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Online discussion

Monday, 07. December 2020 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm Save in my calendar

Online discussion

Criminalize this: State violence against Human Rights defenders in Egypt

On November 3rd, employees of the “Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights” (EIPR) inform 13 foreign diplomats, including the German ambassador, about the human rights situation in Egypt. A couple of days later a cascade of arrests begins: On November 15 Mohamed Basheer is arrested, on November 18 Karim Ennarah, head of the Criminal Justice Unit, and on November 19 Gasser Abdel Razek, director of EIPR. Meanwhile, their colleague Patrick George Zaki has already been in custody since February 2019. And the organization's founder Hossam Bahgat has been under a travel ban and an asset freeze for four years.

The EIPR is one of the most renowned human rights organizations in Egypt. But the country's military government criminalizes the struggle to defend and protect human rights. It accuses human rights defenders of membership in terrorist organizations and of undermining national security.

The latest arrests represent a further deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt. Since the military coup of President al-Sisi in 2013, more and more activists and journalists have been persecuted for critically examining social, economic or political issues as well as for their commitment to human, civil and personal rights. Sexual violence and torture are common in Egyptian prisons. By charging its opposition with accusations of terrorism, authorities extend prison sentences without trial and deny legal assistance to them.

But the current developments in Egypt also challenge the international partners of the Egyptian government to respond. After having supported the Sisi regime in the fight against terrorism and illegal migration irrespective of its human rights violations, an increasingly urgent question emerges: How to act against those violations? In light of this year's German-Egyptian governmental negotiations, the German government must also grapple with this question. What instruments does it have, how does it use them to protect activists, and how can it do so more effectively in the future?

On the evening of December 3rd, the three EIPR-employees Mohamed Basheer, Karim Ennarah and Gasser Abdel Razek were released. At the same time, Patrick George Zaki and tens of thousands of other political prisoners remain in custody. This shows that the dangers for the EIPR and Egyptian human rights defenders remain – as does the need to address them. It is therefore all the more urgent to translate the solidarity with Egyptian human rights activists into comprehensive and effective political action. We will discuss this on December 7th in a digital evening event with Hossam Bahgat, founder and deputy director of EIPR, Omid Nouripour, Member of the Bundestag / Bündnis 90 / Die Grüne and spokesperson for foreign policy, and Lotte Leicht, EU director of Human Rights Watch.


  • Hossam Bahgat, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, founder and acting director, Cairo
  • Omid Nouripour, MP, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, speaker on foreign policy, Berlin
  • Lotte Leicht, Human Rights Watch, EU director, Brussels


Barbara Unmüßig, President, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Berlin

Language: English and German with simultaneous translation

Johannes Gunesch


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Heinrich Böll Foundation - Headquarter Berlin
Simultaneous translation