Following their joint report on travel bans: To advocate for the essential rights of all Egyptians, CIHRS and AFTE call upon civil society organizations to take legal action against Interior Minister Decree 2214/1994 by using the appended petition
Days after issuing a joint report on travel bans, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) filed suit with the Administrative Court on Saturday, December 3; challenging Interior Minister Decree 2214/1994 and its subsequent amendments—the most recent being Decree 1330/2014—that regulate travel ban lists.
The two organizations maintain that the decree contravenes the constitution, effectively turning Egypt into a massive open-air prison.
The suit, entered as no. 14385/71, challenges the interior minister decree as a violation of the constitution, which requires travel bans to be issued pursuant to judicial rulings (not security orders) and based on defined guidelines set down in law (not in a lower administrative decree). CIHRS and AFTE urge citizens and institutions to pursue the same course of action and reuse the attached petition in order to file similar suits for the repeal of the interior ministry’s unconstitutional, arbitrary decree.
The two organizations issued a joint report, titled “No Exit: Intimidation and Extortion Prevail with Increasingly Arbitrary Use of Travel Bans against Human Rights Defenders,” on November 23 of this year. The report examined the security and judicial authorities’ deployment of travel bans as an unlawful, unconstitutional tool to politically and psychologically harass persons holding opposition and independent opinions. The report documents nearly 80 travel bans issued from June 2014 to September 2016.
In November alone, after the report was issued, the Egyptian authorities banned five more individuals from travel, including rights lawyers Malek Adly and Ahmed Ragheb, women’s rights defenders Azza Suleiman and Aida Seif al-Dawla, and media presenter Amr Leithi; the latter of whom was banned from travel on November 24, 2016.
Once a preventive judicial measure issued in line with strict guidelines against suspects posing a flight risk, over the last two years travel bans have become an increasingly arbitrary measure issued by security or judicial order to punish political and rights activists, academics, and media figures for opinions and stances that disagree with the line adopted by the current regime and its security apparatus. In a statement on November 24, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders observed that such bans have “a chilling effect” and hinder the legitimate work of human rights defenders.
The lawsuit filed by the CIHRS and AFTE cited the findings of their joint report, noting the absence of a law to regulate travel bans, as required by Article 62 of the constitution. The lawsuit demonstrates that the matter has been left to decrees issued by the interior ministry, which do not rise to the level of law.
The lawsuit challenges the existing decree on three grounds: 1) its contravention of constitution and Egypt’s international obligations; 2) the unconstitutionality of Articles 8 and 11 of the passports law number 97/1959, which form the basis of the ministerial decree under appeal; and 3) its infringement upon the principles of the separation of powers and the rule of law. The petition seeks a stay against the interior minister decree and subsequent amending decrees and ultimately, a repeal of the decree.
The CIHRS and AFTE urge citizens and civil society institutions to adopt the appended petition for their own use to file similar suits against the interior minister decree 2214/1994 and its subsequent amendments, as a legal action to champion the humanity of all Egyptians by calling upon the judiciary to uphold the constitution and the rule of law; as well as the principle of individual freedom.
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