Human rights organisations: Egyptian courts use indefinite laws to accuse political activists of terrorism

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Eight human rights organisations condemned the decision of Egypt’s Court of Cassation to refuse appeals against the insertion of ex-parliamentarian Ziad El-Elaimy and BDS activist Rami Shaath along with 11 others on terrorism lists. The joint statement was signed by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Committee for Justice, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Al-Nadeem Centre, Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, and the Freedom Initiative.

The organisations considered the decision additional evidence on the political bias of the Egyptian courts, including the Court of Cassation, leading to systemic destruction of the justice system. The statement asserted that engagement of this court in such political reprisals is linked to legislation no 77 of 2019, which was protected by the 2019 constitutional amendments, and gave the president the authority to appoint the heads of judicial bodies eliminating judicial independence and the separation of powers.

The criminal court approved on 18 April 2020 an Attorney General’s request to insert Rami Shaath, Ziad El-Elaimy and lawyer Mohamed Abu Horeira, along with 10 others, onto terrorism lists for five years. The decision resulted in a travel ban and freezing assets and properties of those citizens.

The statement explained that the Court of Cassation depended on loose laws that use indefinite definitions of terrorism and terrorist groups. For example, Article 3 of law 94 of 2015 considers that funding terrorism could include funding those planning to commit a terrorist crime even if such a crime did not happen. This indefinite text allows the security bodies and the courts to accuse defendants of financing terrorism without evidence.