Egypt: Death in custody of Mr. Gamal Sorour and judicial harassment of 32 Nubian rights activists

21/11/2017
Urgent Appeal

EGY 005 / 1117 / OBS 114
Death while in custody /
Provisional release /
Judicial harassment /
Restrictions to freedom of assembly
Egypt
November 21, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and death while in custody of Mr. Gamal Sorour, French-Egyptian resident, prominent Nubian human rights defender, as well as about the arbitrary arrest, subsequent release and judicial harassment of 32 other activists actively involved in the defence of minority and Nubian rights in the Aswan governorate, including Messrs. Mohamed Azmy, lawyer and President of the General Nubian Union [1], and Maysara Abdelaziz Mohammad Ali (also known as Maysara Abdoun), Training Coordinator at Border Center for Support & Consulting (BSC) [2], as well as Ms. Seham Othman [3].

According to the information received, on November 15, 2017, the Aswan Misdemeanour State Security Emergency Court ordered the release of Messrs. Mohamed Azmy, Maysara Abdoun, Ms. Seham Othman and 29 other Nubian rights activists, pending trial. They are all being prosecuted on charges of “participating in an unauthorised protest” and “repeating chants against the State for the purpose of harming public interest” [4]. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison. The next hearing in their trial is scheduled on December 12, 2017.

Prior to this decision, on November 5, 2017, Mr. Gamal Sorour, who had been arrested alongside with Messrs. Mohamed Azmy, Maysara Abdoun and 22 other Nubian rights activists during a peaceful demonstration on September 3, 2017 calling for the respect of Nubian land rights, died in custody, due to medical negligence (see background information). Subsequently, other Nubian rights activists were arrested during peaceful solidarity protests carried out in October and November, and eight of them were added to the case, including Ms. Seham Othman.

The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms Mr. Gamal Sorour’s death in custody and urges the Egyptian authorities to immediately order an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable.

The Observatory expresses its concerns over the reprisals against rights activists defending the constitutional Nubian right of return [5], as well as that the exercise of their right to peaceful protest is being prosecuted by a State Security Emergency Court. Under Egyptian State of emergency, sentences imposed by these courts cannot be appealed and only require the President’s approval to be executed. The Observatory calls upon the Egyptian authorities to put an end to the judicial harassment of Messrs. Mohamed Azmy, Maysara Abdoun, Ms. Seham Osman and the above-mentioned 29 other Nubian rights activists.

Background information:

On September 3, 2017, on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, Nubian rights defenders held a peaceful demonstration, demanding the return of Nubians to their ancestral lands, which they were evicted from in the 1960s, including for the construction of the High Dam on the Nile. On that same day, Messrs. Gamal Sorour, Mohamed Azmy, Maysara Abdoun together with 22 Nubian activists were assaulted by security forces, arrested and taken into custody to Shallal Central Security forces camp. They were reportedly being held in one cell with several sleeping on the floor.

Mr. Gamal Sorour, who suffered from diabetes, was not given proper access to medical care during his detention. As a result, on November 5, 2017, he entered in a diabetic coma and died while in custody. Reportedly, the prison authorities did not give him access to his medication for five days prior to his death, allegedly because they could not understand the label on the medication, which was written in French. In addition, prison authorities allegedly did not immediately transfer Mr. Gamal Sorour to the hospital when he fell into a coma.

Subsequently, other Nubian rights activists were arrested during peaceful solidarity protests carried out in October and November [6], and eight of them were added to the case.

On November 13, 2017, Messrs. Mohamed Azmy, Maysara Abdoun, Ms. Seham Othman and the other 29 other Nubian human rights activists were referred to a Misdemeanour State Security Emergency Court under charges of “participating in an unauthorised protest” and “repeating chants against the state for the purpose of harming public interest”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Mohamed Azmy, Maysara Abdoun, Ms. Seham Othman, the above-mentioned 29 other Nubian rights activists and all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Order an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into Mr. Gamal Sorour’s death in custody, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Mohamed Azmy, Maysara Abdoun, Ms. Seham Othman, the above-mentioned 29 other Nubian rights activists as well as against all human rights defenders in Egypt, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2; and

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Egypt.

Addresses:

· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Fax: +202 2391 1441. Email: p.spokesman@op.gov.eg, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
· Prime Minister, Mr. Sherif Ismail. Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016.
· Minister of the Interior, Mr. Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
· Minister of Justice, Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim, Fax: +202 2795 8103 

· Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Waly, Fax: +202 3337 5390
· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel Sadek, Fax: +202 2577 4716
· Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council For Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg
· H.E. Mr. Amr Ramadan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt@ties.itu.int, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email: embassy.egypt@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.

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