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Egypt rights groups raise concerns over violations at UN rights council

Egyptian human rights organizations relayed concerns over escalating violations against human rights defenders at the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, demanding the release of those detained for exercising their right of freedom of expression.

The organizations cited the “increasing use of a repressive NGO law and other infamous legislations to open investigations against rights organizations and impose travel bans on individuals,” the statement said.

The 17 local organizations include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, Nazra for Feminist Studies and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

“We are gravely concerned by the unprecedented levels of repressive measures being used by the government against human rights organizations and defenders. These measures form part of a larger effort by the government to shut down the public space and stifle civil society,” the organizations said.

They cited the travel bans imposed on human rights activist and Mada Masr contributor Hossam Bahgat, human rights lawyer Gamal Eid and activist Esraa Abdel Fattah.

They also referred to the prolonged pretrial detention of human rights defenders such as Aya Hegazy and Hesham Gaafar, the head of Mada for Media Development, who faces charges of “receiving foreign funding.”

The statement also condemned sentences leveled against activists including Mahienour al-Massry, Alaa Abd El Fattah, Ahmed Maher and Ahmed Douma.

The organizations queried why the UN special rapporteur for human rights defenders hasn't yet visited Egypt and asked what he intends to do if he is denied entry to the country.