The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) denounces the continuance of death threats and incitement to violence against its director Bahey eldin Hassan, which compelled him to leave his home country of Egypt four years ago. It calls on Egypt’s Public Prosecutor to investigate the complaint filed by veteran lawyer Negad el-Borai on behalf of Hassan, against a television personality who incited to Hassan’s murder on his program in March of this year. The incitement to murder Hassan was a shamefully vitriolic response to a memo sent to the UN Secretary-General by seven rights organizations, among them CIHRS, on the abysmal state of human rights in Egypt, particularly in the run-up to the recent presidential election.
Rights organizations, activists, and public figures throughout the region and world are rallying against the escalating incidence of threats against the lives and safety of those who speak up against grave human rights violations. On April 18th of this year, 22 international rights organizations urged European states and the United States to take all necessary measures to protect Egyptian human rights defenders at home and abroad. It called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately conduct a transparent investigation into the recent threats against Hassan.
Likewise, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was petitioned earlier this month to order his security agencies to stop issuing death threats against human rights activists in Egypt, Europe, and the US. The petition was launched by 122 Arab and European public figures, among them former French presidential candidates and former ministers, together with political, labor, and human rights activists. Concurrently, on May 10th, 66 Arab organizations condemned the ongoing death threats and incitement to violence against Hassan and demanded that President al-Sisi instruct his security agencies and their aligned media outlets to desist from monitoring and retaliating against rights defenders in Egypt and abroad by threatening their lives and personal safety.
The threat against Hassan made on the Egyptian television program was not only another instance of the deadly state-supported malice directed at individuals who dedicate their lives to defending fundamental human rights and dignity. It also constitutes a crime punishable under Egyptian law. The legal complaint (no. 4818/2018 filed on April 23, 2018) affirms that the words of the Egyptian media personality clearly amount to the crime of incitement to murder, under Article 40 of the Penal Code.
According to the Court of Cassation, “For incitement to the crime to be legally applicable, it is not necessary that the inciter have authority over the incited party that makes him subject to the inciter’s orders. It is sufficient that actions or words issued from the inciter inflame the sentiment of the perpetrator and thereby spur him to commit the crime.” This crime is punishable under Article 171, which states, “Any person who incites one or more persons to commit a felony or misdemeanor [through any public means] is an accessory to that crime and subject to the penalty set forth for it, if such incitement results in the actual commission of the felony or misdemeanor. If the incitement results in only an attempted crime, the judge shall apply the legal punitive provisions for attempt.”
It is worth reiterating that Hassan was threatened with lethal violence by a media personality for his cooperation with the UN. It is routine for human rights organizations around the world to address the UN; moreover, it is fundamental to their ethical and professional duty—a duty that Hassan has upheld for over 25 years, through CIHRS and other organizations.
CIHRS holds such media figures, and the state security agencies inciting them, responsible for any harm, assault, or act of retaliation directed at Egyptian rights defenders in Egypt or abroad. The incitements prior to the killings of secularist thinker Dr. Farag Foda and Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz were not merely expressions of a “point of view” but active complicity in their murders.
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