Our Voices

Egypt: RFK Human Rights Welcomes the Release of Mahmoud Hussein and Calls on the Government to Drop the Case Against Him

RFK Human Rights welcomes the physical release of anti-torture protestor Mahmoud Hussein, who we represent before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Mahmoud was released on bail today after the authorities arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained him for a cumulative 1,026 days. The next trial hearing will be held on June 26, 2024. We urgently call on the Egyptian authorities to drop the unfounded case against him in its entirety.

Mahmoud was a young, hopeful student when he was first arrested in 2014 for wearing a January 25 protest scarf and a t-shirt with the slogan, “a nation without torture,” while on his way home from a peaceful demonstration commemorating the January 25 Revolution. Following Mahmoud’s arrest, the authorities subjected him to over 4 hours of beatings and electric shocks and forced him to falsely confess to various fabricated charges under the duress of torture. Without ever filing formal charges or presenting evidence against him, the authorities held Mahmoud in pre-trial detention for over two years. In response to domestic and international pressure, Mahmoud was released on bail in March 2016.

Seven years later, Mahmoud was arbitrarily arrested and detained for a second time on August 30, 2023, on the basis of a judgment delivered against him in absentia. In February 2018 – without notifying him or his lawyers and in his absence – an ESSC held a sham trial against him and convicted him of bogus terrorism-related charges. In violation of due process, and still without presenting any evidence against him, the ESSC sentenced him to life imprisonment. Proceedings before an ESSC are inherently unfair. Decisions are final and cannot be appealed; only the President may reduce or commute a sentence, suspend its execution, or order a retrial. Mahmoud was therefore prevented from exercising his right to appeal the conviction.

Today’s news comes after the Egyptian authorities ordered a retrial of Mahmoud’s case and referred it back to the ESSC for a hearing on January 2, 2024. Mahmoud’s retrial was adjourned four times before the Court finally permitted his release from detention on a bail of approximately US$200. In the meantime, the authorities continued to detain Mahmoud in cruel and inhumane conditions at the Badr prison complex, where his health deteriorated rapidly.

“Thanks to the extraordinary courage and advocacy of his family, friends, and lawyers, Mahmoud was finally released from jail. Today’s victory means that Mahmoud will no longer be forced to endure the horrific conditions in detention – but he is not yet free,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of RFK Human Rights. “There is a long road ahead to getting the case against him dropped once and for all. It is high time the authorities end this farce and drop the case against him in its entirety,” she said. “The US government must also do its part to ensure Mahmoud’s freedom,” she added.

Mahmoud’s case is emblematic of the deteriorating human rights and civic space situation in Egypt, where any perceived dissent is brutally stifled. Arbitrary arrests, prolonged pretrial detention, and systematic denials to a fair trial, are just a few examples of violations against anyone who dares to speak out against the government. In its concluding observations of Egypt’s compliance with international human rights law from November 2023, the UN Committee against Torture expressed serious concerns about Egypt’s routine use of these and other tools to repress civic space.

“The Egyptian authorities continue to flagrantly violate Mahmoud’s most fundamental rights and freedoms by referring his case to an ESSC and disregarding due process,” said Ikechukwu Uzoma, Staff Attorney at RFK Human Rights. “It is imperative that Egypt complies with its binding obligations under domestic and international law to respect these rights, and must drop the case against Mahmoud immediately so that he can begin to recover from this harrowing ordeal without the threat of future arrests clouding his future.”