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  • Middle East and North Africa

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Last updated: 2 Jul

Human rights defender's story: Ahmed Shawky Abdelsattar Mohamed Amasha

Story behind

A trade unionist, human rights defender, opposition activist and environmental activist, Ahmed Amasha is the co-founder of the League for Families of the Disappeared. The League provides legal support for families of victims of enforced disappearance.

In Egypt, the work of NGOs and human rights defenders is tightly restricted by a law passed in 2019, which comes as a continuation of an already widely criticised law passed in 2017.

Though the 2019 law has swapped planned prison sentences for breaches with hefty fines, it maintains draconian restrictions on NGOs. This law requires that organisations abide by vaguely worded and sweeping concerns of "national security" and "public morality" in order to gain legal recognition in a state registry.

It also limits the activities of registered organisations to serving what authorities call "the State's development plans and the needs of the society", requiring all registered entities to seek yearly approval for their work and strictly limiting their access to foreign funding.

Both iterations of the law on NGOs have severely curtailed the ability of Egyptian NGOs to engage with the UN, which is considered a reprisal for some organisations' previous engagement in the country's Universal Public Review in 2014.

Several human rights defenders are understood to have been targeted by authorities in reprisal for their engagement with UN bodies.

What happened

On 3 May 2017, four Special Procedure mandate holders expressed concerns about the abduction, detention, torture and ill-treatment of Dr Ahmed Shawky Abdelsattar Mohamed Amasha.

A trade unionist, human rights defender, opposition activist and environmental activist, Ahmed Amasha is the co-founder of the League for Families of the Disappeared. The League provides legal support for families of victims of enforced disappearance.

Dr Amasha was arrested on March 10 2017, after which he was disappeared and was kept in secret detention, only reappearing on 1 April 2017, when he was charged with "belonging to a banned group", when he was moved to Tora Prison in Cairo. During his secret detention, he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment by his jailers, including being constantly handcuffed, forced to wear a blindfold and being electrocuted on several parts of his body.

Amasha's arrest, secret detention and prosecution were all reportedly a form of retaliation for his activities as a human rights defender, which included documenting cases of enforced disappearances for Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

Amasha's detention was prolonged multiple times by Egyptian authorities. Though they ordered his release on probation in September 2019, he was only allowed to leave prison on 4 October 2019, under the condition that he report to a police station twice a week.

Dr Amasha was once again arrested on 17 June 2020, going through another period of enforced disappearance and secret detention, this time for 25 days. On 12 July 2020, Egypt's Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) charged him with "joining a terrorist group". He has been held in detention incommunicado since then and is facing charges of joining an illegal organisation. On 15 February 2022, the Cairo Criminal Court renewed his detention.

What do we want

ISHR calls on the government of Egypt to take specific actions to resolve this case, to publicly commit to protecting human rights defenders and condemn any intimidation or reprisals against them.

What do we want

ISHR calls on the government of Egypt to take specific actions to resolve this case, to publicly commit to protecting human rights defenders and condemn any intimidation or reprisals against them.

How you can take action

Look through our 2021 campaign to learn more about ISHR's work to #EndReprisals against human rights defenders and how you can help us ensure they are able to work safely and effectively wherever they are, including unhindered engagement with the UN and other major international human rights bodies.