Seventeen UN human rights experts criticised Egypt for its use of anti-terrorism laws to detain activists fighting for women’s rights and against graft, torture and extra-judicial killings.
The experts’ joint statement, unusual for such a large number of signatories, named activists detained for months, highlighting the case of women’s rights campaigner Amal Fathy.
Her verdict will be announced, on charges of “incitement to overthrow the regime, terrorism, and publishing fake news in relation to her efforts to promote women’s rights”, the UN statement said.
“We are gravely concerned at the human rights defenders’ prolonged periods of detention, reportedly arising from their peaceful and legitimate defence of human rights,” they said.
The 17 independent experts all investigate rights for the UN Human Rights Council, which wrapped up a three-week session last week without any scrutiny of Egypt.
“The systematic targeting of human rights defenders is yet another indication the Egyptian Government is operating a zero-tolerance approach to dissent, which is often suppressed under the pretext of countering terrorism,” they said.
Egyptian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their statement.
Last month Amnesty International said Egypt had become an “open-air prison” under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Sisi supporters maintain the president has been trying to combat an Islamist insurgency and restore order to the country following years of chaos after Arab Spring demonstrations ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.