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Public Statement: Egypt (December 2018)

The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the disappearance of Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub
 
Toronto, ON — The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern over the arrest, detention and charges against lawyer Ezzat Ghoniem. When serious issues of apparent injustice to lawyers and the judiciary come to our attention, we speak out.
                                 
Ezzat Ghoniem is a prominent human rights lawyer and the Director of the non-governmental organization the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms. Azzoz Mahgoub is a human rights lawyer who also works at the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms.
 
The Law Society understands that Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub have not been seen since September 14, 2018, and that both were last seen in the custody of Egyptian security forces. On September 4, a court ordered them both to be released on probation pending an investigation into their case. Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub were then moved to two different police stations where they were to be held until their release. On September 14, when their families each went to visit them, they were informed that Ghoniem and Mahgoub had already been released. However, the families and lawyers of Ghoniem and Mahgoub have stated that they do not know their whereabouts.
 
The Law Society of Ontario is deeply troubled by the situation of Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub and urges Egypt to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
 
Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:
 
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
 
Article 17 states:
 
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
 
Furthermore, Article 23 provides:
 
Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.
 
The Law Society urges the Government of Egypt to:

  1. disclose immediately the physical and psychological condition as well as the whereabouts of Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub;

  2. release Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub, unconditionally, and ensure that they are returned home;

  3. ensure that Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub are not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, have regular, unrestricted access to family, lawyers of their choice, and medical care;

  4. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub;

  5. guarantee that adequate reparation will be provided to Ezzat Ghoniem and Azzoz Mahgoub if they are found to be victims of human rights abuses;

  6. ensure that all lawyers and judges in Egypt are adequately safeguarded by the authorities such that they are able to carry out their professional duties and activities free from intimidation, hindrance, harassment, improper interference, the threat of criminalization, or other human rights violations; and

  7. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.