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GERMAN-IRANIAN DISSIDENT ARBITRARILY JAILED

German-Iranian dissident arbitrarily jailed

Jamshid Sharmahd - © Private
53
days left to take action

 Jamshid Sharmahd, a resident of the USA, was the spokesperson of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran (also known as Anjoman-e Padeshahi-ye Iran), an Iranian opposition group based in the USA that advocates for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic system, including through violence, and a return to a pre-Islamic Iran. He also created and managed the group’s website, Tondar, and hosted its radio and video broadcasts. The website includes statements from the Kingdom Assembly of Iran claiming responsibility for explosions inside Iran. Jamshid Sharmahd’s family has denied his involvement in the violent acts attributed to him by the authorities. Amnesty International is concerned that Jamshid Sharmahd is at risk of the death penalty as two men, Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, were executed in Iran in January 2010 after being convicted in grossly unfair trials of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) in relation to their real or perceived membership of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran.

On 1 August 2020, the ministry of intelligence announced in a statement that its secret agents, referred to as the “unknown soldiers of Imam Zaman” had arrested Jamshid Sharmahd following a “complex operation” without providing further details. The same day, Iran’s minister of intelligence, Mahmoud Alavi, stated that Jamshid Sharmahd was “heavily supported by the intelligence services of the USA and Israel” and that he had been “led” into Iran though “complex operations” and taken into the custody of the ministry of intelligence. This was widely understood to have meant that he was abducted by Iran’s intelligence agents from abroad – Jamshid Sharmahd had been in the UAE – and forcibly taken to Iran. Jamshid Sharmahd’s forced “confessions” have been aired on Iranian state television on multiple occasions while he has been held in pre-trial detention. In one propaganda video, released on January 2021, his “confessions” are interspersed with clips of his broadcasts for the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, with him identified as the group’s leader and a “terrorist”. In an episode of the Iran-produced fictional television series Safe House, which was first aired in late December 2020, Jamshid Sharmahd was mentioned as belonging to the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, conducting “secret” work and having ties to the USA and Israel; in a 14 February 2021 media interview, Mahmoud Alavi said the ministry of intelligence helped produce this television series. In a late November 2020 telephone call, Jamshid Sharmahd told his family he was being held in Tehran’s Evin prison; but in subsequent calls, he said he was no longer there, though was unable to say where he was being held. He also reported during a 23 March 2021 phone call that he had lost nearly 20kg in weight and that some of his teeth had been pulled while in detention without elaborating further. 

Since 2019, Amnesty International has documented two other cases involving the abduction of dissidents based abroad by Iran’s security and intelligence agents and their forcible return to Iran. Dissident journalist Rohoullah Zam, who had been granted asylum in France, was abducted during a visit to Iraq in October 2019 by the Revolutionary Guards, apparently with the assistance of Iraqi intelligence authorities, and forcibly returned to Iran. He was executed in December 2020 following a grossly unfair trial (for more information, see https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/12/iran-execution-of-journa…). Another example is of Iranian-Swedish national Habib Chaab, a political dissident from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority, who disappeared shortly after arriving in Turkey on 9 October 2020. In late October 2020, Iranian state media announced his detention in Iran, and state media outlets broadcast his televised “confessions” of capital crimes which carry the death penalty. 

While every government has a duty to bring to justice those responsible for violent criminal acts, anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge, including those related to “terrorism”, must be treated in full compliance with Iran’s human rights obligations including rights to a fair trial. These include the rights to choose one’s own lawyer; to access effective legal assistance from the time of arrest and throughout the pre-trial and trial proceedings; to be brought promptly before a judge; to challenge the lawfulness of detention before an independent, impartial tribunal; to be presumed innocent; to remain silent and not to be compelled incriminate oneself or to confess guilt; to obtain full access to relevant evidence; to not be detained on vague charges; to examine and cross-examine witnesses; to receive a fair, public hearing before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal; and to be provided with a public, reasoned judgement. Amnesty International has documented a pattern of systematic violations of the rights to a fair trial in Iran from the time of arrest and throughout the investigation, trial and appeal proceedings. Courts routinely ignore allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, without ordering an investigation, and rely on torture-tainted “confessions” to issue convictions and sentences, including in death penalty cases. 
 

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TWO HONGKONGERS REMAIN INCOMMUNICADO IN CHINA

Two Hongkongers remain incommunicado in China

HKYouths graphic
51
days left to take action

QUINN Moon (乔映瑜), TANG Kai-yin (邓棨然) and 10 other individuals were intercepted by coast guard officers from mainland China after leaving Hong Kong on a speedboat on 23 August 2020.

After an unfair trial, Quinn and Tang were sentenced to two and three years’ imprisonment, respectively, for “organizing other persons to secretly cross the border” (组织他人偷越国(边)境) on 30 December 2020. They were transferred to Guangdong Province Women's Prison and Guangdong Province Conghua Prison in late January 2021 respectively. Another eight of the 12 arrested were sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment for “secretly crossing the border” (偷越国(边)境) and handed over to the Hong Kong police on 22 March 2021 after serving their sentences. The other two, who were under 18 at the time of arrest, were handed over to the Hong Kong police on 30 December 2020 after the Chinese authorities decided not to pursue prosecution. Nine of the 10 HongKongers handed over to the Hong Kong authorities are currently being detained on criminal charges pressed against them before their arrest in mainland China in 2020. These charges include conspiring to wound with intent, rioting, assaulting a police officer, conspiring to commit arson, possessing a substance with intent to destroy or damage property, making an explosive substance, committing arson with intent and conspiring to commit arson with intent. Li Yu-hin is charged with “assisting offenders”, “possessing ammunition without license” and “colluding with foreign or external elements to endanger national security”. 

Since the 12 Hongkongers were intercepted on 23 August 2020, the Chinese authorities have deprived them of their right to legal representation of their choice and claimed that they had “chosen their own lawyers” without allowing any direct communication between them and their family. Apart from rejecting all requests made by family-hired lawyers to meet with the detained Hongkongers, the authorities threatened and intimidated at least four of the family-hired lawyers to withdraw from this case. The practicing licenses of Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, the two lawyers representing Quinn Moon and another Hongkonger respectively, were revoked in February 2021. It is reported that at least seven of the returned Hongkongers could not contact their family and lawyers days after they were sent back to Hong Kong.

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases in which detained individuals in mainland China, many of them human rights defenders, have been routinely deprived of their right to see lawyers that they or their families have chosen to represent them. In some instances, the authorities have appointed lawyers for detainees without their consent or consent of the family. In other cases, the authorities threatened lawyers to drop cases, claimed that detainees dismissed family-hired lawyers without producing any proof or stopped families from hiring lawyers – all of which effectively amounts to depriving the detainees’ of their right to legal representation. Individuals deprived of legal representation of their own choice are often denied access to information about their legal rights, making them more vulnerable to unfair legal procedures.

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DETAINED JOURNALIST FACING TRIAL

Detained journalist facing trial

Omar Radi - © Fanny Hedenmo
44
days left to take action

Omar Radi is an investigative journalist and activist from Morocco. He is a founder of and journalist at Le Desk, an independent Moroccan news website that publishes content critical of the authorities. He has worked with several national and international media outlets, including radio station Atlantic Radio, magazines Le Journal Hebdomadaire and TelQuel and news website Lakome. His investigations have focused on political affairs, including the relations between political powers and business elites in Morocco and investigating corruption by the authorities. In 2013, he won the first investigative journalism award of International Media Support (IMS) and the Association of Moroccan Investigative Journalists (AMJI) for an investigation into the exploitation of sand quarries published on Lakome. In 2016, he was the author of an investigation report widely known as “Servants of the State” in which he listed the names of around 100 senior officials alleged to have illegally acquired state land.”

Prior to his detention, Omar Radi was questioned seven times by the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations in Casablanca. The first session, on 25 June 2020, lasted for more than five hours; the interrogators accused him of obtaining funds from sources linked to foreign intelligence agencies. He was summoned for questioning six further times  on 2, 9, 13, 17, 20 and 25 July 2020. The Office of the Prosecutor of the First Instance Court in Casablanca charged Omar Radi with “sexual assault,” “rape,” “undermining external state security by maintaining relations with agents of a foreign authorities to harm Morocco's military and diplomatic situation” and “harming internal security” by receiving foreign funds that could “prejudice the integrity, sovereignty or independence of the Kingdom or shake the allegiance of citizens towards the State and Moroccan people’s institutions,” under Articles 485, 486, 191 and 206 respectively of the Penal Code. His trial on these charges started on 22 September 2020.
  
Omar Radi’s targeting by the Moroccan authorities is not new. On 17 March 2020, a court in Morocco handed Omar Radi a suspended four-month prison sentence and a fine of 500 Moroccan dirhams (US$52) for a tweet in which he criticized an appeal court judge for upholding heavy prison sentences against Hirak El-Rif activists. Omar Radi has previously been subjected to legal harassment. In 2016-17, he covered protests by Hirak El-Rif, a social movement demanding socioeconomic rights for the marginalized Rif region in northern Morocco. In 2018, he co-directed a documentary called Death Over Humiliation, about events related to Hirak El-Rif in the province of Al Hoceima.

In a separate case, on 4 July 2020, Omar Radi and fellow journalist Imed Stitou, were arrested and kept in custody for 48 hours. Two days later, they were brought before the prosecutor of a court in the Casablanca district of Aïn Sebaâ on charges of “public drunkenness” and “violence.” On the same day, the court referred them to trial, scheduled the first hearing for 24 September and ordered their release in the meantime. Omar Radi has said that had been followed on the street by a journalist from Chouf TV, a TV station supportive of the government, who had provoked them into an altercation. After 6 postponed hearings, a new one was scheduled for 1 April 2021.

In June 2020, an Amnesty International report revealed that Omar Radi was targeted by the Moroccan authorities using spyware produced by NSO Group, an Israeli company. Following its publication, the Moroccan authorities launched a smear campaign against Amnesty International, in an attempt to discredit the organization’s findings and distract from the unlawful surveillance in Morocco of human rights defenders and journalists. In October 2019 Amnesty International had published a report presenting evidence Moroccan human rights defenders Maati Monjib and Abdessadak El Bouchattaoui had similarly been targeted by surveillance technology produced by the company NSO Group. Amnesty International has underlined the gravity of the threat that unlawful targeted surveillance poses to the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Morocco.
 

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FOUR AHWAZI ARAB MEN SECRETLY EXECUTED

Four Ahwazi Arab men secretly executed

Iran prison
25
days left to take action

According to an informed source, on the day of the executions, ministry of intelligence agents phoned the families of Ali Khasraji, Hossein Silawi, Jasem Heidary and Naser Khafajian and said one person from each family would be permitted to have a prison visit that day. Agents instructed family members to wait at a public space in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, where they were then blindfolded and driven to an unknown location, revealed to be Sepidar prison upon arrival. At the prison, the families had visits with all four men. According to an informed source, bruising was visible on all four men, raising concerns that they had been tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and the lips of Ali Khasraji, Hossein Silawi and Jasem Heidary had not healed from when they sowed them shut on hunger strike. After the visit and the execution of the men, ministry of intelligence agents told the four families that they were not permitted to hold public memorials or invite family to their home to mourn, and that they were only permitted to hold a private memorial without visitors. There has also been an alarming rise in executions of ethnic minority prisoners since mid-December 2020 in Iran, which includes the execution of Ali Motairi, also a member of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority, on 28 January 2021, and the executions of at least 20 Baluchi prisoners. 

In January 2020, the judiciary spokesperson had announced that three men had been sentenced to death in relation to an armed attack on a police station in Ahvaz on 14 May 2017 that led to the death of two officials. While the spokesperson did not identify them by name, the case details he revealed indicated that he was referring to Hossein Silawi, Ali Khasraji and Naser Khafajian. That same month, prison officials told the three men that they had been sentenced to death for the May 2017 attack. They were convicted and sentenced following unfair trials and never given copies of their verdicts. On 8 October 2020, the Iranian government wrote to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “the case [against these three men] is still pending” and that “since the legal proceedings have not hitherto been completed, it is inadmissible to raise the issue of … capital punishment.”
Jasem Heidary was sentenced to death following an unfair trial which convicted him of collaboration with armed opposition groups. His verdict was upheld in November 2020. On 23 January 2021, Ali Khasraji, Hossein Silawi and Jasem Heidary sewed their lips shut and went on hunger strike in protest at their prison conditions, denial of family visits, and the ongoing threat of execution. They ended their hunger strike in mid-February 2021. 

Under international law, the crime of enforced disappearance continues until the state releases information pertaining to the fate or whereabouts of the individuals concerned, and this requires, when the disappeared person is found to be dead, returning the remains to their family, who have the right to dispose of those remains according to their own tradition, religion or culture. The anguish inflicted on families due to the continuing uncertainty around the fate of their loved ones and the location of their remains violates the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment.  

Khuzestan province has a large Arab population who generally self-identify as “Ahwazi Arabs”. Despite Khuzestan’s natural resource wealth, the province suffers from severe socioeconomic deprivation and high levels of air and water pollution. Continued under-investment in Khuzestan province by the central government has exacerbated poverty and marginalization. Ahwazi Arabs face entrenched discrimination curtailing equal access to education, employment, adequate housing and political office. Despite repeated calls for linguistic diversity, Persian remains the sole language of instruction in primary and secondary education in the province.
 

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FAMILY MEMBERS DETAINED ON FABRICATED CHARGES

Family members detained on fabricated charges

Russian Federation map
38
days left to take action

Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev have long been targeted by the Chechen authorities. According to media reports, in 2019, at the age of 16, Ismail Isaev faced violence and persecution for his real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. He was captured by the police, beaten and held at a secret location for seven days and released for ransom. On 30 March 2020, Ismail Isaev and Salekh Magamadov were arbitrarily detained by the Chechen police and held at the premises of the patrol police regiment. There, according to their account, they were tortured and otherwise ill-treated in retaliation for moderating a youth Telegram channel “Osal Nakh 95” which contained posts critical of the Chechen authorities and traditions. They were released in May after a video with their forced “apologies” had been published on the Internet. Fearing further reprisals, including in connection with their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, they fled Chechnya in July 2020. The Russian LGBT Network helped Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev move to Nizhnii Novgorod, in Central Russia, due to ongoing concerns over their safety.

On 4 February, the LGBT Network reported that police detained Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev at the flat in Nizhnii Novgorod where they were staying. One of them managed to quickly call the LGBT Network while the flat was being raided, and the LGBT Network immediately sent them a lawyer. The lawyer discovered an empty flat and evidence of the violent raid. He eventually managed to get confirmation from the local police that Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev had been apprehended by the police, and that they were being taken by car to Gudermes, in Chechnya. The police did not disclose any other circumstances of the case.

Upon arrival in Gudermes in the afternoon of 6 February, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev were questioned as witnesses at the local police station. Their lawyer was not provided with the details of the case. They were released at around 8pm but immediately re-arrested as soon as they left the police compound, without any explanations, and taken by car to the village of Sernovodskoe, around 90km away, also in Chechnya. Their father and their lawyer followed them. In Sernovodskoe, the lawyer was not allowed to see his clients, nor was he allowed into the police station. According to the lawyer, at around 11pm, a senior Chechen official arrived at the police station and, together with police officers, forced his clients’ father to give up any attempts to see them, despite being the legal guardian of the underaged Ismail Isaev, or to have the lawyer represent them. Following this, the LGBT Network sent another lawyer to Chechnya. When the new lawyer arrived the next day, 7 February, the police did not allow him to see his clients and refused to accept his formal complaint. 

When the lawyers hired by LGBT Network were finally able to see Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev in March, they informed them about their ill-treatment during their transfer to Chechnya and while held at Sernovodskoe police station. According to Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev, the police forced them to refuse the services of the lawyers of their choice and to sign false “confessions”. Among those who interrogated them at Sernovodskoe police station, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev recognised the officers from the patrol police regiment who had detained and tortured them in Spring 2020.

On 8 February, the European Court of Human Rights requested that the Russian authorities take urgent steps to ensure that Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev are provided with immediate and unimpeded access to a lawyer of their choice and to their family members, and that they are immediately examined by an independent health professional. However, this request was ignored. At that time, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev were held in the pre-trial detention facility in Urus-Martan. On 9 February, Urus-Martan Town court remanded Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev, initially for two months, and they were placed in the pre-trial detention facility SIZO-2 in Grozny. Neither their parents nor their lawyers were informed about the hearing. The lawyers appealed their remand. On 20 February, the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic rejected the appeal. Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev were only able to see the lawyers of their choice in mid-March.

Over the years, human rights defenders have documented widespread human rights violations in Chechnya, including mass arbitrary detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, and extrajudicial executions. Those who criticise the Chechen authorities, including in social media, face severe reprisals. In September 2020, 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkaev, moderator of a popular Telegram channel “1ADAT”, was abducted from Krasnodar region in southern Russia by men presumed to be Chechen law enforcement officials and taken to a secret location in Chechnya. His fate and whereabouts remain unknown despite a criminal investigation having been nominally opened into his enforced disappearance in late November 2020.
 

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VERDICT UPHELD AGAINST LOUJAIN AL-HATHLOUL

Verdict upheld against Loujain al-Hatloul

Loujain al-Hathloul
26
days left to take action

On 13 March 2019, Loujain al-Hathloul was among 11 women human rights defenders (WHRDs) brought to trial before the Criminal Court in Riyadh. The court session was closed, and diplomats and journalists were banned from attending. Several women activists faced charges of contacting foreign media, other activists and international organizations including Amnesty International. Some of them were also accused of “promoting women’s rights” and “calling for the end of the male guardianship system.”

The trial of several WHRDs arrested between May and July 2018 resumed in 2020 and resulted in a number of prison sentences being handed down following unfair trials. After months of delays and prolonged detention without their trials proceeding, in November 2020 Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdelaziz and Mayaa al-Zahrani, were brought before the Criminal Court in Riyadh in separate trial sessions. Loujain al-Hathloul’s case was transferred to the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in December 2020 after the Criminal Court concluded that it was “outside its jurisdiction”. The SCC specializes in trying terrorism-related cases and should not be trying and sentencing peaceful activists.

On 28 December 2020, Loujain al-Hathloul was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison - partially suspended by two years and ten months - by the Specialized Criminal Court.

On 10 February 2021, Loujain al-Hathloul was conditionally released from prison and continues to face probation and a travel ban of five years. In addition, she continues to be denied access to justice and accountability for her allegations of being tortured and harassed in prison during the first three months of her detention.

The Saudi Arabian authorities continue to arbitrarily detain without charges and try individuals for their peaceful expression and human rights work. Amongst those are: Mohammed al-Bajadi, founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and prominent human rights defender who has been detained without charges or trial since May 2018; and Salman al-Awda, a reformist cleric who faces a death sentence for his peaceful expression.

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SAHRAWI ACTIVIST ABUSED UNDER HOUSE ARREST

Sahrawi activist abused under house arrest

Section Maroc - Action Marathon 2012
25
days left to take action

Sultana Khaya is the president of an organization called the ‘League for the Defense of Human Rights and against Plunder of Natural Resources’ and is known for her vocal activism in defence of the right of self-determination for the Sahrawi people.

In a call with Amnesty International on 8 March, Sultana Khaya lamented spending international women’s day- on 8 March- “suffering under siege”. Since 19 November 2020, Sultana Khaya and her family’s movements are restricted to the confines of their own house. Videos, reviewed by Amnesty International and filmed by Sultana Khaya and her sister Waraa Khaya on various days since 19 November 2020, show security forces in uniforms and civilian clothes standing in front of the house, and at times police vans parked outside. Sultana Khaya has not been allowed to walk further than to the corner of her house before being forcefully carried back to the house by police officers by her hands and legs. A video filmed on 17 February, shows police officers in plainclothes dragging Waraa Khaya and forcing her inside the house, repeatedly slamming the door shut and banging on it.

Under international human rights law, house arrest is considered as a form of detention and requires certain safeguards to be considered lawful. According to the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment 35 on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights liberty-depriving measures, including house arrest, must not be arbitrary and must be carried out with respect for the rule of law and allow a meaningful and prompt judicial review of detention. Deprivation of liberty, including in the form of house arrest, is arbitrary when it results from the exercise of human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Western Sahara is the subject of a territorial dispute between Morocco, which annexed the territory in 1975 and claims sovereignty over it, and the Polisario Front, which calls for an independent state in the territory and has set up a self-proclaimed government-in-exile in the refugee camps in Tindouf, southwestern of Algeria. A UN settlement in 1991, which ended fighting between Morocco and the Polisario Front, called for a referendum to be put to the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination by choosing independence or integration into Morocco. The referendum has not been held amid ongoing disputes about the process of identifying who may vote in the referendum.

In recent years, access to Western Sahara has grown increasingly difficult for external monitors as the human rights situation has continued to deteriorate. In 2020, Moroccan authorities prevented at least nine lawyers, activists and politicians from access to Western Sahara. Journalists have also been denied access which makes the struggle of human rights activists widely uncovered. The UN Security Council has been ignoring calls by Amnesty International and others to add a human rights component to the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which would allow for monitoring and reporting on human rights abuses, as is done by the vast majority of comparable UN missions around the world.
 

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PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE DETAINED INCOMMUNICADO

Prisoner of conscience detained incommunicado

Ahmed Samir Santawy - © Private
44
days left to take action

Ahmed Samir Santawy is a researcher and student of anthropology at the Central European University (CEU) in Vienna, Austria. His research focuses on women's rights, including the history of reproductive rights in Egypt. Since Ahmed Samir Santawy started studying at CEU in September 2019, initially in Budapest, Hungary, Egyptian security officers have questioned him each time on arrival at and departure from the Cairo International Airport about the reasons for his trips abroad and the nature of his studies. He was questioned during his last entry into Egypt in mid-December 2020.

According to a complaint submitted by Ahmed Samir Santawy's family to the Public Prosecutor, and reviewed by Amnesty International, as well as information collected from other informed sources, on 23 January, seven masked and armed policemen raided Ahmed Samir Santawy's family home, when he was not there. They did not present an arrest or search warrant, confiscated a digital recorder from the house's CCTV cameras, and instructed for Ahmed Samir Santawy to present himself to the National Security Agency (NSA), without providing any reasons. When he went to the NSA office at a police station in New Cairo on 30 January, he was told to return on another day. He did as instructed on 1 February and was arrested. On 3 February, he was transferred to another police station in New Cairo. On 4 February, security forces moved him to an unknown detention location, where he was held before appearing at the SSSP offices on 6 February. Since he handed himself over on 1 February until his interrogation by the SSSP, authorities refused to reveal information about his exact fate and whereabouts to his family and lawyers.
The SSSP prosecutor questioned Ahmed Samir Santawy about his studies and academic background, including his research findings in relation to Islam and abortion. The prosecutor also explicitly asked him about what questions NSA officers directed at him during their interrogations. Ahmed Samir Santawy said that NSA officers questioned him about his studies as well as his alleged involvement in a Facebook page titled, "25 January Revolutionaries", critical of the authorities’ human rights record, which he denied. The prosecutor also asked him about a Facebook post regarding a detained journalist being subjected to beatings, but Ahmed Samir Santawy denied being the owner of the account. His lawyers’ request to refer him to the Forensic Medical Authority for examination of the injuries sustained during his detention by the NSA was not granted.

Authorities flouted the limited guarantees stipulated in Egyptian law, as well as their obligations under international law. Article 54 of the Egyptian Constitution states that: “Every person whose freedom is restricted shall be immediately notified of the reasons … shall be immediately enabled to contact his/her relatives and lawyer; and shall be brought before the investigation authority within 24 hours as of the time of restricting his/her freedom". Although article 40 of Law No.94/2015 on counter-terrorism allows the prosecution or another “investigative authority” to order the detention of suspects in terrorism cases for up to 14 days, renewable once, without being questioned by a prosecutor or judge, suspects have the right to be informed of the reasons for their arrest and to contact their families and lawyers (article 41). Further, the law stipulates for suspects to be held in official places of detention.

Under articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt is a state party, no one shall be arbitrarily detained; everyone arrested has the right to be informed of the reasons of their arrest and must be brought in front of a judge promptly and be allowed to challenge the legality of their detention. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that detention can be arbitrary even when allowed by domestic law if it contravenes international standards or is incompatible with other human rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, assembly or belief. The prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment is absolute under the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Egypt is also a state party.

In the recent years, thousands of real or perceived political opponents have been arrested and kept in prolonged pre-trial detention by orders of the SSSP pending investigations into unfounded terrorism-related and other charges, sometimes for periods exceeding the absolute legal maximum limit of two years for pre-trial detention. Those targeted include human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, politicians, protesters, journalists, medical workers and academics. Proceedings against them are generally based on secret police investigations, inaccessible to defendants and their lawyers, and sometimes supported by social media posts deemed to be critical of the authorities. In February 2020, security forces arrested Patrick Zaki George, a gender researcher and master's student in Bologna, Italy, upon his arrival to Cairo International Airport. He remains detained pending investigations by the SSSP over similar terrorism-related charges.
 

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WOMEN MIGRANT WORKERS DETAINED FOR MONTHS

Women migrant workers detained for months

Map of Sri Lanka
58
days left to take action

At least 41 Sri Lankan domestic workers are currently detained at the Exit 18 Deportation Detention (Tarheel) Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia awaiting repatriation. 

While the authorities have not disclosed the legal basis for the women’s detention, it is believed that many of the women have been detained due to their migration status under the notorious kafala system in place in Saudi Arabia. This includes reasons such as the expiration of their work permit and their employer’s failure to obtain an exit permit for them or because they have fled from an abusive employer.

The majority of the women wish to return to their home country in recent months. Prison officials as well as the Sri Lankan embassy officials in Riyadh have repeatedly promised the women that they will be repatriated imminently, however they are still in detention as of April 2021.

Domestic workers are among the most vulnerable group of migrant workers in the Gulf countries. Often isolated within homes and highly dependent on their employers in almost every aspect of their lives, they are also not covered by labour law protections across the Gulf including Saudi Arabia. They are at risk of being detained for overstaying their residence permits, often because their sponsors failed to renew it or because they fled abuse and exploitation. They usually face gruelling working conditions with many working long hours without breaks or days off.

They also frequently face verbal and physical abuse and have their passports regularly confiscated at the hands of abusive employers who act with impunity. Recent labour reforms in Saudi Arabia excluded domestic workers, meaning that they still cannot leave the country without the permission of their employers, which increases their vulnerability to abuses of their rights, including forced labour and physical and sexual assault. 

The Sri Lankan and Saudi Arabia governments have obligations to protect migrant workers from abuse under a range of international treaties they have ratified, including the International Labour Organization’s Forced Labour Convention. In this case they must ensure the urgent release from arbitrary detention and voluntary, safe, and dignified repatriations of all the affected women.
 

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Bahrain: more than 70 new Covid cases in major outbreak at Jaw prison

Jaw prison © Amnesty International

Prisoners not given face masks or hand sanitiser despite overcrowded conditions Authorities apparently blocking communication with outside world ‘They must not gamble with the lives of those in their custody’ - Lynn Maalouf Amnesty International is increasingly concerned at reports of a major COVID-19 outbreak at Jaw prison in Bahrain, a jail already notorious for its overcrowded conditions. Since 31 March, Amnesty has spoken to family members of six prisoners. Using an online testing status system on the Ministry of Health’s website, family members told Amnesty they were able to verify dozens

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