RFK Human Rights Submits Case to UN Working Group

Read the full U.N. Working Group petition here.

(November 13, 2015 | Washington, D.C.) Today Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights submitted an urgent action and petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on behalf of Egyptian teenager Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed Hussein. The case was submitted in conjunction with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an Egyptian non-governmental organization, and Malek Adly, an Egyptian human rights lawyer.

“Mahmoud’s case is one more example of the egregious pretrial detention periods that Egyptian authorities have abused to punish opposition voices,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Mahmoud has been arbitrarily arrested, brutally tortured, and held in pretrial detention for hundreds of days without charge simply because he was willing to speak truth to power and tell his government to stop torturing others.”

Hussein, a 19 year old student, was arbitrarily detained on January 25, 2014 at a checkpoint in El-Marg, Cairo for wearing a January 25 protest scarf and a t-shirt with the slogan “a nation without torture.” He had been returning home from a peaceful demonstration to commemorate the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution and was stopped by police. Upon asking why he was being detained, Hussein was beaten and dragged off by plainclothes officers. Thereafter, he was subjected to at least 4 hours of beatings, received electric shocks to the back, hands, and testicles, and was forced to falsely confess under the duress of torture to possessing Molotov cocktails and hand grenades, belonging to a “terrorist” group, protesting without authorization, and receiving money to protest. Hussein has faced near-automatic detention renewals—at least 22 of which were decided in his absence from the courtroom. By his next detention renewal hearing scheduled for Monday, November 16, 2015, he will have been detained for 666 days.

“Hussein was targeted for exercising his fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of Robert F. Kennedy Partners for Human Rights. “The government must immediately release Hussein from custody and grant him reparations for the horrific torture he has suffered in accordance with its international human rights obligations.”

Although Egyptian law sets forth a maximum of two years for pretrial detention in cases where the charge may carry death or life imprisonment—a number that is already egregiously high and violates international law—there is reason to believe that detainees like Hussein may be kept longer than the period allowed by domestic law. Under current President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi, pretrial detention has been used as a punitive measure against political prisoners and is on the rise. The official Egyptian Prison Authority count announced in December 2014 reflects a 360% increase in the number of pretrial detainees over the prior year’s estimate.

Hussein’s arbitrary arrest, torture, and prolonged pre-trial detention violate numerous international human rights obligations of the Egyptian government under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). After today’s submission, the WGAD will communicate with the Egyptian government and inform them that this legal complaint has been set forward; it will then issue an opinion as to whether Hussein’s detention is arbitrary and thereafter, make a recommendation regarding his immediate release.