Earlier this week, more than 278 lawmakers from across Europe and the United States sent public letters to Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with a strong message denouncing the situation of prisoners of conscience in the country. In a show of mounting concern, 84 members of the European Parliament, 138 members of national parliaments across Europe, and 56 members of both chambers of the US Congress urged President al-Sisi to halt the unjust imprisonment of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and political activists in Egypt, who have been imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights.
The undersigned organisations consider this to be a timely and much needed step to address the dismal human rights situation in the country and call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. It is high time for the Egyptian authorities to uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and to break the cycle of impunity for serious human rights violations.
Particularly at this time of aggravated health risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawmakers called on Egypt to prioritise the human rights of detainees. The letters, issued one after another in the US and Europe, echo similar calls made earlier this year by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN human rights experts and international health bodies, and demonstrate increasing concerns regarding the prevailing climate of impunity in Egypt.
The letters come amid a continued deterioration of human rights in Egypt, just weeks after the Egyptian authorities once again resorted to unlawful force, mass arrests and censorship to crackdown on protests against the deteriorating economic situation. Despite the high risk to their lives, safety and freedom, Egyptians continue to make their voices heard. The government has also instrumentalised the COVID-19 pandemic to further curb fundamental freedoms and clamp down on any criticism of its handling of the health crisis.
Some of the prisoners of conscience named in the letters, including Ramy Shaath and Zyad el Elaimy, have spent over a year in pre-trial detention for their peaceful political activism. Human rights lawyers such as Mohamed al-Baqer and Mahienour al Massry, also named in the letters, have been targeted and detained for representing victims of enforced disappearance or arbitrary detention. Journalists Esraa Abdel Fattah, Solafa Magdy, Hossam al-Sayyad, and Mahmoud Hussein have all been detained for their critical reporting or views, further denying the public its right to information. Finally, the letters also named detained human rights researchers, including Patrick Zaki and Ibrahim Ezz el-din, who have been held in detention amidst the authorities’ zero tolerance to human rights activism.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
The Freedom Initiative