Egypt: Forced Evictions, Other Reprisals Slap Human Rights Defenders -UN Expert

Two United Nations rights experts have denounced the Egyptian government for its reprisals against human rights defenders who dared to talk to a visiting UN delegation that was enquiring on housing in the North African country. The reprisals included housing demolitions and arbitrary arrests, against human rights defenders and others.

Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, said she had been “shocked” by Egyptian reprisals against the Egyptian human rights defenders she met during her visit just over a month ago.

Egypt “failed to adhere” to the assurances it provided to her, that “no person would be harassed, intimidated or subjected to reprisal for meeting or providing information” to her – or others in her official delegation, a UN press release said on Tuesday.

“I am shocked that after my mission a number of families from two communities I visited have suffered forced eviction contrary to international human rights law,” she was quoted as saying in the press release.

According to the Special Rapporteur, several multi-storey houses have been demolished, furniture thrown into the street, and residents made homeless. Reportedly, adequate notice was not provided to victims, or any compensation, or new accommodation. Excessive force was also allegedly used by security forces against residents when they refused to leave their homes.

“Among those targeted were several houses and apartments belonging to family members of community leaders with whom I met while I was on official mission,” said Ms. Farha.

Also voicing concern over the reprisals, Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders said that the alleged incidents represented a worrying pattern against individuals and communities directly related to Ms. Farha’s visit.

“Human rights defenders and lawyers working on the right to housing also reported that they have been followed and photographed by persons unknown to them, to have received anonymous and threatening phone calls, or have been summoned to report at police offices for interrogation,” he said, adding that one lawyer Ms. Farha had met, was subsequently slapped with a travel ban.

In early November, the two human rights experts raised their concerns and sought clarification regarding the alleged forced evictions and reprisals with the Egyptian Government. They have not yet received an official reply, the UN press release said.

Special Rapporteurs are independent human rights experts, appointed by UN Member States at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report on thematic rights issues and country situations.

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