A Return to Authoritarianism in Egypt

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
November 10, 2015

Lawyers for human rights lawyer and journalist Hossam Bahgat have confirmed that Bahgat was detained Sunday by military officials, apparently in retaliation for his coverageof the military trial of 26 military officers who were accused and convicted of planning a coup. Bahgat writes for Mada Masr, a progressive news website. He is apparently going to be charged before a military court with

publishing “false news that harms national interests” and disseminating “information that disturbs the public peace”

in clear violation of his rights to freedom of speech.

Bahgat is the founder, former director, and now trustee of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). I first met this remarkable advocate when he was awarded theKatherine and George Alexander Law Prize in 2014, given annually by Santa Clara School of Law to a lawyer who has worked tirelessly against injustice and on behalf of universal human rights at great personal risk. His detention this week proves how deserving he was of this award. Amnesty International, academic institutions (including Stanford Universityand Santa Clara School of Law), the Committee to Protect Journalists, and others have all called for his immediate release without charges.

Long before Egypt’s 2011 revolution, Hossam was working tirelessly on behalf of the oppressed and the vulnerable in Egypt. His work, and the work of EIPR, makes no distinction among international human rights protections and seeks to promote civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights—all in equal measure. He has also proved adept at utilizing all available fora in defense of human rights, including UN treaty bodies, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, domestic courts, and the international press.

This work has involved legal advocacy on behalf of vulnerable individuals and groups who exemplify the great diversity that makes up the Egyptian populace, including 

  • Islamists and women who want to wear the head scarf;
  • gay, lesbian and transgendered people;
  • female protesters subject to forcible “virginity tests” while in detention;
  • persons with disabilities;
  • Individuals who were evicted and whose homes were demolished to make way for a new bridge who were then assaulted in the shanty towns they created in desperation;
  • religious minorities, who are vulnerable to harassment and prosecution for crimes of blasphemy and defamation. Indeed, Hossam has won landmark court cases on religious freedom, particularly on behalf of Baha’i plaintiffs and Coptic Christians who are subject to systemic discrimination in Egypt.
  • Political activists whose rights to privacy have been invaded by eavesdropping and unlawful recording.

Read the full post at Just Security