UAF-Africa provides IKHTYAR with an urgent grant towards appeal processes
In the last four years and following the revolution of January 25, 2011, Egypt has witnessed many changes and women’s rights have been challenged at many stages. In general it is agreed that the situation of human rights are deteriorating. In the last 18 months, 1,500 Egyptian protesters have been killed and tens of thousands thrown into jail with big numbers of detained women. On January 25, 2015, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh was shot dead in the street by police during a peaceful demonstration. There is also a rise in sexual harassment in the streets targeting women, depriving them from practicing their daily life normally.
Women and girls continue to face discrimination in law and practice. In November 2013, then Interim President Adly Mansour of Egypt passed a controversial law banning protests without the government’s permission. The law placed broad restrictions on protests in Egypt and posed a serious setback with grave implications on freedom of assembly, essentially giving security forces a free rein to use excessive force, including lethal force, against demonstrators.
“It is a dangerous sign that the first piece of legislation regulating rights and freedoms passed since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi curtails freedom of assembly and treats peaceful protesters like criminals. Not only does it allow the police to disperse peaceful demonstrations, but gives them the power to shoot protesters who pose no threat to the lives or safety of others”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
The new law effectively bans any public gathering of more than 10 people without government approval. It requires notification of the authorities three days in advance. It specifically bans all demonstrations at places of worship. Organizers across the political spectrum have customarily used Friday Prayer at mosques — the main community meeting place — as the starting points for marches and protests.
The Anti- Protest Law has come under fierce criticism from activists and international rights organizations as it is seen to violate the constitutional right to assembly, as guaranteed by the Constitution.
On the 21st June, 2014, a peaceful march was organized in the Heliopolis neighborhood in Cairo to demand the repeal of the Law 107 of 2013 on demonstrations and public rallies (the “Anti-Protest Law”) as well as the release of those detained under the said law. During this march, the police came in and disrupted it using tear gases and detained 30 individuals including Ms. Yara Sallam and Ms. Salwa Mehrez.
On 24th June 2014 they were transferred to Qanatir prison and were supposed to appear before the court on June 25th after the expiry of their four-day detention. However, the defendants were not brought to court, and the Prosecution instead issued an indictment order, before the defendants had a chance to challenge their pre-trial detention before an independent judicial body.
In September 2014, the defendants were charged with 12 provisions that include the participation in unauthorized demonstration whose aim was to stop the implementation of the law and influence the effectiveness of the public authorities during the carrying out of their work and participating in a demonstration that breached, threatened public security and the interests of citizens law while disrupting transportation and transgressed public and private property”; “using force and violence to terrorize and intimidate citizens”; and “deliberately destructing property owned by the aggrieved party as proven through investigations”. In October 26, they were sentenced to three years in prison, to an additional three years of police surveillance, to a 10,000 EGP fine (1,000 euros), and to repayment for property damages they allegedly caused, in relation to their alleged participation in a protest on June 21, 2014.On December 28, 2014, the Heliopolis Appeal Misdemeanour Court reduced the sentence against Ms. Yara Sallam, Ms. Sanaa Seif and 22 other protesters to two years’ imprisonment, and two years’ police surveillance.
IKHTYAR sought to appeal in the court of Cassation which is considered the highest judicial body in the Egyptian court system designated with the purpose of creating a central tool to provide exclusive and uniform interpretation and application of law. So while the previous courts were judging on the basis of the facts of the case, the Court of Cassation issues rulings on whether the previous courts applied the correct interpretation of the law or whether their rulings were politicized; If the Court of Cassation rules in favour of Ms. Yara Sallam and Ms. Salwa Mehrez, it would order that the case reopens in front of another court. In January 2015, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial of imprisoned Australian journalist Peter Greste and his two Al-Jazeera colleagues. It will therefore a precedence for the implementation and interpretation of the Anti-Protest Law which is needed to preserve the rights and lives of Egyptians. UAF-Africa provided the group with an urgent grant towards the appeal processes.