The United Nations has called for the immediate release of detained Egyptian human rights defender Hossam Bahgat with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon describing as “profoundly worrying” the latest in a series of such detentions.
According his lawyers and colleagues Mr. Bahgat was summoned to a military intelligence building in Cairo on Sunday morning, 8 October, and then interrogated without legal counsel for more than eight hours, on the subject of his writing, and in particular about an investigative report he wrote for an independent on-line news site called ‘Mada Masr’ back in October.
Lawyers did eventually get access to him late on Sunday afternoon, but his whereabouts have been unknown since then. His detention was extended to four days by the military prosecutor and will be reviewed on Wednesday, reported the Office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Mr. Bahgat is a member of the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Global Civil Society Advisory Council and the founder of the group Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
“This is just the latest in a series of detentions of human rights defenders and others that are profoundly worrying to the Secretary-General,” his Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters yesterday at the regular briefing at UN Headquarters.
“The Secretary-General again underscores the importance of safeguarding freedom of speech and association in Egypt, and “he strongly believes that pluralism and vibrant civil society are key for achieving long-term stability in the country, including the guarantee that all peaceful voices are heard and represented,” the Spokesperson said.
Echoing those sentiments today on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, his Spokesperson, Rupert Colville, urged the Egyptian authorities to release Mr. Bahgat “without delay.”
At the regular bi-weekly news briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, Mr. Colville also urged Egyptian authorities to take urgent steps to halt the legal harassment of journalists, both national and international, who are simply following their profession in accordance with their legal right to freedom of expression and take equally urgent measures to halt the expanding use of the military justice system for cases involving civilians.