Violations Against Lawyers: Another Obstacle in the Path of Criminal Justice
The undersigned organizations express grave concern regarding the hostile climate within which lawyers, particularly those representing political prisoners, are forced to operate.
Through our investigation, we have been able to document a highly alarming pattern of escalating abuses that now go as far as implicating sitting judges amid an atmosphere of entrenched impunity. Not only do such transgressions infringe upon lawyers’ rights to practice their profession, they also severely violate defendants’ rights to adequate defense.
Many lawyers report physical assault, verbal abuse, threats and intimidation at the hands of security personnel. Political prisoners are often denied their right to privately meet with their lawyers who also find increasing difficulty in accessing the official documents relating to their cases. In one instance, lawyers of political prisoners were even referred to criminal investigation for advocating their clients’ rights as shows from testimonies collected by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
As such, the undersigned organizations urge the competent officials, including Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of Justice Mahfouz Abdel Kader and the chief of the Supreme Judicial Council Hamed Abdullah, to ensure lawyers’ ability to practice their profession without any of the obstacles detailed above and to investigate such incidents and hold the perpetrators of such abuses to account. The undersigned organizations also urge the Syndicate of Lawyers to uphold its duty in defending the rights of lawyers, and taking the necessary measures to stop such violations immediately.
Last month, Judge Mohamed Nagi Shehata referred three other lawyers were referred to the public prosecution for investigation for demanding that their client, political activist Ahmed Douma, be heard by the court from the sound-proof glass cage he was held in during the proceedings so as to raise concerns over the fairness of the trial.
Also in September, police personnel assaulted lawyer Yasmine Hossam, she said, at the gates of a court house during the trial of colleague Yara Sallam –EIPR’s transitional justice officer who is facing charges of joining an unauthorized protest march. Ms. Hossam says she was punched, dragged by the hair and arms, verbally abused and inappropriately touched. Police officers in charge of the court’s security later categorically refused to file a police report and only attempted pressured the main culprit to apologize. Ms. Hossam has filed an official complaint with the public prosecution.
Earlier this year, a lawyer, Amr Imam, was threatened at gunpoint in a police station after inquiring about a number of detainees arrested from a demonstration. He was hit in the chest with a rifle butt and asked to leave or else risk being shot.
The undersigned organizations stress the seriousness of the abuses against lawyers in violation of Law number 17 of 1983, and the international standards detailed in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in September 1990, and recall that lawyers must be able to defend their clients/practice their profession without fear of judicial pursuit, violence and any other form of intimidation or harassment.
Furthermore, the undersigned organizations call on the competent authorities to ensure that court proceedings take place in a climate conductive to the respect of the right to fair trial – a right routinely violated by the restrictions faced by lawyers in obtaining relevant official documents and in meeting their clients privately.
- Association for Freedom of Thoughts and Expressions
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- El Nadeem Center for psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture
- Hisham Mubarak Law Center
- Misryon Against Religious Discrimination
- National Community for Human Rights and Law
- Nazra for Feminist Studies
- New Woman Foundation
- The Egyptian Association For Community Participation Enhancement
- The Arab Network for Human Rights Information
- The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights