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EGYPT: More than 21 months since Mohammed El-Baqer’s arbitrary detention

19th of july 2021

Egyptian human rights lawyer Mohammed El-Baqer continues to be arbitrarily detained in miserable conditions.

Mohamed El-Baqer is a human rights lawyer, founder and director of the Adalah Centre for Rights and Freedoms. A law graduate since 2001, he volunteered for the legal representation of civilians arrested during the 25th of January 2011 revolution demonstrations before the military courts. Mohammed has been part of the movement „No military trials for civilians“ in which he argues that the military courts are not competent to try civilians.  In 2018 he was awarded a Human Rights Defenders Fellowship from York University in England.

Adalah Centre for Rights and Freedoms was founded in 2014 with the aim of defending the rights and freedoms of citizens though legal support and focused on the legal representation of victims of arbitrary arrest, defence of students‘ rights, as well as issues related to the forced displacement of the Nubian population.

On September 29, 2019, Mohamed was arrested from The Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) building, while attending an investigation with blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. Baqer and his client were both detained on charges of spreading false news and misusing social media, in addition to founding and being part of a terrorist group in breach of the law. Baqer was transferred to maximum security wing 2 of Tora Prison, known for its inhumane conditions.

In July 2020, 12 United Nations Special Rapporteurs addressed the Egyptian authorities demanding Mohamed’s release and urging respect for his legitimate work as a human rights lawyer, based on the warnings of the deterioration in the defence of human rights that were carried out by the European Parliament.

On 31st of August 2020, Mohamed was brought before the SSSP again to face new charges of membership of a terrorist group and planning to spread false news to promote chaos in the country, which is also considered as planning a terrorist crime.

After a year in detention, he was awarded the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) Human Rights Award in October 2020, while numerous international organisations and institutions called for his immediate release.

Despite numerous complaints from his family and international organisations about his arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention in inhumane conditions, on 29th June 2021, when Mohamed was serving 21 months in prison, his pre-trial detention was renewed for 45 days without being transferred to the competent court, the Criminal Court of Cairo.

The OIAD is deeply concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and the conditions in which he is being detained.

The OIAD strongly condemns the violence suffered by Mohamed El-Baqer, the pressure he has been subjected to in relation to legal representation in the cases he assumes.

The OIAD wishes to remind the Egyptian authorities that, in accordance with the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers:

«Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics». (Principle 16)

« Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients‘ causes as a result of discharging their functions». (Principle 18)

The OIAD calls on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Mohamed El-Baqer and allow him to practice his profession as a lawyer in full independence.