EgyptHuman Rights

Egyptian lawyers go on strike, protest police brutality


Egyptian lawyers have staged a general strike to protest what they call repeated and systematic cases of police brutality against members of their profession, Press TV reports.

Head of the local syndicate of lawyers in the province of Damietta said Saturday that members of Egypt’s general union of lawyers have decided to boycott court sessions for 24 hours as part of the nationwide move.

Hisham Abou Youssef said the strike came after Egypt’s Interior Ministry did not provide any official apology over an incident last week in the same province, where a police officer used his shoe to attack a veteran lawyer during a hearing in the police headquarters.

Immediately after the incident, Egypt’s syndicate of lawyers reportedly issued a statement calling for swift police reforms, saying that the security forces have been engaged in numerous cases of human rights violations.

The statement said the police treatment of lawyers and activists is very much reminiscent of the brutal crackdown that was prevalent before January 2011 during the era of ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

“The lawyers will not forsake their rights, or the rights of their colleagues, and will follow every official in the interior ministry, starting with the minister,” the statement said, adding that security officials in Egypt have “abandoned their role as protectors of citizens’ rights and dignity.”

In March, lawyers staged a major protest in front of the syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo, after lawyer Karim Hamdy was tortured to death by police officers at the Matariya police station.

The head of the syndicate of lawyers, Sameh Ashour, who is known for his leftist political ideas and fierce opposition to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has warned the military-backed government about the “grave consequences” if the demands of the lawyers are not duly met.

Professional syndicates in Egypt have recorded numerous cases of aggression and insult against lawyers in the Arab country since the July 2013 ouster of Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically-elected president of Egypt. That includes killing lawyers inside jails, putting a considerable number of them behind bars just for defending anti-government protesters in courts, and regular beatings inside police stations.

Lawyers argue that the problems they face in the current situation in Egypt are much bigger than the humiliation they face at the hands of police. They say that lawyers have been entirely deprived of practicing their job in a country where the judicial system, as they describe, is being manipulated by armed forces.

Enforced disappearances in Egypt

Meanwhile, Human Rights Monitor (HRM) has submitted an urgent United Nations appeal regarding the recent enforced disappearance of 44 Egyptian citizens, including 31 in May.

In its monthly report for May 2015, the international rights group mentioned 11 cases of forced abductions during the first week of the month, 10 in the second week, and 5 in each of the third, and fourth weeks of the month.

It also highlighted the disappearance of 13 citizens from March and April 2015.

Such enforced disappearances, some of which have led to killings of detainees, have been on the rise in Egypt, since the military backed government of president Sisi appointed General Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar as interior minister in early March of this year.

HRM said it holds the Egyptian authorities responsible for the safety of the citizens’ lives.

It stressed that the continued abduction of citizens in Egypt is a breach to the International Convention of the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance ratified in 2006.

It added that the widespread and systematic practice of enforced disappearances constitutes a crime against humanity.

HRM has repeatedly said that it believes the Egyptian judiciary is an accomplice in the disappearance of opposition.

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