's wife addressed the UN Human Rights Council on 20 September, after more than 1240 days without information about her husband's status. He is serving 19 years on 'national security'-related charges, punishing him for exercising freedom of speech.
Human rights organisations* urge the immediate and unconditional release of Egyptian human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer, who completes today two years in arbitrary detention.
Human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia continue to face an increasing crackdown including arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and medical and administrative neglect. The UN Human Rights Council must take action by establishing a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.
Despite the Burundian government’s efforts, the human rights situation in the country remains a matter of concern. During the presentation of its report, the Commission of Inquiry underscored the necessity to take more significative actions to pave the way towards sociopolitical stabilization and democracy.
This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.
ISHR welcomes the Council’s historic consensus decision, led by the Africa Group, to adopt a resolution mandating an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and to promote racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The adoption of this resolution is testament to the resilience, bravery and commitment of victims, their families, their representatives and anti-racism defenders globally.