Paris-Cairo-Geneva, April 24, 2020 – Cairo’s Criminal Court has decided to put Ramy Shaath, Egyptian-Palestinian human rights defender, and Zyad al-Elaimy, former member of Parliament and human rights lawyer, on Egypt’s “terrorist list” for a period of five years. FIDH, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) denounce this decision and condemn the authorities’ use of the fight against terrorism to silence peaceful activists. Also, they renew their call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release and end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all non-violent government critics, especially in the context of COVID-19 and the dangerous conditions in overcrowded prisons in Egypt.
On April 18, 2020, the Court published in the Egyptian Official Gazette its decision to arbitrarily add Mr. Ramy Shaath and Mr. Zyad al-Elaimy and 11 other detainees to the “terrorist list” for a duration of five years. This decision was taken in absentia -in the absence of the defendants and their lawyers. Being added to this list means the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes, disbarment from the Lawyers Syndicate and from any political party for Zyad El-Elaimy, as well as the seizure of Ramy Shaath’s Egyptian passport. Mr. Ramy Shaath and Mr. Zyad al-Elaimy were subsequently added to a new case, 571/2020, investigated by the State Security Prosecutor, and for which charges are still unknown. Both of them have been denied any contact with their families since prison visits stopped on March 10, 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Although terrorist charges have been pressed against human rights defenders in the past, this inclusion of peaceful activists in the ‘terrorist list’ represents a serious escalation of the repression and an extremely worrying development”, said Bahey Eddin Hassan, Director of the CIHRS.
Mr. Ramy Shaath has Palestinian-Egyptian dual citizenship. He was a leading activist in the January 2011 popular uprising that led to the departure of President Mubarak. In addition, he has been the Coordinator of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in Egypt since 2015, in support of the rights of Palestinians. He is the son of Dr. Nabil Shaath, former Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister and current Foreign Affairs Advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Egyptian authorities arbitrarily arrested Mr. Shaath on July 5, 2019 and put him into pre-trial detention pending investigation into the criminal case 930/2019 known as the “Hope Case”. Since then, he has been held in Tora Prison without due process or fair trial, while his wife, Ms. Céline Lebrun Shaath, was forcibly deported from Egypt at the time of his arrest.
Former member of Parliament and human rights lawyer Zyad al-Elaimy was arbitrarily arrested on June 25, 2019. He was detained incommunicado for 14 days following his arrest, and is now detained in Tora prison as well, where his conditions of detention have been harmful to his health. He is asthmatic and suffering from high blood pressure and a rare immunity disease, while being held in a 4.8m2 room with two other inmates, with only a small window in the cell, attached to the ceiling. He is currently being accused in three distinct cases, namely case 930/2019 (Amal Case), 571/2020 (terrorist entities case) and the 684/2020 case where he was sentenced to one year in prison on March 10, 2020. The appeal for this last case was scheduled last week April 7, but postponed due to the COVID-19 situation.
“They are being added to a list of terrorists only for exercising their freedom of expression. Countries such as Egypt must stop using the fight against terrorism to target peaceful dissent. In particular, fighting terrorism should not be used as a pretext to silence human rights defenders and non-violent political opponents,” said Shaawan Jabarin, FIDH Vice President and Al Haq Director.
“With the threat from the Covid-19 pandemic looming over Egypt’s overcrowded and unsanitary prisons, the continued detention and further criminalisation of Ramy Shaath and Zyad al-Elaimy carries threats to their very existence”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
FIDH, OMCT, and CIHRS denounce the continued detention of Mr. Ramy Shaath, Mr. Zyad al-Elaimy and all other peaceful activists and human rights defenders in Egypt. Labelling such activists as terrorists adds a further level of abuse to their treatment, that of defamation. Our organisations call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release both Mr. Ramy Shaath and Mr. Zyad al-Elaimy in line with OHCHR and WHO’s interim guidance that focuses on persons wrongfully deprived from their liberty during the COVID-19 crisis.
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