UN experts call for removal of rights defenders Ramy Shaath and Zyad El-Elaimy from ‘terrorism entities’ list
11 February 2021
GENEVA (11 February 2021) – UN experts urge the Egyptian authorities to remove Ramy Shaath and Zyad El-Elaimy from a “terrorist” list and to stop the systemic misuse of counter-terrorism powers. The matter was heard on appeal yesterday, and is scheduled to be decided on 10 March 2021.
“We are deeply concerned about the impact on the rights of Mr. Shaath and Mr. El-Elaimy following this listing last year, including fair process, right to freedom of assembly and association, and the negative impact on their family life, their right to work and their right to participate in public affairs,” the experts said.
The UN experts called on authorities to implement the recent opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention finding that Mr. Shaath was arbitrarily detained, and he should thus be immediately released. The Working Group found that the proceedings placing Mr. Shaath on a terrorist list violated the presumption of innocence, in breach of article 14 (2) of the Covenant.
“We are deeply disturbed about counter-terrorism law, its definitions, misuse and the practice by the Egyptian authorities, and in particular the misuse of listing procedures at national level, to attack individuals engaged in human rights work,” the experts said. “The continued misuse of counter-terrorism powers is not consistent with the State’s international law obligations and undermines broader international efforts to prevent terrorism by misusing such powers domestically.”
Messrs. Shaath and El-Elaimy were arrested in June 2019 and Mr. Shaath’s remand detention was renewed for another 45 days on 24 January 2021, for the 21st time in 19 months. “This is very alarming and we call for the immediate implementation of the Working Group’s opinion,” the experts said.
“We are highly concerned by the fact that Mr. Shaath and Mr. El-Elaimy appear to have been placed on a terrorist list without evidence, by the Egyptian Prosecutor on 17 April, 2020, in the absence of the defendants,” they said. “Such absence of process is profoundly regrettable and raises concern that the authorities are targeting human rights defenders and civil society actors.
The experts urged the Government to respect its fair trial rights obligations and to ensure that measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security are in compliance with its obligations under international law and do not hinder the work and safety of individuals, engaged in promoting and defending human rights.
“These cases are among many others in the past five years in which the Working Group has found the Government of Egypt to be in violation of its international human rights obligations,” the experts said. “We are concerned that this indicates a systemic problem with human rights protections in Egypt, as well as a systemic problem in the abuse and misuse of counter-terrorism laws and practices.”
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.