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Egypt: World leaders at COP27 must call for release of Egyptian-British activist at risk of death

Responding to continued fears over the fate of detained Egyptian-British activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who has been on hunger strike in prison since April and started refusing water on 6 November, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“The Egyptian authorities have cruelly and stubbornly refused to release Alaa or even to share any information on his well-being or exact location with his family, even though his mother has for the past three days waited at the gates of Wadi al-Natrun prison in the hope of receiving a letter from him. Alaa is now being detained incommunicado after the authorities denied him access to his family and the outside world. This alarmingly increases the risk of enforced disappearance, as well as torture and other ill-treatment.

Alaa is a prisoner of conscience who should never have been detained in the first place. Yet, now, he faces a very real risk of dying in custody while his family waits in agony for news. 

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International

“Alaa is a prisoner of conscience who should never have been detained in the first place. Yet, now, he faces a very real risk of dying in custody while his family waits in agony for news. With the eyes of the world transfixed on the glittering resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh during COP27, the plight of Alaa and his family has exposed the frightening reality of Egypt’s human rights abuses and the authorities’ total disregard for human life and their obligations under international law.

“World leaders and delegates visiting Egypt for COP27 must do everything in their power to pressure the authorities into immediately releasing Alaa and to speak out publicly that they expect nothing short of his unconditional release. The Egyptian authorities must ensure he receives adequate healthcare in line with medical ethics at a facility of his family’s choice and surrounded by his family and loved ones. The international community cannot continue with this inaction when Alaa is at risk of torture and even death. This would leave a grave reputational stain and illustrate the cost of not putting human rights at the centre of diplomacy.”

Background

Alaa Abdel Fattah, who has spent most of the past nine years unlawfully deprived of his liberty, was last arrested in September 2019. He has been denied access to consular officials since acquiring British citizenship in December 2021. 

On 20 December 2021, Alaa, human rights lawyer Mohamed Baker and blogger Mohamed Radwan “Oxygen” were convicted on bogus charges and sentenced to between four and five years in prison following a grossly unfair trial in reprisal for their activism and human rights work. 

All three are prisoners of conscience, having been solely targeted for their peaceful activism. They are among thousands arbitrarily detained in Egypt for political reasons. 

Amnesty International has consistently documented concerns over the denial of adequate healthcare in prison and interference by prison wardens and security officials in their medical assessment and care, including delays or even refusal to transfer the critically ill to hospital. Amnesty International has previously raised concerns over the independence of medical staff in Egyptian prisons, who report to the Ministry of Interior. As such, there are strong grounds to believe that decisions over his healthcare will not be made by independent medical professionals in compliance with medical ethics and free from coercion or interference by the authorities.