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Egypt: world leaders at COP27 must call for Alaa Abd el-Fattah's release

Vigil for Alaa outside Downing Street last weekend © Marie-Anne Ventoura/Amnesty International UK

Activist on fourth day of perilous no-liquids hunger strike 


UK ministers should insist on proof of life and make interventions at highest level


‘Alaa is now being detained incommunicado’ - Agnès Callamard


Responding to mounting fears over the fate of detained British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who has been on hunger strike in prison in Egypt since April and is now on the fourth day of no-liquids hunger strike, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“The Egyptian authorities have cruelly and stubbornly refused to release Alaa or even to share any information on his well-being or exact location with his family, even though his mother has for the past three days waited at the gates of Wadi al-Natrun prison in the hope of receiving a letter from him. 


“Alaa is now being detained incommunicado. This alarmingly increases the risk of enforced disappearance, as well as torture and other ill-treatment.


“Alaa is a prisoner of conscience who should never have been detained in the first place. Yet, now, he faces a very real risk of dying in custody while his family wait in agony for news. 


“World leaders and delegates visiting Egypt for COP27 must do everything in their power to pressure the authorities into immediately releasing Alaa and speak out publicly that they expect nothing short of his unconditional release. 


“The Egyptian authorities must ensure he receives adequate healthcare in line with medical ethics at a facility of his family’s choice and surrounded by his family and loved ones. The international community cannot continue with this inaction when Alaa is at risk of torture and even death. This would leave a grave reputational stain and illustrate the cost of not putting human rights at the centre of diplomacy.”

UK must insist on proof of life

Earlier this week during his visit to COP27, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak raised Alaa Abd el-Fattah’s case with the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Amnesty welcomed this but said that “with Alaa’s life hanging by a thread” the UK government urgently needed to do more. 


Amnesty wants to see UK ministers and officials insisting on firm evidence from the Egyptian authorities that Abd el-Fattah is still alive, amid considerable alarm from his family that they are being denied information about his current condition or whereabouts. The UK should also be insisting on consular access to Abd el-Fattah - a UK national - in jail. Amnesty is calling on the UK government to do all it can to secure Abd el-Fattah’s immediate release and safe return to the UK, including further interventions at the highest level.

Nearly a decade of persecution

Alaa Abd el-Fattah - who has spent most of the past nine years unlawfully deprived of his liberty - was last arrested in September 2019. He has been denied access to consular officials since acquiring British citizenship in December 2021. On 20 December 2021, Abd el-Fattah, human rights lawyer Mohamed Baker and blogger Mohamed Radwan “Oxygen”, were convicted on bogus charges and sentenced to between four and five years following a grossly unfair trial in reprisal for their activism and human rights work. All three are prisoners of conscience, having been solely targeted for their peaceful activism. They are among thousands arbitrarily detained in Egypt for political reasons. 


Amnesty has repeatedly documented concerns over the denial of adequate healthcare in Egyptian prisons and interference by prison wardens and security officials in prisoners’ medical assessment and care, including delays or even refusal to transfer the critically-ill to hospital. Amnesty has previously raised concerns over the independence of medical staff in Egyptian jails, who report to the Ministry of Interior. There are strong grounds to believe that decisions over Abd el-Fattah’s healthcare will not be made by independent medical professionals in compliance with medical ethics, and will not be free from coercion or interference by the authorities.

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