STATEMENT
Threat of arrest must be dropped for Egyptian women's rights defender Amal Fathy
25 Feb 2019
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP
Activist Amal Fathy has been ordered detained. (Photo: Facebook)

Activist Amal Fathy has been ordered detained. (Photo: Facebook)

Index on Censorship, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) and counsel at Doughty Street Chambers have filed further information at the request of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) in relation to their urgent appeal on behalf of Amal Fathy.

Ms Fathy, an Egyptian activist who made a video about her experience of sexual harassment in Egypt, was arrested in May 2018. She was initially arrested with her husband Mohamed Lotfy, and their two-year-old son. Lotfy leads ECRF, an award-winning organisation which coordinates campaigns for those who have been tortured or disappeared. Lofty and their son were released, but Ms Fathy remained in detention and was charged in relation to her social media post. She spent 230 days in prison on charges including “spreading fake news national security” and “belonging to a terrorist group”.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Jonathan Price and Jennifer Robinson filed an appeal against Egypt with WGAD on 24 July 2018 in relation to Ms Fathy’s ongoing detention. The appeal, filed jointly with ECRF and Index on Censorship, called on WGAD to issue a finding that her detention is arbitrary and in violation of Egypt’s obligations under international law, to call for her immediate release, and to ask Egypt to investigate her unlawful detention and to award her compensation.

Since the urgent appeal was filed, on 29 September 2018, Ms Fathy was convicted in relation to the first prosecution on charges of spreading fake news undermining national security and possessing indecent material and sentenced to two years in prison and a fine. Her appeal was dismissed on 30 December 2018. She has one final appeal to the Court of Cassation and was granted bail pending the appeal outcome. Her conviction was widely condemned, including by Amnesty International and by UN experts.

Ms Fathy also faces a separate state security prosecution which alleges belonging to a terrorist group. After significant international pressure and condemnation, she was released on 28 December 2018 with restrictive house arrest conditions pending trial. These restrictions were relaxed on 9 February 2019, but she remains at risk of imprisonment for exercising her internationally protected right to free speech and faces a further trial.

“The permanent threat of arrest is a means for Egypt to effectively silence Amal Fathy,” said Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg. “How many of us would be willing to speak out against abuse and injustice knowing we would be forcibly removed from our loved ones and forced to languish in jail for doing so? We urge the international community to renew its condemnation of Egypt’s actions and show they support the rights of women and of freedom of speech.”

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC of Doughty Street Chambers said:

“Amal Fathy spent 230 days in prison, in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, without meaningful access to her lawyers, and away from her family and young son. Despite having now finally been released on bail, she continues to face imprisonment for speaking out about the rights of women in Egypt. The international community must condemn Egypt’s flagrant breaches of her basic rights to liberty, due process and dignity.”

The organisations have requested the WGAD to:

  • gather, request, receive and exchange information and communications from the Egyptian Government in relation to this case;
  • render an opinion on Ms Fathy’s case, including her period in prison and the ongoing restrictions on her liberty, finding that Egypt has failed to adhere to its own obligations, and violated the rights of the complainants, under international law; and
  • call for Ms Fathy’s unconditional release and for Egypt to award her compensation.

The next WGAD session will take place in April 2019.

Ms Fathy’s case has been covered widely in the media: here, here and here.

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