RUTH'S BLOG
Why the arrest of Egypt's Gasser Abed El Razek is so troubling

The arrest of the executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and two staff is a shameful attack on human rights

20 Nov 2020
BY RUTH SMEETH
Gasser Abed El Razek, photo: EIPR

One of the most challenging things about working for Index is being exposed, on a daily basis, to the realities and the horrors of repressive regimes. Every day there is another murder of a journalist, a book banned, a student arrested, a people, like the Uighurs, imprisoned. The bad news seems never-ending.

We are a small team, but we work with correspondents and activists across the world and every time we learn of a new arrest or attack there is that moment of fear – do we know them? When were we last in touch? What can we do? And if we don’t know them, it’s likely we know someone who does.

For every infringement, for every arrest, for every murder there is also an element of guilt – what more should we have done? When was the last time we focused on that country, on that fight? On that repressive regime? When did we last use our voices for them?

This was absolutely the case last night, when reports started to emerge from Cairo about the arrest of Gasser Abed El Razek, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). The details are sketchy but it seems that Razek was arrested at his house in Cairo’s Maadi neighbourhood and no one knows where he has been taken.

This is the third arrest of EIPR staff in recent days;  their ‘crime’ – briefing European diplomats on the current state of human rights in Egypt.

Administrative director Mohammed Basheer was arrested on Sunday while criminal justice unit director Karim Ennarah was arrested while on holiday on Wednesday.

All have been charged with joining a terrorist group, spreading fake news and other financing terrorism.  All are now under pre-trial detention, in theory for 15 days, but under Egyptian law it could be two years.

There are currently 60,000 political prisoners thought to be incarcerated in Egypt.

We know that because organisations like the EIPR make sure that we do. The EIPR is one of the few remaining independent NGOs reporting on human rights in Egypt. And Razek has been one of the leading voices exposing human rights violations both in Egypt and across the Middle East for over 20 years. These arrests are not just an attack on free speech, but on the global community fighting for our collective human rights.

We stand with Gasser Abed El Razek, Mohammed Basheer and Karim Ennarah and we will keep reporting on them until they are freed.

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