At least 40 human rights workers, lawyers and political activists have been arrested in Egypt since late October 2018, Human Rights Watch has revealed.
Most of the people were targeted because they provided humanitarian and legal support to the families of political prisoners. It is currently estimated that there are some 60,000 prisoners of conscience in Egypt.
These latest figures confirm authorities are widening their crackdown on human rights defenders. Earlier this month 19 human rights activists were arrested and forcibly disappeared in pre-dawn raids in one day, including 60-year-old human rights lawyer and Hoda Abdelmoniem.
Abdelmoniem, who works as a legal advisor to the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms (ECFR), is one of a number of prominent members of the organisation who have been targeted by Egyptian security services.
ECFR’s Executive Director Ezzat Ghoniem and former spokesperson Mohamed Abu Hourayra are among those in jail.
Shortly after the raids ECFR announced the suspension of its work on the basis that the current climate in Egypt is “incompatible with human rights work”.
HRW said all of the 40 people arrested since October were involved with the ECFR.
“The government apparently wants to quash what remains of Egyptian civil society,” said deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, Michael Page.