UN Group: Egypt’s arrest of human rights activist Ramy Shaath is arbitrary
Edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: February 15, 2021
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Human Rights Council confirmed that the arrest of the Egyptian activist, Ramy Shaath (of Palestinian origin), is arbitrary, according to the opinion issued by the team on January 28, 2021.
Arrests and attempts to deny nationality:
Ramy Shaath is an Egyptian-Palestinian citizen (dual nationality), residing in Cairo. He was 48 years old at the time of his arrest. He is a political activist who played a role in establishing many secular political movements and parties in Egypt, including El-Dostour Party. Shaath is also co-founder and coordinator of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) in Egypt, since 2015, which aims to hold Israel accountable for violations of human rights and international law, through non-violent means.
Prior to his arrest, he participated in public events and gave media interviews in which he expressed his strong opposition to the US plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is referred to as the “Deal of the Century”, as well as against Egypt’s participation in the meeting held in Manama, on 25 and 26 June 2019, to discuss the plan.
In its opinion, the working group stated that in February 2012, Shaath and other political activists were banned from traveling by the State Security Prosecutor, after the publication of fabricated recordings on social media, and a case was brought against him, registered under: State Security Case No. (43/2012).
During the interrogation, the Public Prosecutor brought two charges against him: inciting others to commit the crime of intentional disruption of a government facility (in this case it was the Suez Canal), and inciting employees to leave their jobs and refrain from performing their duties. Penalties for the charges are either death or life imprisonment. The case was dropped and he travel ban was lifted, when independent experts proved the fabricated side of the recordings.
However, in April 2012, the Ministry of Interior refused to renew his Egyptian passport, in an attempt to deprive him of his Egyptian nationality, despite the Cairo Administrative Court’s recognition of his nationality, and ordered the return of his passport to him, and the Egyptian Interior Ministry appealed the ruling in 2018. The appeal is still pending.
On July 5, 2019, Shaath was arrested by officers of the National Security Agency. Dozens of heavily armed security men stormed Shaath’s house during the night and searched it, without presenting any legal documents, and confiscated computers, hard drives, and mobile phones, and took him to an unknown location for a period of 36 hours, it was later known that he was interrogated in a center of the National Security Agency in the absence of his lawyer, and his wife, who is French, was forcibly deported to her country, after Egyptian officials refused to allow her to contact her embassy.
The Working Group added that on July 6, 2019, Shaath appeared before the State Security Prosecution, added to an already open criminal case (State Security Case No. 930/2019), known as the ‘Hope Plan’ case, and he was charged with providing assistance to a terrorist group, and was interrogated about his political activity without being allowed to seek assistance from his lawyer. But another lawyer who was there was allowed to assist him, as he was detained for 15 days pending investigations, and his detention was renewed every 15 days since then, in automatic renewal sessions. He was brought before a court on November 25, 2019, where his detention was renewed for 45 days, and communication with his lawyer was difficult, as he attended those court sessions from inside a sound-proof glass cage, and since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic he has been denied visits.
Added to terror lists:
The Group noted that on April 17, 2020, the Criminal Court ordered the addition of Shaath to a new case (State Security Case No. 517/2020), and to the terrorism list in Egypt for a period of five years, along with 12 other defendants, some of whom were already in custody. In the Hope Plan case, the court issued a decision in the absence of the defendants and their lawyers, they were not even informed of the hearing, they were not enabled to present their defenses, and they learned of the decision only through Egyptian newspapers, in a move that is feared to be a new tactic for stripping Mr. Shaath of his Egyptian nationality.
Arbitrary detention and UN demands for immediate release:
The Working Group concluded that the deprivation of freedom of Ramy Shaath is arbitrary, in that it violates Articles 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 (1) and (3), 9, 14, 19, 21, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and falls under the first categories (deprivation of liberty without legal basis), the second (deprivation of liberty due to the exercise of rights and freedom of expression), and the third (lack of adherence to international standards for fair trial), and the fifth (deprivation of liberty on a discriminatory basis).
The Working Group requests the Government of Egypt to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Shaath without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The team also stressed the need for Egypt to bring its Counter-Terrorism Law into conformity with the Government’s obligations under international human rights law.
The Working Group also considered that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy for Shaath is to release him immediately and grant him an enforceable right to obtain adequate compensation in accordance with international law.
In conclusion, the team urged the Egyptian authorities to ensure a full and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Shaath’s arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for violating his rights.