Egyptian authorities "have stepped up their onslaught against the country's human rights community by arresting at least 19 human rights lawyers and activists in a series of raids today," Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The leading international rights group explained that: "So far at least eight women and 11 men were arrested in raids which began in the early hours of [Thursday] morning". It added: "Among those arrested is the prominent 60-year-old human rights lawyer Hoda Abdelmoniem, a former member of the National Council for Human Rights," stating that Egyptian security forces "broke into her apartment and ransacked it before taking her to an undisclosed location". Amnesty also said:
Another of those arrested today is Mohamed Abu Horira, lawyer and former spokesperson for the Egyptian Coordination group, while human rights defender Ezzat Ghoniem, the group's co-founder, and Azzouz Mahgoub, another lawyer at the organisation, have been forcibly disappeared since 14 September. Both were arrested in March but a court ordered their release on 4 September. However, security forces ignored the court order and instead forcibly disappeared them from prison.
Amnesty International added that these "arrests prompted the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, a leading Egyptian human rights organisation, to suspend its activities citing the hostile environment towards civil society in Egypt".
Amnesty International's North Africa Campaigns Director, Najia Bounaim, said: "Today's chilling wave of arrests targeting the human rights community is yet another appalling setback for human rights in Egypt". She continued: "With these arrests the Egyptian authorities have once more demonstrated their ruthless determination to crush all activism and dismantle the human rights movement in the country".
Bounaim added that: "Anyone who dares to speak out about human rights violations in Egypt today is in danger. Human rights defenders should be allowed to carry out their work without fear of harassment, arrest or imprisonment".
She also called on "all those arrested for their human rights work [to] be immediately released".