Media Relations Associate
After more than four years of arbitrary detention without trial, Egyptian authorities finally released Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein. Mahmoud’s release provides a measure of relief to his family, friends, and human rights organizations who continue to push back against the systematic repression of dissent and scapegoating in one of the world’s most oppressive countries for press freedoms and human rights.
Following his arrest in 2016, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights filed a petition before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention citing the egregious human rights abuses of the Egyptian government in relation to the unlawful detention of Mahmoud Hussein. The petition highlighted how state authorities subjected Hussein to cruel and degrading treatment, including enduring months of solitary confinement, denied him access to his family and lawyers, and provided abysmal medical care after he suffered a broken arm supposedly from a fall while in detention.
In its 2018 decision, the UN Working Group found that Hussein’s detention by the Egyptian government contravened international human rights law and urged Egypt to immediately release Hussein, determining that he was unjustly targeted for being a journalist and that his imprisonment was arbitrary and violated his due process rights. The Working Group further criticized Egypt for its increasing use of pretrial detention as “part of the Government’s widespread crackdown on the independent media and bloggers for political opinions at odds with its own.”
“As we celebrate Mahmoud’s freedom as the first step toward repairing the harm inflicted upon him and his family by the Egyptian government, we continue to call on the government to fully investigate these abuses and provide both the individual and structural reparations required by international human rights law,” said Wade McMullen, SVP for programs & legal strategy for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and lead counsel on the case.
“Mahmoud Hussein’s release after over 1,500 days of illegal detention without a charge is, among other things, an indictment on the Egyptian government and conclusive evidence that his arrest and detention, as well as the continued detention of hundreds of political prisoners in Egypt, have no legitimacy whatsoever,” said Ikechukwu Uzoma, staff attorney for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
Hussein is just one of many journalists and human rights defenders who have been detained by Egyptian authorities without a trial or charge in violation of human rights law. Weaponizing the pretrial detention provision under Egyptian criminal procedure rules, state authorities continue to extend the detention of political prisoners and dissidents with impunity and in some cases in direct disregard of release orders by Egyptian courts.