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Egypt: UN concerned about life-threatening health condition of former presidential candidate Aboul Fotouh  

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News briefing

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice 

Geneva: January 13, 2022 

UN experts have expressed their deep concern about the the life-threatening health condition of former Egyptian presidential candidate, Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, as a result of the conditions of his detention.  

Arrest without a warrant and listing on terrorist lists: 

The experts explained in a memo sent to the Egyptian authorities on November 12, 2021, which has not been responded to yet, that Aboul-Fotouh, born on October 15, 1951, is the head of the Strong Egypt party, a former presidential candidate, and the former Secretary General of the Arab Doctors Union. He was arrested on various occasions due to his activities. 

The experts added that before the 2018 presidential elections, he repeatedly expressed his views on the situation in Egypt, criticizing the government, and gave three media interviews in which he called for a boycott of the presidential elections, and criticized the atmosphere of fear that, in his opinion, surrounded the electoral process. 

The UN experts indicated that on February 14, 2018, at approximately 8 pm, Aboul-Fotouh was arrested along with six members of the Political Bureau of the Strong Egypt Party, from his home office in New Cairo, allegedly without an arrest warrant, during a party meeting.  On On 15 February 2018, he was brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution, under case no. 440 of 2018. On February 19, 2018, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered his inclusion on the terror list for a period of five years, which resulted in several implications, including a travel ban and assets freeze. 

The experts added that on February 20, 2020, twelve days before the end of the two-year limit for pre-trial detention, Aboul-Fotouh’s name was included in a new case (Case No. 1781 of 2019) 

Extremely poor detention conditions: 

Regarding the conditions of his detention, the experts said that according to reports, Dr. Aboul-Fotouh has been held in isolation since the beginning of his arrest, in a cell of 3×2 meters and in a separate ward from all the other cells.  His daily 90-minute exercise time, although allowed outside his cell, is heavily restricted inside the same ward with no adequate access to sunlight or fresh air. He reportedly has no access to the prison library, mosque, or any outdoor space and can only communicate with the guards. He has been denied books, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. He can receive one 20-minute, no-contact visit (they are held through a glass barrier and a telephone receiver) per month, only from direct family members (since the beginning of 2020, only one adult family member per visit). 

While written communications with his family are allowed once a week, every letter must be cleared first by prison authorities before delivery. Letters delivery may face delays, and sometimes, for unknown reasons, are not delivered. 

Aboul-Fotouh’s communications with his lawyers are heavily restricted and constantly monitored. They have never been allowed any private meeting with him, including on the occasion of detention renewal sessions. 

Deterioration of his physical and psychological condition due to health care denial: 

The experts pointed out that Aboul-Fotouh suffers from several episodes of ischemic heart disease (angina attacks), as the medical response has always been limited to providing him with nitrate tablets under the tongue. On July 24, 2021, around midnight, Aboul-Fotouh experienced severe symptoms indicating the possibility of a fatal heart attack (severe chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, arm and neck pain, and fatigue). The prison guard tried to obtain medical assistance through the radio but reportedly obtained no response. 

The experts added that Aboul-Fotouh currently suffers from an angina attack on average every ten days that requires an urgent examination of the heart and blood vessels and close monitoring in an appropriate medical environment that cannot be performed in his current place of detention, and he also suffers from an advanced prostate disease, which requires urgent surgery, with multiple repercussions including urinary tract infections, extremely painful urinary colic, inability to control urination, as well as kidney and bladder stones, his family has repeatedly  suggested covering all expenses for any required medical service, but to no avail so far. 

Violation of the right to life and torture: 

The experts expressed their deep concern about the reported health condition of Dr. Aboul-Fotouh and the reported lack so far of adequate and proper medical care, without which his situation is likely to rapidly deteriorate, further increasing the risk that he may suffer extremely harmful or even fatal consequences. The experts stressed that, if confirmed, these allegations may amount to violations of the right to life, in addition to the fact that his placement in prolonged solitary confinement may amount to torture.  

The experts also stressed that the process of listing names on the terrorism list in Egypt is a constant concern for Special Procedures, as the appointment or inclusion of an individual remains a highly confidential and opaque process, as highlighted by the special facts in this case. The continuous misuse of anti-terrorism and national security legislation to criminalize the legitimate activities of the political opposition, human rights defenders and other citizens including lawyers, journalists and civil society actors in the country have had and will continue to have a chilling effect on civil society more broadly. 

 UN demands from the Egyptian authorities: 

The experts called on the Egyptian authorities to provide updated and detailed information on the current state of Dr. Aboul-Fotouh’s physical and mental well-being, and to clarify the measures that have been taken, or are to be taken, to protect his life and preserve his safety and well-being, including timely access to adequate medical care, as appropriate. 

The experts also called on Egypt to clarify whether the arrest of Dr. Aboul-Fotouh, in light of his reported health condition, complies with Egypt’s international human rights obligations, in particular the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to clarify the extent of its compatibility with his right to freedom and security, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. 

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