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Image: Free Alaa campaign

Alaa Abdel-Fattah is a British-Egyptian writer, human rights defender and software developer. He was one of the leading voices and campaigners during the 25 January 2011 revolution. He has been published in numerous outlets; is well-known for founding a prominent Arabic blog aggregator; and has been involved in a number of citizen journalism initiatives. His book, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated, which compiles some of his deeply influential writings, has received widespread acclaim. 

Alaa has been arrested under every Egyptian head of state during his lifetime. He is currently in detention following an unfair trial on spurious charges that relate to his human rights advocacy. On 2 April 2022, Alaa embarked on an open-ended hunger strike as a last bid for freedom. After more than 200 days of partial hunger strike, Alaa announced that, as of 1 November 2022, he is stopping his previous 100-calorie intake and moving to a full hunger strike. Alaa also decided that on 6 November 2022, coinciding with the beginning of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, he will start a water strike. This means that if he is not released, Alaa will die before the end of COP27. 

If one wished for death then a hunger strike would not be a struggle. If one were only holding onto life out of instinct then what’s the point of a strike? If you’re postponing death only out of shame at your mother’s tears then you’re decreasing the chances of victory….I’ve taken a decision to escalate at a time I see as fitting for my struggle for my freedom and the freedom of prisoners of a conflict they’ve no part in, or they’re trying to exit from; for the victims of a regime that’s unable to handle its crises except with oppression, unable to reproduce itself except through incarceration” – Alaa wrote in a letter to his family announcing escalation of his hunger strike

On 31 October 2022, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment said, "In advance of COP27, I am joining the chorus of global voices calling for the immediate release of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, an Egyptian activist who has languished in jail for years merely for voicing his opinion. Freedom of speech is a prerequisite for climate justice!

We, the undersigned organisations and groups:

  1. Call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights.

  2. Call on the British authorities to intervene to secure the release of their fellow citizen Alaa Abdel Fattah so that he be allowed to travel to the UK, as his health is deteriorating to a critical and life-threatening point.

  3. Call on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to publicly reiterate its call on Egypt to immediately release Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer, and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights.

  4. Call on UN Special Procedures to publicly reiterate their call on Egypt to immediately release Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer and Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim Radwan and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights.

  5. Call on all government leaders and business leaders going to COP27 to use all possible leverage and urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights.

  6. Call on civil society organisations, groups and activists going to COP27 to urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights.

Signatories (updated on a rolling basis):

  1. 10 Votes

  2. 350 Ventura County Climate Hub

  3. Aberdeen Climate Action

  4. Access Now

  5. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

  6. African Earth Farms

  7. Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man

  8. ALPF

  9. ALQST for Human Rights

  10. Amazon Watch

  11. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

  12. Amis de la Terre France / Friends of the Earth France

  13. Amnesty International

  14. Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)

  15. Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED)

  16. Association for Farmers Rights Defense (AFRD)

  17. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

  18. Association Jeunes Agriculteurs (AJA)

  19. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

  20. Bisan Center for Research and Development

  21. BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany

  22. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

  23. Campaign against Climate Change

  24. Center for Environment/FoE Bosnia and Herzegovina

  25. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

  26. Committee for Justice

  27. Commonwealth Youth Peace Advocates Network Kenya

  28. Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE)

  29. Conectas Human Rights (Brazil)

  30. Consumers Association of Penang (Malaysia)

  31. CRAN (Carrefour de réflexion et d’actions contre le racisme anti-Noir-e) -Observatoire du racisme anti-Noir-e

  32. Debt for Climate South Africa

  33. DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture

  34. Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

  35. Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)

  36. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

  37. EgyptWide for Human Rights

  38. Eko forum Zenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

  39. El Nadim Center

  40. English PEN

  41. EuroMed Rights

  42. Extinction Rebellion Oxford

  43. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

  44. Freedom House

  45. Friends of the Earth Malta

  46. Friends of the Earth Scotland

  47. Friends of the Earth U.S.

  48. Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

  49. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

  50. Hijas de Alkebulan

  51. Human Nature

  52. Human Rights Watch

  53. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement

  54. Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program

  55. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

  56. International Network of Liberal Women

  57. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

  58. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific

  59. Inter-religious Climate and Ecology Network

  60. Intersection Association for Rights and Freedoms

  61. Iraqi Human Rights Defenders and Activist Forum

  62. Jubilee Scotland

  63. MARBE SA

  64. MENA Rights Group

  65. Movement for Advancing Understanding of Sustainability And Mutuality MAUSAM

  66. National Authority for the Prevention of Torture

  67. National Lawyers Guild International Committee

  68. National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter

  69. Omani Human Rights Association

  70. PEN America

  71. PEN International

  72. People in Need

  73. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

  74. Refugees Platform in Egypt ( RPE )

  75. Rise For Climate Belgium

  76. Rising Clyde

  77. Sierra Leone School Green Club (SLSGC)

  78. Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR)

  79. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)

  80. Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

  81. Terra Advocati

  82. The Center for International Policy

  83. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

  84. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)

  85. Unidosc, Mexico

  86. Unite Scotland

  87. Université populaire africaine (UPAF)

  88. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

  89. War on Want

  90. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network/Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (WAHRDN/ROADDH)

  91. WHRDMENA Coalition

  92. WomanHealth Philippines

  93. World Organisation Against Torture, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

  94. Yorkshire and Humber Climate Justice Coalition

Background information:

On 29 September 2019, Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrested while fulfilling his probation requirements at El-Dokki Police Station. He was questioned before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) on charges of joining an illegal organisation, receiving foreign funding, spreading false news, and misusing social media; he was then ordered into pretrial detention pending case no. 1356 of 2019. On the same day, Alaa’s lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer attended Alaa’s interrogation and was similarly arrested, questioned before the SSSP, and ordered into pretrial detention pending the same case and arbitrary charges. During their pretrial detention Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer were arbitrarily added to Egypt’s terrorist list in relation to a separate case (no. 1781 of 2019), for which they have never been questioned or given the right to defend themselves. As a result of this designation, they face a travel ban, asset freeze, and for el-Baqer, potential disbarment as a lawyer. On 20 December 2021, following an unfair trial before a State security emergency court, in which they were denied their right to due process (defense lawyers were denied the right to present a defense on behalf of their clients, and denied permission to copy the case files), Abdel Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison, and el-Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim Radwan to four years in prison on charges of “spreading false news”. Verdicts from such courts cannot be appealed. The time they spent in pretrial detention pending the original case ( No. 1356 of 2019) will not count as time served toward the December 2021 prison sentences, and the verdict is final since it has subsequently been ratified by President Al-Sisi. Further details here

Preparations for COP27 are taking place against the backdrop of an ongoing and deep-rooted human rights crisis in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have for years employed draconian laws, including laws on counter terrorism, cyber crimes, and civil society, to stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and shut down civic space. Under the current government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, thousands continue to be arbitrarily detained without a legal basis, following grossly unfair trials, or solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. Thousands are held in prolonged pre-trial detention on the basis of spurious terrorism and national security accusations. Among those arbitrarily detained are dozens of journalists targeted for their media work, social media users punished for sharing critical online content, women convicted on morality-related charges for making Tik Tok videos, and members of religious minorities accused of blasphemy. Prisoners are held in detention conditions that violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, and since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power hundreds have died in custody amid reports of denial of healthcare and other abuses. Egypt remains one of the world’s top executioners, executing 107 people in 2020 and 83 in 2021, with at least 356 people sentenced to death in 2021, many following grossly unfair trials including by emergency courts. The crisis of impunity has emboldened Egyptian security forces to carry out extra-judicial executions and other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture with no fear of consequences. 

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