As a result of increasing state repression and the closure of civic and political space, Egypt is now one of the leading countries in the region in terms of high number of political prisoners. The wrath of the state has not spared women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in Egypt, as many are imprisoned or perpetually detained on a temporary basis. Some of the women human rights defenders have been in prison for over five years, simply for their efforts and activities in support of human rights. Most of the WHRDs currently serving prison sentences have been arrested on arbitrary charges such as terrorism or spreading false information.
According to reports, some WHRDs have had a difficult time in detention and have experienced violation of their rights since their arrests, including being subjected to violence by other inmates or serious health complications with no access to health professionals with the expertise to treat them. Alarmingly, most of those WHRDs are in pre-trial detention and their detentions have repeatedly been renewed, and for some their terms of temporary detention has exceeded the maximum legal period of pre-trial detention.
Over the last few months, Egyptian authorities began the process of releasing political prisoners on Presidential pardons. Femena welcomes the release of Egyptian rights defenders as part of presidential pardons, however, Femena is concerned about the absence of women human rights defenders from the two most recent lists of political prisoners in Egypt who received presidential pardons.
Despite the high numbers of WHRDs in detention or serving prison terms, the two most recent groups of presidential pardons on July 19th and August 7th, 2023, did not include any women human rights defenders. This exclusion is alarming and indicates a lack of a gender perspective and potentially systematic discrimination against women human rights defenders by the judiciary and prison systems.
Femena calls on Egyptian authorities to unconditionally release all detained and imprisoned WHRDs, and end judicial proceedings against them. At a minimum, these WHRDs should benefit from Presidential pardons and be released. No one deserves to be imprisoned for defending and promoting rights.
In this report, Femena has highlighted some of the cases of WHRDs currently detained or serving prison terms in Egypt, with the aim of raising their profiles and increasing international pressure on Egyptian authorities to release imprisoned WHRDs and end their systematic harassment of rights defenders and civil society groups.