By Coptic Solidarity –
Coptic Solidarity submitted this report to the United Nations on April 28, 2020 for inclusion in the Annual report of the Secretary-General on “Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.” Submission of this report is another way in which Coptic Solidarity can advocate for Mr. Kamel’s release and draw attention to how the Egyptian government arrested and has kept him imprisoned in reprisal for cooperating with UN entities and for his human rights work.
Mr. Ramy Kamel is a prominent Coptic Christian activist in Egypt who has been a primary source of information for NGOs and individuals working to improve religious freedom there. In 2011, Kamel founded the Maspero Youth Union after the infamous Maspero Massacre in which 27 Copts were killed by the Egyptian military while peacefully protesting a church closure.
Copts are a repressed, indigenous minority in Egypt who have suffered discrimination and persecution for many years and continue to face these hardships under the current government. Kamel documented and published regarding the adverse conditions for Copts in Egypt and advocated against the government’s systematic discrimination towards Copts who are displaced from their homes, persecuted, the target of terrorist attacks, and denied equal citizenship rights. He previously addressed the Ministry of Education on the inclusion of Coptic history and heritage in educational curricula.
Mr. Kamel was invited to participate in a UN forum (November 28th and 29th, 2019) titled Education, Language, and the Human Rights of Minorities as a leading advocate and as an individual who met and collaborated with the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Fahra, when she visited Egypt in September 2018.
On November 23rd, 2019, Mr. Kamel was arrested under the cover of dark, around 1:30AM. He was beaten and interrogated without legal representation at the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement neighborhood.
Just 18 days earlier, he was arrested, transferred in an armored vehicle to the National Security headquarters in Nasr City, and severely beaten and tortured. He was interrogated without legal representation in an effort to compel him to reveal his research sources, and likely to intimidate him prior to participating at the UN Forum.
November 24 brought news that Kamel was to be detained for 15-days pending investigation (Case no. 1475 of 2019) under the contrived charges by the State Security Prosecution of disturbing the public peace through the misuse of social media and spreading false news, and with joining and financing a terrorist group. Kamel is being investigated for the same charges as labor activist, Khalil Rizk. Rizk was the last person for whom Kamel had advocated and posted about publicly.
Kamel’s detention has been automatically renewed for an additional 15 days at each of his hearings without cause. No documentation has thus far been provided to prove such preposterous charges or justify his imprisonment. UN experts have said that “once again counter-terrorism legislation is being used in Egypt to target human rights defenders with the purpose of quashing their advocacy and suppressing any expression of dissent” (UNHCR, press release, December 2019).
Advocacy for Kamel
Rights groups agree that Kamel’s arrest is a direct effort by the Egyptian government to punish and silence him for documenting and publicizing human rights abuses against Coptic Christians. On December 11th, The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups issued a statement urging Kamel’s release urging: “…Egypt must immediately free Mr. Kamel, lift all charges against him, and conduct effective investigations to ensure that those responsible for the violations, including any act of torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, are prosecuted and punished.” (UNHCR, press release, December 2019).
UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha stated in 2018 that “Egypt has failed to adhere to the assurances provided to me that no person would be harassed, intimidated or subjected to reprisal for meeting or providing information to me” (UNHRC press release, December 2018).
Coptic Solidarity (CS) advocated the immediate release of Ramy Kamel and the president, Mrs. Caroline Doss, stated that Kamel’s “arrest illuminates that the Egyptian government’s ‘reforms’ in dialogue and action on religious freedom are merely cosmetic” (CS press release, November 2019).
CS also launched an online advocacy campaign to pressure the Egyptian government to release Kamel by utilizing their platform to enable supporters to send messages directly to leading Egyptian government officials. (CS press release, December 2019)
On December 16th, 5 NGOs of the undersigned Egyptian rights organizations called for Egyptian officials to release Kamel. At this time, reports were emerging of Kamel’s declining health in prison and his suffering of acute respiratory distress as he also has asthma. These NGOs have declared that Egyptian authorities are to be held responsible for Kamel’s safety and life. (CIHRS, press release, December 2019).
On December 10th, 2019, Lord David Alton of Liverpool sent a letter to President Sisi stating, “it is reprehensible that an Egyptian citizen be arrested and tortured merely for exercising rights, guaranteed by these bodies and the Egyptian Constitution” (Lord Alton, letter, December 2019).
Mr. Garnett Genuis, a member of Canada’s Parliament, sent a letter to the Egyptian Ambassador to Canada, H.E. Ahmed Abou Zeid, detailing Kamel’s case and arguing that they are in direct violations of Egypt’s constitution (Genius, letter, December 2019).
Vice Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Mrs. Nadine Maenza, urged the immediate release of Kamel and called for the ceasing of harassment of those who advocate for all the citizens of Egypt. (USCIRF, press release, December 2019).
Egyptian authorities continue to deny human rights violations, including most recently at the UNHRC Egypt UPR Outcomes session. Egypt’s delegate, H.E. Mr. Alaa Youssef, adamantly denied imprisonment of innocent citizens, closure of NGOs, and many other rights violations. He then claimed that some NGO’s have falsely reported about abuses taking place in Egypt.
With the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, prisons have proven to be epicenters of outbreaks as the overcrowded conditions facilitate rapid spread. On March 26, the Cairo Institute on Human Rights Studies and the aforementioned undersigned Egyptian rights NGOs published a call to release detainees in prisons which are reported to be overcrowded by 300%. Egypt has refused to release prisoners and are neglecting the basic human rights of their detainees (CIHRS, press release, March 2020). The UN also released a statement to Egypt urging the release of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic who are accused of non-violent offences and those in pre-trial detention, with specific mention of detainees imprisoned for their political or human rights work. (UNHRC, press release, April 2020).
Ramy Kamel should never have to “face intimidation, harassment or reprisals of any sort for participation in or contribution to the work of the UN and its human rights mechanisms” at the hands of the Egyptian government that refuses to adhere to its constitution and protection of fundamental human rights. (UNHCR, press release, December 2019).
Egypt is a signatory to the UDHR and ICCPR and a member of the United Nations. It is reprehensible that an Egyptian citizen be arrested and tortured merely for exercising rights, guaranteed by these bodies and the Egyptian Constitution.
Coptic Solidarity urges the UN to Ensure the Egyptian Government:
- Provide Kamel with immediate protection, medical attention and ensure his acute respiratory distress is treated
- Release Kamel immediately from prison and drop all charges against him
- Prosecute all police and government officials who participated in his illegal torture and imprisonment
- End the practice of perpetual renewal of detention pending interrogation, turning it into de facto
Coptic Solidarity is an organization seeking to help minorities, particularly the Copts, of Egypt. We support those in Egypt working for democracy, freedom, and the protection of the fundamental rights of all Egyptian citizens, and advocate in cooperation with the affiliated organizations in Canada and in Europe (Solidarité Copte). Coptic Solidarity was established in Virginia as a public charity organization under section 501 (C)(3) of the IRS Code.
Federal Ref.: EIN 27-1220227
P.O. Box 1450
VA 20122, US
Photo Credit: US Mission to UN