On April 29, 2017, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights submitted a petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Mahmoud Hussein. Mr. Hussein is a prominent Egyptian journalist who works for Al Jazeera Media Network in Qatar, covering the European region. Mr. Hussein has been arbitrarily detained by the Egyptian authorities since December 22, 2016 and subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and likely torture. Of the 129 days Mr. Hussein has been detained, he has spent 89 days in solitary confinement, and has yet to be informed of any charges against him.
The ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Hussein is happening amidst a crackdown on civil society in Egypt, especially with respect to journalists. Egypt has increasingly used pretrial detention as a punitive measure against journalists, and Egyptian authorities have targeted Al Jazeera employees specifically in the last couple of years. Since 2013, a total of seven Al Jazeera employees have been arrested. Another seven have been tried and sentenced to jail in absentia, and two have been sentenced to death in absentia.
Mr. Hussein works for Al Jazeera Media Network in Qatar, but travels regularly to Egypt to visit his family and nine children. During his most recent trip home, he was detained and interrogated at Cairo International Airport upon arrival, and later released. However, on December 22, 2016 Mr. Hussein was held incommunicado at an unknown location until January 5, 2017. During his subsequent time at the infamous Tora Prison, he was held in solitary confinement from December 23, 2016 to March 21, 2017, in a small, dark cell that was infested with bugs and that had no electricity, no ventilation, and no air conditioning. Sometimes, a week could go by without him being allowed to leave his cell. To this day, Mr. Hussein has not been able to see a doctor and has not received any medication, despite the fact that he is suffering from chest pains, rashes, shortness of breath, extreme weight loss, and severe psychological and physical stress.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ filing before the UN Working Group demonstrates that Mr. Hussein’s arbitrary arrest and detention, his physical and psychological mistreatment, and his exposure to grave prison conditions place his health and life at significant risk. The petition additionally documents multiple violations of the Egyptian Constitution and well as Egypt’s international human rights obligations.
On April 29, 2017 an Egyptian court extended Mr. Hussein's detention for another 45 days.