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Egypt escalates action against women human rights defenders; UN experts condemn
A group of United Nations experts has strongly condemned Egypt for escalating its action against women human rights defenders and women rights groups as part of a continuing clampdown on civil society.

"The Government's actions are preventing women human rights defenders from conducting their legitimate activities and professions, and are leaving thousands of women in need of support and security," the experts said.

They added, "The noose is tightening around the women's rights movement, and this is having a direct and considerable impact on human rights."

The experts highlighted the arrest of lawyer Azza Soliman, a prominent human rights defender who founded the Centre for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA).

She was detained on December 7 and questioned by an investigative judge over the highly controversial case 173/2011, which centres on foreign funding of non-governmental organisations in Egypt.

"The arrest and investigation of Azza Soliman demonstrates that the repression of Egypt's human rights movement has escalated to a higher level. Soliman is a central figure in the country's independent women's rights movement. Targeting her sends a strong negative signal from the Government about its hostile position towards women's rights defenders," the experts said with concern.

The Government must immediately repeal all repressive measures against human rights defenders, including travel bans and legislation that criminalizes legitimate activities, as they are not in compliance with Egypt's obligations under international human rights law, they added.

Despite being freed on bail, Soliman still faces charges of having received foreign funding that may "harm the state interest", having established an entity that conducts activities similar to that of associations' activities and tax evasion.

The group of experts stressed that the action against Soliman was not an isolated case.

The experts include Alda Facio, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Dubravka  Simonovi, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

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