Egypt : The release of a human rights activist without trial highlights the reality of the political instrumentalisation of the counter-terrorism law
The release without trial of the Egyptian activist of Palestinian origin, Rami Shaath, confirms the credibility of the accusations against the Egyptian authorities of misuse of measures "to combat terrorism". It also confirms the political use of this accusation as a pretext to repress activists and silence opposition voices. Alkarama has been constantly raising concerns about these practices over the past few years.
On Monday 3 January, the Cairo prosecutor's office released political activist Ramy Shaath after two years and six months in prison, according to a judicial official.
On 5 July 2019, Egyptian security authorities arrested Shaath, aged 50, in Cairo on charges of "terrorism" and inciting "unrest against the state", and his French wife, Celine Le Brun, was deported to Paris.
Shaath has been one of the main figures of the peaceful Egyptian revolution of January 2011, and the coordinator of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. He is the son of Nabil Shaath, a prominent leader and former minister of the Palestinian Authority.
In April 2020, Shaath's name was placed on the Egyptian list of "terrorist entities and individuals". This decision was strongly criticised by UN experts, calling for his name to be removed from the terrorism lists.
The Egyptian authorities do not hesitate to carry out extrajudicial executions under the pretext of fighting terrorism. In this context, Alkarama sent a memorandum on 31 January 2019 to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, asking him to call on the Egyptian authorities to: "Disclose the names of all those killed on 30 December 2018 in operations presented by the authorities as a counter-terrorism intervention in response to the 29 December 2018 terrorist attack targeting a tourist bus in Giza."
After examining the circumstances surrounding the operations and the identities of those who died and were presented as terrorists by State Security, Alkarama clarified that many of them were in fact held in secret.
Alkarama had addressed numerous cases of arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment in the Egyptian regime's prisons, which have escalated alarmingly since the 3 July 2013 military coup led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Alkarama has written to the UN Special Procedures on this issue. Earlier, it also warned of the danger of death sentences being carried out in unfair trials. The UN experts echoed Alkarama's concerns. However, the Egyptian regime has continued to victimise more people by instrumentalising the justice system.
Statements by UN experts
On 1 December 2021, UN human rights experts called on Egypt to end the misuse of counter-terrorism measures against civil society activists, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders.
The experts stated that the systematic justification of these appalling practices under the guise of the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions poses a serious threat to the legitimacy of international frameworks and laws to combat terrorism and promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. They added that it also threatens the long-term peace and stability of Egypt.
The experts expressed dismay at the listing of human rights defenders as terrorists. Furthermore, they expressed serious concern about the Egyptian anti-terrorism law and the courts of the Terrorism Department, stating that the systematic use of broad and vague definitions of terrorism targeting human rights defenders, journalists and those exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms (including freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association) undermine human rights.
The experts urged Egypt to review the anti-terrorism law and to rescind recent amendments that portend further human rights violations.