Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath has been released after two and a half years of unjustified detention without trial in Egypt. He arrived Jan. 8 in Paris, France where he was greeted by his wife Celine and many supporters (picture left from Amnesty International France).
One regret about his release is that as part of the terms, Ramy is required to give up his Egyptian citizenship, in violation of international human rights and legal standards. He leaves behind in Egypt a father, daughter and other family members, and it is not clear when he will be able to see them again.
His release came after more than two years of effort by a international coalition of NGOs and human rights groups, including the active participation of Amnesty International’s research team and sections in France, the United States, Spain, Belgium and Italy. It included engaging officials at the United Nations, the French government, the European Union and the US State Department and on Capitol Hill. The case is a reminder of the potential effectiveness of international pressure on Individuals at Risk Cases.
Amnesty International joined a coalition of groups in a public statement released upon Ramy’s arrival in Paris. The statement, which expresses continued concern for the thousands of Egyptian prisoners still detained on absurd claims of counter-terrorism, making false statements about Egypt and other unproven charges, can be found here.
The welcome lifting of a years-long state of emergency in Egypt is marred by ongoing trials of dozens of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, activists, opposition politicians and peaceful protesters by emergency courts where proceedings are inherently unfair, Amnesty International said today.
On November 1, blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, human rights lawyer and director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms Mohamed Baker (pictured left) and blogger and activist Mohamed Ibrahim (known as Mohammed “Oxygen”), appeared before an Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) to face politically motivated charges of “spreading false information to undermine national security” over their social media posts. All three have spent more than two years in abusive pretrial detention in appalling conditions, denied private access to lawyers and regular contact with their families. (UPDATE: After an unfair trial in an emergency court, Fattah was sentenced to five years in jail, and Baker — an Amnesty Write4Rights case — and Oxygen were sentenced to four years.)
“For this to be a meaningful step towards addressing Egypt’s human rights crisis, the authorities must immediately and unconditionally release those facing trial before emergency courts solely for peacefully exercising their human rights,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director. “They include Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed Baker and Mohamed ‘Oxygen’ Ibrahim, who have already spent over two years in prison solely for their peaceful activism and defense of human rights. The authorities should also stop the use of emergency courts altogether, as their proceedings breach the most basic fair trial standards, including defendants’ right to have their convictions and sentences reviewed by higher courts.”
Among those currently on trial by ESSCs on charges of spreading “false information” are human rights defender and student Patrick George Zaki; former parliamentarian and human rights lawyer Zyad el-Elaimy, journalists and politicians Hisham Fouad and Hossam Moanis; human rights defender Ezzat Ghoniem, human rights lawyer Hoda Abdelmoniem, former presidential candidate of Masr al-Qawiya party Abdelmoniem Aboulfotoh, and deputy party head Mohamed al-Kassas. All of them have been held in prolonged pretrial detention pending investigations over terrorism related accusations, some for over two years, the absolute maximum period for pretrial detention permissible under Egyptian law.
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Egypt’s National Security Agency (NSA), which specializes in policing terrorism and political cases, is increasingly using a well-honed pattern of unlawful summons, coercive questioning that amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and excessive monitoring/probation measures against human rights defenders and political activists, in an attempt to harass and intimidate them into silence, destroying lives.
A new Amnesty International report, “This will only end when you die” documents how the NSA used these measures to control the lives of 21 men and seven women between 2020 and 2021. The activists and human rights defenders said at every summons NSA officers regularly threatened them with arrest and prosecution unless they attended interrogations and raided the homes of those who failed to appear.
At least 20 described how living in constant fear of being detained by the NSA left them anxious and depressed, denied them key rights and severely disrupted their ability to lead a normal life. As a result, many are too scared to express their opinions or participate in political activities and some have been driven into exile.
The authorities continued to punish any public or perceived dissent, and severely repressed the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and association. Tens of journalists were detained arbitrarily solely in relation to their work or critical views. The authorities clamped down on reporting that deviated from the official narrative on COVID-19 and detained health care workers who expressed safety concerns. The authorities continued to severely restrict human rights organizations’ and political parties’ freedom of association. Security forces used unlawful force to disperse rare protests, and arbitrarily detained hundreds of protesters and bystanders pending investigations into “terrorism” and protest-related charges.
Thousands of people remained in prolonged pre-trial detention, including human rights defenders, journalists, politicians, lawyers and social media influencers. Conditions of detention remained cruel and inhuman and prisoners were denied adequate health care, which led or contributed to at least 35 deaths in prisons or shortly after release. Fair trial guarantees were routinely flouted. Death sentences were handed down and executions were carried out. Women were prosecuted on “morality” charges for the way they dressed, acted or earned money online. Dozens of workers were arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted for exercising their right to strike.
Residents of informal settlements were forcibly evicted. The authorities arrested and prosecuted Christians, Shi’a Muslims and others for blasphemy. Security forces dispersed protests by refugees over the killing of a Sudanese child with force and subjected them to racial slurs and beatings.
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Egypt’s National Security Agency (NSA) is abducting, torturing and forcibly disappearing people in an effort to intimidate opponents and wipe out peaceful dissent, said Amnesty International in a damning new report published today which highlights an unprecedented spike in enforced disappearances since early 2015.
International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
A continuing onslaught against young activists by the Egyptian authorities is a blatant attempt to crush the spirit of the country’s bravest and brightest young minds, and nip in the bud any future threat to their rule, said Amnesty International in a new briefing.
This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.
Despite some recent piecemeal reforms, shortfalls in Egyptian laws and entrenched impunity continue to foster a culture of routine sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
An unprecedented wave of sectarian attacks on Coptic Christians swept Egypt on 14 August 2013 as the security forces violently dispersed protest camps set-up by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.
This report focuses on the arrest, detention and deportation of refugees from Syria in Egypt, particularly following recent incidents in which boats leaving for Europe have been intercepted by the Egyptian authorities off the Egyptian Mediterranean coast.