EGYPT: Blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah is detained arbitrarily according to UN Working Group

Press release

Paris-Geneva, July 22, 2016 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a partnership of FIDH and OMCT) welcomes the recent opinion of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) recognising the arbitrary nature of Alaa Abdel Fattah’s arrest and detention and calling for his immediate release.

On June 29, 2016, the WGAD published its opinion [1] regarding the detention of Alaa Abdel Fattah. The Working Group stated that “the peaceful, non-violent expression or manifestation of one’s opinion, or dissemination or reception of information, even via the Internet, if it does not constitute incitement to national, racial or religious hatred or violence, remains within the boundaries of the freedom of expression. Hence, deprivation of liberty applied on the sole ground of having committed such actions is arbitrary”.

Alaa Abdel Fattah is an Egyptian blogger and civil and political rights activist, member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” [2] movement. Since November 28, 2013, he has spent 2,5 years in detention for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedoms of expression and demonstration. Two different sets of charges were brought against him in relation to protests held in November 2013 and May 2012. On January 5, 2014, the North Giza Criminal Court sentenced him to a suspended sentence of one year in prison on charges of “arson”, “theft”, “damage to property”, “violence” and “danger to public safety” in relation to the first case. On February 23, 2015, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment for “organising a protest without a permit”, “organising an illegal assembly that endangers public security”, “blocking roads”, “assembling illegally” and “attacking and injuring a public servant”. While he is serving his prison sentence, he is now serving charges for “insulting the judiciary.

The WGAD stated in its opinion that “the aim of such a demonstration was to express different legitimate views and opinions regarding amendments to legislation of Egypt”.

The case of Alaa Abdel Fattah is illustrative of the extensive scope of the repression campaign targeting human rights defenders for their legitimate activities under the current regime. The Working Group highlighted that the decision, linked with previous ones, “indicates systemic and widespread arbitrary detentions of individuals in the context of peaceful protests”. Ms.Sanaa Seif [3], Mr. Abdel Fattah’s sister, is currently serving a six-month term for “insulting judiciary” as she refused to answer to the judge’s questions and replied that she did not want to be part of this masquerade. Other human rights defenders, including Mr. Malek Adly, Mr. Haytham Mohamadeen, Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Ahmed Douma, Ms. Aya Hijazi, Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Mr. Ahmed Doma, Mr. Ahmed Maher, Mr. Ahmed Abdallah, Ms. Gamila Ahmed Saraeldin, Ms. Abir Said Mohamed Mostafa, are currently in detention [4].

The Observatory calls upon the Egyptian authorities to implement the UN decision and to release immediately and unconditionally and drop all charges against Alaa Abdel Fattah as well as all human rights defenders detained in the country for their human rights activities.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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