Human rights lawyer Mohamed Zaree, a researcher with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, has been selected as a finalist for the 2017 Martin Ennals award, designed to provide protective publicity to human rights defenders.
Zaree is banned from travelling abroad, and was turned back at Cairo airport while on his way to Tunisia in May 2016. The travel ban was based on a police report filed in 2011 which accused a number of Egyptian activists and rights organisations of receiving illegal foreign funding.
The case did not lead to prosecution in 2011 and became dormant, but resurfaced last year.
Also being investigated in the case is the head of the organisation, Bahey El-Din Hassan. Others accused include Hossam Bahgat, an investigative journalist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and Gamal Eid, a lawyer and founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. The three have been banned from travel and had their assets frozen.
Zaree is CIHRS’s legal researcher and responsible for the organisation’s media outreach and advocacy.
“Mohamed is in imminent danger continuously of being detained and despite that he is fighting and working on human rights,” said Amnesty International’s Guadalupe Marengo.
Mary Lawlor of Front Line Defenders described Zaree as “a real leader,” saying that he has “succeeded in mobilising all the other NGOs and civil society in Egypt and getting them to act in a common way forward.”
The two other candidates for the award are a group of five human rights defenders in pre-trial detention in Cambodia (FreeThe5KH), and a transgender woman from El Salvador, Karla Avelar.
According to the award organisers, FreeThe5KH have been detained for their work with the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association amid a crackdown on civil society and political opposition in Cambodia, while Avelar has suffered discrimination, violence, exploitation, and rape and was imprisoned and then regularly abused by fellow prisoners with the knowledge and participation of the prison authorities.
The award will be presented on 10 October in Geneva.
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders is a collaboration of ten human rights organisations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. Its jury is composed of a number of prominent rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.