Our Voices

Egypt: RFK Human Rights Condemns the Arrest of HRA Laureate Ragia Omran and other 15 Defenders and Calls for the Charges Against Them to be Dropped

RFK Human Rights strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and detention of our 2013 Human Rights Award Laureate Ragia Omran – along with 15 other human rights defenders – and demands the Egyptian authorities immediately and unconditionally drop the unfounded charges against them.

Omran is a lawyer, feminist, and human rights activist who founded the Al-Masry Al-Hurr Movement in Egypt during the Arab Spring to call for government accountability and social justice. For decades, Omran has been a pioneer of the Egyptian human rights movement and at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights and gender justice.

On Tuesday April 23rd, Egyptian authorities violently and arbitrarily arrested several lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders, including Omran, who were holding a peaceful demonstration in solidarity with the women of Sudan and Gaza outside the UN Women’s regional office in Cairo. At least 19 people were arrested, most of whom were women, but the total number remains unknown. Witnesses reported that Egyptian security forces stole at least one mobile phone and violently beat the protestors before detaining them overnight in an unknown location.

On Wednesday April 24th, Egyptian authorities presented Omran and 15 others who were arrested to the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), a special branch of the Public Prosecution which frequently misuses counter-terrorism legislation as a “central tool of repression” against peaceful critics of the government. Defense lawyers were prevented from entering the premises and were not allowed to counsel their clients while they were being questioned, clearly violating the right to access to counsel. The SSSP opened a case against Omran and the protestors, charging them with joining an illegal group and unlawful assembly, before releasing them on bail ranging up to 10,000 Egyptian pounds on Wednesday evening.

“Ragia is not only a dedicated human rights activist, but a dear friend,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of RFK Human Rights. “I am deeply disturbed by the Egyptian authorities’ brutal and unjustified crackdown on last week’s protest. The Government must immediately and unconditionally drop these baseless charges against Ragia and all of the other human rights defenders expressing solidarity with women living in conflict zones.”

This incident is just another example of Egypt flagrantly disregarding its domestic and international human rights obligations to respect and promote fundamental freedoms, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We urge the Egyptian government to comply with international law and finally end these relentless attacks on civic space.