PEN International is concerned over the health of detained Coptic activist and blogger Ramy Kamel amid a global health crisis. He suffers from an acute respiratory disease, which requires proper medical care and stable access to medication, the condition makes him particularly vulnerable to the COVID 19 virus. Kamel has been in solitary confinement for over 13 months, which profoundly affect his psychological and metal health and increase his vulnerability to COVID-19. Today marks the second Coptic Christmas day that he spends in his jail cell instead of being with his family.
Kamel is a Coptic Christian activist and blogger. He co-founded the Maspero Youth Union, a social movement that promoted Christians rights in Egypt following the 25 January uprising in 2011. His work defending the rights of Christians in Egypt has included raising awareness regarding the attacks against Coptic churches and advocating for the protection of the Coptic community. Between October and November 2019, reports circulated about fires, which broke out inside churches in mysterious circumstances. Kamel wrote a series of posts and comments on his Facebook page commenting on these incidents, which appear to have agitated security agents.
On 4 November 2019, a National Security officer summoned Kamel for questioning over his posts and comments. While under interrogation, Kamel reported being beaten, ill-treated and told to stop writing about these incidents. After his release, Kamel continued writing about the attacks. On 23 November 2019, National Security officers raided his house after mid-night and arrested him. Later, Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered his pre-trial detention, on charges of joining and funding a terrorist group, misusing social media and spreading false news.
International law firmly protects the right of individuals to freely express themselves in writing or any other form, especially those who came from minority communities who are particularly vulnerable. It also strictly prohibits the prolonged use of solitary confinement. As a state party to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Egyptian government has a legally binding responsibility to protect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR.
PEN International considers Kamel’s arrest, prolonged pre-trial detention and solitary confinement to be serious attack on freedom of expression of minority activists in Egypt. Members of minority communities should not be afraid of expressing themselves or rising awareness regarding their community’s grievances. The Egyptian government should adhere to its international obligations toward freedom of expression and ensure that no one will be sent to jail because they peacefully expressed their options or views, especially, members of minority communities.
PEN International reiterates UN experts and the European Parliament’s calls to unconditionally and promptly release Kamel, and drop all charges against him.
For further information please contact Mina Thabet, MENA Programme Coordinator at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: firstname.lastname@example.org