Monday, May 22, 2006

Amnesty Releases Annual Report;
Section on Egypt criticizes government muzzling civil society

There's plenty of bad news throughout the 2006 Amnesty International Annual Report. However, to AI Executive Director Larry Cox, the most disappointing news was that the continued efforts bo the world's greatest powers, including the United States, was draining resources and attention from some of the greatest tragedies on earth.

" It is difficult to believe that the United States government, which once considered itself an exemplar of human rights, has sacrificed its most fundamental principles by abusing prisoners as a matter of policy, by ‘disappearing’ detainees into a network of secret prisons and by abducting and sending people for interrogation to countries that practice torture such as Egypt, Syria and Morocco," Cox said. "It remains the most painful of truths that its policies on torture make it possible to add the United States to a shameful list of governments that includes those once led by Augusto Pinochet and Hafez al-Assad.

"Even less known than the outsourcing of torture is the U.S. government’s extensive outsourcing of military detention, security and intelligence operations, which may be fueling serious human rights abuses. And most of those who commit these abuses seem to be getting away with it."

But it is certainly not just the United States. China and Russia also comes in for significant criticism. China continues to imprison tens of thousands of political prisoners, including in psychiatric hospitals; Amnesty International documented at least 1,770 executions last year, though the number is likely to be far higher, Cox said. As with the U.S., their efforts held back real resolution of problem areas such as Darfur and restricted real reform and democratic hopes in places such as Egypt.

Speaking of Egypt, the report hit upon the main themes of human rights abuses AI has repeatedly addressed throughout the year. Systemmatic torture, a lack of political and legal rights, continued use of State of Emergency powers to limit civil society and civil rights and continued use of the death penalty. Armed groups were also criticized for bombings in Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh.

Here's the section on Egypt:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Police Beat Protesters

New day, same story. The government has given up all pretense of reform. Thursday saw not one, but two large protests. Reports indicate at the one in downtown Cairo was broken up by armed security forces. As with other protests, the security forces were aided in their effort by plainclothes civilians who can be described as well, "thugs." The photo left is of security officers attacking a photo reporter at the event.

The protests in Cairo came as two hearings -- one on the judges the other on Ayman Nour's appeals were being held. According to news reports, one judge, Hesham Bastawisi was reprimanded and facings being dismissed. The second judge was acquitted. Nour's appeal was rejected. None of this was a surprise.

At the same time, the Muslim Brothers, who participated in the downtown protest along with Kifaya and other opposition groups, had their own protest as well in an area called Abasaya. There were no press reports there, but activists are saying the beatings and arrests were even more fierce there because of the lack of press attention.

Here's what the media is saying:

The Washington Post
ran the AP story focusing on the beatings and Nour's declining health

The BBC led with Bastawisi's reprimand.

The New York Times focused on the beatings.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Egyptian Democracy Press Conference

On the eve of Ayman Nour's appeal (on the 18th), a press conference will be held tomorrow to bring attention to the case and to the hopes for Egyptian democracy. One of the speakers will be Nour's representative, Anna Mahjar Barducci.

The topics will be
1. Case of Ayman Nour & independence of the Egyptian judiciary
2. Terrorism in Egypt and the Emergency Law
3. Human rights and specifically violence against the Christian Coptic community

Key speakers will include: Amir Salem, Director of the National Association for Human Rights, Lawyer for the Egyptian Court of Cassation; Adel Guidy, representative of Copts of Europe, and Barducci.

During the press conference will be presented a transatlantic petition, signed by US Congressmen and Senators and MEPs, calling upon the Egyptian Government to free Ayman Nour, sponsored by MEP Vatanen.
Journalists will also receive a copy of MEP Vatanen’s letter to the Egyptian President, Mr Hosni Mubarak, appealing to the immediate release of Ayman Nour, journalists and judges, showing concern for human and civil rights in the country.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Detained Prisoners at Risk

The el Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and Domestic Violence has circulated an alert about several of the prisoners arrested in the Judges protests who are at risk for their lives. Three of them have serious health issues and aren't getting necessary health treatments while in prison. One of them is "at risk of death," the center said. Below is the statement and action request

Doctor Mohammed Zare’e, who was detained on 11/5/2006 while demonstrating in support of judges, is facing the danger of death, since he has" insulin dependent diabetes" unstable state. At present Zare’e suffers from diabetic foot, peripheral neuropathy, hypertension.

Any delay in referral of Zare’e to a well equipped hospital may lead to gangrene and septicemia. This complication may lead to death.

In addition to the critical case of Zareh there are two other detainees who are also seriously ill: Yasser Al Drouby has "insulin dependent diabetes" and

Ahmed Salaah who has "chronic obstructive lung disease and emphysema".

We call upon you to appeal for the release of Mohammed Zare’e, Yasser Al Drouby and Ahmed Salah or at least transfer them to a suitable hospital.


President Hosni Mubarak: Fax: +202 3901998

Minister of Justice: Fax: +202 7922263 -7922265 -7922267

Minster of Health: Fax: +202 7953966

Attorney general: Fax: +202 5757165

Doctor Hamdy Al Sayyed, Head of Doctor's Syndicate: Fax: +202 7962751

Prison Administration: Fax: + 202 5741871

(My note: The Egyptian embassy in the United States can be reached by phone at (202) 895-5400. It's fax is (202) 244-4319. E-mail is

Friday, May 12, 2006

Amnesty International Statement on Beatings of Cairo Protesters

Amnesty International is greatly concerned by today’s events in Cairo when riot police violently dispersed hundreds of peaceful protestors demonstrating in support of two senior judges who are being disciplined for criticising last year’s parliamentary elections.

According to reports, riot police and men in plain clothes who were assisting them used excessive force against the demonstrators, beating them with truncheons and carrying out other assaults. This occurred when the protestors attempted to make their way to the High Court building, where the two judges, Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi, were due to appear to face accusations that they violated judicial rules by publicly criticising fraud and other irregularities during the elections. Tens of protestors were arrested and several journalists seeking to report the events were also briefly detained. A cameraman working for Al Jazeera was reportedly assaulted by police who also seized his equipment.

Police also used sealed off the area in which the hearing was to take place and used force against peaceful demonstrators when the two judges first appeared before the disciplinary panel on 27 April (see Egypt: Disciplinary action against judges a challenge to judicial independence, AI Index: MDE 12/007/2006, 28 April 2006), when the case against them was postponed until today to enable defence lawyers to review the case files against them. The two judges refused to attend today’s hearing in protest at the actions taken to prevent their supporters being present and the disciplinary panel postponed the case for a further week.

Amnesty International is calling on the Egyptian authorities to order an independent investigation into reports of excessive use of force by police and to ensure that any police officers or other officials alleged to have violated human rights are held to account.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Security Force Beatings Continue

Reuters is reporting three more non-violent demonstrations Thursday were violently broken up by security forces. Six reporters were briefly detained at one demonstration, and photographers from Reuters and al-Jazeera were dragged away. The al-Jazeera cameraman was "badly beaten," according to the Reuters report.

The protests were in support of judges facing a disciplinary committee for criticizing election abuses last year. At one of the demonstrations, more than 300 Muslim Brothers appeared, according to news reports. Dozens of MB members have been arrested, according to the movement.

But it's not just the Muslim Brothers. Secular opponents, political party members and members of the judiciary are part of this growing groundswell of protest. The demonstrations to date have been vocal but small; today's was so large that some Cairo shops in the vicinity of the three protests closed up. But while the demonstrators are growing in number, according to news reports they are still outnumbered by the "thousands" of security forces who were called upon to prevent the protesters from entering the court house. Inside, two judges Mahmoud Mekky and Hesham Bastawisi face charges deemed unfair by many activists. They charge the government is attempting to crack down on the traditional independence of the Egyptian regular judiciary.

Here is the BBC report:

Here is the Reuters report:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fear of Execution after an Unfair Trial

Brothers Ezzat and Hamdi Ali Hanafi have been sentenced to death after an unfair
trial, and could be executed at any time. The sentence has been sent to the
supreme religious authority (Mufti) for approval. President Hosni Mubarak still
has the power to commute the sentence.

Ezzat and Hamdi Ali Hanafi were sentenced to death on 25 September 2005 by the
(Emergency) Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), whose procedures fall far short
of international fair trial standards. They had been arrested in March 2004 and
convicted of using an area of land belonging to the state to grow unspecified
"drugs"; when the security forces raided the property, they allegedly offered
armed resistance, and took hostages to use as human shields.

The brothers are the first defendants sentenced to death by the SSSC since 1998,
according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. Under the Emergency
Law, which has been in force in Egypt since 1981, they had no right to appeal
against this verdict and could only lodge a petition to quash or reduce the
sentence. On 2 May the Deputy Military Governor of Egypt rejected this petition.
Under the state of emergency, the Deputy Military Governor is equivalent to
President Mubarak's deputy.

Had they been tried before an ordinary criminal court, both defendants would
have had the chance to appeal to the Court of Cassation on grounds of procedural
irregularity. On a number of occasions the Court of Cassation has ordered
retrials for people sentenced to death by courts of first instance.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
- expressing concern that brothers Ezzat and Hamdi Ali Hanafi are under sentence
of death and could be executed at any time;
- explaining that you are opposed to the death penalty in all cases, as a
violation of the right to life (as set out in Article 3 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights: (Everyone has the right to life, liberty and
security of person(), which has never been shown to deter crime more effectively
than other punishments, and is brutalizing to all involved in its application;
- urging the Mufti not to approve the death sentences;
- urging the President to use his constitutional powers to grant clemency and
commute this and all other outstanding death sentences;
- drawing attention to the world trend towards abolishing or reducing the use of
the death penalty, in accordance with Article 6 of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party.

H.E. Muhammad Hosni Mubarak
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
'Abedine Palace
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: 011 20 2 390 1998

Monday, May 08, 2006

More Arrests Today

Activists are reporting the detention of another 8 peaceful protesters, May 7, following a non-violent demonstration in Cairo outside a courthouse in South Cairo. According to reports, Sami Sedhom, Assistant to the Egyptian Minister of Interior, led the assault. He yelled at the demonstrators, “You bitches. You sons of bitches. This is how it is going to be from now on if you do not behave and know your limits. If you do not behave you’ll have the bottom of my old shoes all over you”.

Activists say the following people were arrested:

- Ahmed Abdel Gawad, Ghad party, youth for change activist

- Ahmed Abdel Ghaffar, youth for change activist

- Alaa Ahmed Seif, youth for change activist, and son of Ahmed Seif the director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, one of the most outspoken human rights organizations in Egypt.

- Asmaa Ali, Center for socialist studies and youth for change activist

- Fadi Iskandar, Karam party, youth for change activist

- Karim El Shaer, labor party and youth for change activist

- Nada el Qassas, Kefaya movement

- Rasha Azab, youth for change activist

Detainees start hunger strike

Forty of the people arrested by the government in the wake of anti-government protests have started a hunger strike and are asking for our support. Here is a public statement of theirs and a list of their requests:

"We, the activists who were kidnapped from in front of the judges’ club and the Cairo court house, at present held in the high security Tora prison:

"Express our complete solidarity with the Egyptian judges, conscience of the nation, in all their demands and condemn the persistent violation of their independence by the Mubarak regime, its repeated extension of the emergency state and escalation of its oppressive policies against reform movements.

"While we willingly pay a small share of the price of freedom for our country, we insist at the same time on our basic human rights, granted to prisoners of war, and announce the beginning of a hunger strike until our following demands are met:

"1- An impartial investigation with state security officers and thugs who brutally broke into our protest and insulted the Egyptian flag by stamping on it upon direct orders of state security officer Walid El Dessouki

"2- An impartial investigation with state security officers who tried to kill 16 of us, by crowding them, while handcuffed to each other, in a closed truck and closing all sources of ventilation after the interrogation at state security prosecution in Heliopolis. This situation lasted for 6 full hours, from 9 pm on Thursday the 27th of April 2006 until 3 am on Friday the 28th of April 2006. We were kept in the police truck throughout parked on the highway in Tora, with all the dangers that this would entail to our safety and life.

"3- An end to the dangers facing 23 of us who are kept among criminal prisoners and an impartial investigation with the prison administration, which ignored our official complaint, dated 4 May 2006, regarding the widespread use of drugs and white weapons in those cells.

"4- An impartial investigation with state security officers who kidnapped us from the streets of Cairo, mostly with Walid El Dessouki, regarding the theft of our personal belongings such as cameras, mobile phones and cash. We also demand an impartial investigation with the prison administration which has neglected the complaint we submitted in that regard, indicating its total submission to the instructions of state security intelligence in violation of the emergency law itself and the bylaws of prison administration.

"5- An impartial investigation in the threats of brutal torture, which we receive from state security officers in prison “as they do with the Islamic groups” they say.

"6- Permission to use the mosque for prayer and access to newspapers and magazines as mentioned in the prison bylaws.

"7- Impartial investigation with prison administration for its discrimination between rich, “connected” prisoners whose cells remain open throughout the day and most of the night without supervision, while poor prisoners are subject to continuous humiliation."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Family Members Speak Out about Arrests

Despite the continued government harassment, friends and family members of the Egyptians arrested in the last week of April are speaking out about the government. The following statement was issued this week:

"You wonder why we are here and for whom?

"We are here because of the 40 young Egyptian men who were arrested by security authorities last week. Their only crime is that they raised the Egyptian flag and demanded the independence of the judiciary.. an independence that is not controlled but he government or anybody else.. Riot police and officers beat and humiliated 40 citizens who were raising banners and flags.. they were not throwing bombs of knives; they did not steal millions, which they transferred to their accounts in foreign banks; they did not receive bribes nor did they embezzle millions; among them was nobody who owns a fairy that drowned with one thousand Egyptian workers and than fled to London under the pretext of therapy. At the time when terrorist attacks were hitting Sinai, Egyptians security was crashing and detaining Egyptian youth for no crime other than speaking the truth. Last Thursday more then 5 thousand riot police blocked the streets and prevented us fro supporting our honorable judges. They blocked people from going to work, from reaching hospitals; they totally blocked the traffic. They ignored the terrorists in Sinai and focused on the peaceful opposition.

"The irony is that all this happened at the same time when Mubarak was giving his May Day speech talking about peace, freedom and democracy, about safety and security and prosperity. At that very moment his security forces were attacking people because they were expressing their views. Soldiers were stepping with their boots on university students who were in the demonstration. Foreign TVs and newspapers were there filming and reporting the aggression against our sons, daughters and colleagues. However Egyptian TV on all channels were broadcasting Mubarak’s speech, full of lies and fantasies about democracy and how content people are. It was as if he was talking on a totally different country.

"We are here today to protest this injustice and corruption which we face under Mubarak’s regime. We are part of you. We are not strangers. The detainees could have been your brothers or your sons. Put yourself in the place of a mother whose son has been taken away from her and thrown into Tora prison, not knowing whether he was beaten or for what charge he was arrested; not able to know anything about his whereabouts. Those young men were not arrested because of murder or drug dealing. They were arrested because they understand what is going on in our country and are courageously expressing their opinions. Anyone of us could subject to that same arrest because we live under emergency laws. And yesterday Mubarak extended the emergency state for a further two years. This law allows the police to attack people on the streets and to spread fear among people. They can basically detain anybody they want, and ruin their careers, under the pretext that they are “dangerous”.

"We are here to tell this regime that they must release our children, because their detention is illegal; and to protest the extension of the emergency state which led security authorities to neglect the terror in Sinai and show off its power against peaceful young people who demand their rights using banners and statements, without weapons or violence. They ignore the thieves and the terrorists and focus on those who expose corruption.

"If the government was serious about reform which they have been talking about on each and every occasion, it should release the detained youth immediately, it should let people express their views. If the regime was confident that it is being just, if they do not have anything to hide, why should they fear ordinary citizens who talk about corruption?

Join us, because injustice is indiscriminate. Join us so that we can release the detained. Let us follow the ancient wisdom: 'The best deed is a word of justice in the face of a tyrant sultan'”.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

An Overview of a Week of Arrests

The following statement was released by a coalition of Egyptian human rights NGOs this week:

Until Saturday morning, the 29th of April 2006, the following was the outcome of the Egyptian regime’s campaign to oppress the political and democratic change movement which organized in support and solidarity with the movement of Egyptian judges demanding the independence of the judiciary from all other authorities, foremost the executive authority:

I. First round of arrests at dawn on the 24th of April 2006:

Several have been arrested, 12 of them have been referred to Kasr el Nil prosecution office (case no. 5476/2006), the prosecution ordered a 15 days extension of their imprisonment and based its decision on the authority of the state security prosecution derived from Article 10 of the emergency law. Names of those arrested in this round:

Adel Fawzi Taufik, Ahmed Fathi, Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Salah, Ahmed Yasser El Droubi, Bassem Hussein, Emad Farid Abdel Latif, Hamada Ragab Mohamed, Mohamed Mekki, Mohamed Sharkawy, Nael Abdel Hamid, Yasser Ismail Zaki.

II. Second round of arrests:

The second round took place on the 26th of April 2006. 16 individuals were summoned to state security prosecution on the 27th of April in high state security case no. 415/2006, which ordered a 15 days extension of their imprisonment. Those are:

Akram Ali Helmia, Bahaa Saber Hemeida, Gamal Abdel Fattah, Hussein Mohamed Ali, Ibrahim El Sahari, Kamal Khalil, Malek Mostafa Mohamed, Moh. Abdel Rahman Kamel, Mohamed Adel Fahmi, Moh. Ahmed el Dardiri, Mohamed Fawzi Imam, Saad Abdallah Hamdi, Saher Ibrahim Gad, Sameh Mohamed Said, Sami Hassan Diab, Yasser El Sayyed Badran

III. Third Round of arrests

The third and most violent round took place on the 27th of April, which is the day of the judges’ extraordinary general assembly meeting. The day witnessed the climax of both the solidarity movement of the judges and also the police aggression against supporters. We do not have an accurate account of the numbers of people arrested, but the following are the names of those who were interrogated by the state security prosecution on the 28th of April 2006, all within the same high state security case no. 415/2006, which again extended their imprisonment of 15 days.

Ali Fathi Ali, Ashraf Ibrahim Mohamed, Emad Fahim Abdel Ghani, Fathi Abdel Raouf, Hamdi Abou El Maati Kenawi, Hani Lotfi El Sawi, Ibrahim abdel Aziz Abdel Dayem, Ibrahim El Sayyed Attia, Karim Mohamed, Mohamed Abdel Latif, Wael Ahmed Khalil

On the same day another list of names was brought to the prosecution. However they were not interrogated and until now we have no information regarding the charges against them nor their legal status. Those are:

Hamada Ragab Ahmed, Ibrahim Mohamed Bahgat, Fayez Hassan Oloum, Sayyed Hassan Abdel Aziz, Ashraf Moh. Abdel Aziz, Walid Gamal Arab, Mubarak Salem Sayyed, Wael Hassan Mohamed, Hamada Moh. Ramdan, Sayyed Mahmoud Moh., Ahmed Gomaa Ahmed, Ibrahim Belal Ibrahim.

During the interrogations a long list of other names were mentioned, charged of agitating demonstrations, distribution of leaflets, destruction of public and private property and blocking the traffic.

All of them are held in the high security Torra prison.

IV. Fourth Round:

On the morning of the 29th of April 2006 police arrested Ihab el Kholy and Amir Hamdi Salem, whose names were among those mentioned in the interrogations. They have been released later in the day.


The following are the charges against the various protesters, with small variations among them:

Gathering of more than 5 people with the aim of disrupting the general authority from carrying out its job.

Insult of the president of the republic using public means such as shouting, chanting and writing.

Dissemination of provocation propaganda and malicious rumors which could disrupt public security and cause damage to public interest.

Deliberate block of traffic.

Verbal aggression against police officers while carrying out their job.

Possession of leaflets prepared for distribution and printing tools (spray)

Destruction of some public and private property.

Blocking the roads without permission from relevant authorities.

Agitation to organize demonstrations, distribution of leaflets, and block of traffic.

Legal base for charges

I. Criminal code

Article 179: Imprisonment for the insult of the president; Article 184: Imprisonment and/or 5000-10000 LE fine for insult of parliament, Shura council, army, courts, authorities or public institutions; 15 years imprisonment/ with hard labor for deliberate block or disruption of safety of public transportation; Article 133: No more than 6 months imprisonment or no more than 200 LE fine for verbal or nonverbal insult or threat of public servant or police officer or anybody in charge of a public service during exercise of job; Article 102: Imprisonment and 50-200 LE fine for deliberate dissemination of false news, information, rumors or agitating propaganda which could disrupt public safety, disseminate fear among citizens or damage public interest; also for possession of publications containing any of the above if they were intended to show to others; also for possession of any tool of printing, recording or publicity used, even if temporary, to print or broadcast any of the above; Article 90: Imprisonment no longer than 5 years for deliberate damage of public buildings or possessions or government buildings.

II. Law no. 10 concerning gathering

Article 2: No more than 6 months imprisonment and no more than 20 pounds fine for anybody who participates in a gathering of 5 people at least planning to commit a crime or stop or obstruct the implementation of laws and regulations or influence of authorities AND anybody who knew of the objectives of the gathering and did not move away from it. Also, imprisonment for no longer than two years and a fine of no more than 50 LE for anybody who is carrying a weapon or any instrument which could be lethal if used as a weapon. Article 4: Leaders of the gathering are subject to the same penalties mentioned in article 2, are criminally responsible for any action done by any of the participants even if they were not present at the time of the action.

The Defense:

Refused the interrogation by the state security prosecution for fear of lack of impartiality and called for an appointment of a magistrate in accordance with article 64 of criminal procedures law, in view of the political nature of the charges and in view of the fact that the public prosecutor is appointed by the despotic executive authority.

Unconstitutionality of the state security prosecution.

Egyptian Association against Torture

Arab Network for Human Rights Information

Institution for Freedom of Thought and Expression

Hisham Mubarak Law Center

El Nadim Center

Monday, May 01, 2006

Egypt: Disciplinary action against judges a challenge to judicial independence

Amnesty International is greatly concerned about the independence of the judiciary in Egypt as disciplinary action is being taken against two senior judges on account of their criticism of alleged fraud and other irregularities during the country’s recent parliamentary elections. As many as eight other judges will reportedly be facing disciplinary action on similar grounds.

Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi, vice-presidents at the Court of Cassation, stood before a disciplinary board in the High Court Building (Dar al-Qadaa al-‘Ali) in Cairo on 27 April 2006 on account of their outspoken criticism of the irregularities that marred parliamentary elections in November and December last year and their pressing for an inquiry into alleged electoral fraud where a number of judges close to the government are said to have been complicit. The hearing was postponed until 11 May in order to allow the defence team representing the two judges to examine the case files.

The disciplinary action against Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi represents a serious challenge to judicial independence in Egypt at a time when there is growing tension between the authorities and the Judges Association about a new draft law on the role and the authority of the judiciary. Amnesty International fears that such an action is linked to their strong vocal stance calling for more independence of the judiciary and condemning the lack of transparency by the authorities concerning the draft law.

Amnesty International regrets that Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi are being disciplined for fulfilling their professional duties with integrity and reporting on electoral fraud as well as for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression. In addition, some of the members of the disciplinary board have publicly condemned statements made by the two judges, adding to concerns that they may not receive an impartial hearing.

International standards related to safeguarding the independence of the judiciary and to fairness of proceedings, including disciplinary proceedings against judges, underscore that all disciplinary proceedings shall be fair and determined in accordance with established standards of independence and impartiality. Furthermore, judges, like other citizens, are entitled to exercise their right to freedom of expression, afforded to them in the Egyptian Constitution and the international human right treaties to which Egypt is a state party.

Amnesty International considers that taking disciplinary action against Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi, or intimidating other judges for fulfilling their duties or for freely expressing their views, would violate the Egyptian Constitution and international standards. It would also be inconsistent with the Egyptian authorities’ duty to ensure the independence of the judiciary. The authorities should initiate a transparent consultative process to review the law on judicial authority. Amnesty International is also urging the authorities to release all those who were arrested merely because of peacefully demonstrating in support of the judges and to investigate police abuses.

Based on Amnesty International’s concerns about continuing threats to the independence of the judiciary in Egypt, the organization calls on the Egyptian authorities to extend immediately an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of the Judges and Lawyers to visit Egypt.

Many judges demonstrating against the referral of Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi before the disciplinary board were confronted by heavy police security, obstructing their march from the Judges Association building to the High Court and sealing off the whole area. Security officers also hit with sticks a number of people who turned out to support the judges, preventing them from approaching the Judges’ Association building and at least 50 people, including political activists, were arrested.

Eight other judges will reportedly be facing disciplinary action for having publicly criticized voting irregularities during parliamentary elections. They include Muhammed al-Khidhiri, Ahmed Mekki, Yahya Galal, Ahmed Saber, Hisham Ginina, Issam Abdelgabbar, Naggi Derbala, and Hossam al-Ghiryani.

Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi had their judicial immunity lifted on 15 April 2006. They are both members of the Judges’ Association, a professional association that represents thousands of judges across the country. The Association refused to sanction the results in a number of voting stations following the vote-rigging reported by more than 100 judges. Under the Egyptian Constitution, judges are vested with the power to supervise elections and endorse its results.

Many members of the Judges’ Association have been very vocal about the lack of transparency with which the Egyptian authorities have been handling amendments to the draft law on judicial authority. The draft law was originally submitted by the Judges’
Association in a move to guarantee the independence of the judiciary. It sought to increase the number of elected seats in the Supreme Judiciary Council (the body that oversees the nomination, appointment, placement and promotion of judges) and to allow the election of the head of the Court of Cassation, who will also serve as head of the Council. The composition of the Supreme Judicial Council is currently decided by the Ministry of Justice.