Skip to main content

Egypt criticized for arrests of human rights advocates

The Trump administration, the Biden Campaign and the United Nations also expressed concern about the arrests.

The governments of several nations whose delegates met with members of an Egyptian human rights organization in Cairo earlier this month have spoken out against the Sisi government’s arrest of three lead members of the group in response to the meeting.

The governments of Canada, Germany, Ireland, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have spoken out against the arrest of top leaders of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based think tank that advocates for civil liberties and economic and social justice.

Egyptian security forces detained executive director Jasser Abdel Razek, criminal justice initiative director Karim Ennarah and administrative director Mohammed Bashir earlier this week on allegations that include joining a terrorist organization and spreading false news.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry about the arrests.

The United States and United Nations have also expressed concern about the arrests. “We are very concerned by the detention of a third employee of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and of Coptic activist Ramy Kamel,” said Cale Brown, the US State Department’s deputy spokesperson.

“We urge the government of Egypt to release those detained and to respect the fundamental freedoms of expression and association,” Brown said in a statement Friday.

A spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s office said the UN is “very concerned” about the Egyptian government's continued targeting of human rights advocates, which she said has a “profound chilling effect on an already weakened Egyptian civil society.”

A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres came out in support of the statement from Bachelet’s office.

On Nov. 3, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights hosted more than a dozen European diplomats and ambassadors in Cairo to discuss human rights issues in Egypt. Bashir’s lawyers said Egyptian security forces questioned him specifically on the meeting.

The detentions also drew rebuke from President-elect Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, Antony Blinken, as well as US Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and others.

“Meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights,” Blinken wrote on Twitter.

The arrests came after more than 50 members of the US Congress and more than 200 EU lawmakers penned letters to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last month urging him to release imprisoned activists, journalists and lawyers.

The Egyptian regime has arrested tens of thousands of people since Sisi came to power after leading a coup against President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, rights organizations say. Sisi's regime has become known for forcible disappearances and intimidating citizens who are publicly critical of the government.

Another Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights researcher, Patrick George Zaki, remains in detention since his arrest in February.

The group's founder, Hossam Baghat, now a journalist with Mada Masr, said on Twitter on Friday that he would return to the organization “till the release of its leaders.”

Outgoing US President Donald Trump has been a vocal supporter of Sisi, whose regime hired a Washington firm that includes bipartisan insiders to lobby the incoming Biden administration following the president-elect’s victory speech earlier this month.  

Sisi and Shoukry have denied that any prisoners in Egypt are being held for political reasons.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial