Image: #FreeAlaa Campaign

Alaa Abd El-Fattah – Letter to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Update — April 17, 2024: Through a recent letter, Access Now and 26 human rights organizations once again urge the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) to promptly address the ongoing imprisonment of Alaa Abd El-Fattah in Egypt. Building upon the initial submission filed on November 14, 2023, the coalition calls on the UNWGAD to consider it under the Urgent Action procedure and issue its opinion on Alaa’s case as soon as possible. 

Access Now’s Executive Director, Brett Solomon, has joined 33 directors and experts from other freedom of expression & human rights organizations in signing a letter to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention regarding Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s ongoing imprisonment in Egypt.

“Alaa Abd El-Fattah — activist, technologist, and friend — has accrued yet another birthday isolated from his family and loved ones, unjustly confined within the walls of an Egyptian prison cell. Despite the global pressure that united people and organizations worldwide to demand #FreeAlaa during COP27, as COP28 takes place, Alaa remains imprisoned. Now, more than ever, action is needed. As the Executive Director of Access Now — an international human rights organization — we stand collectively with colleagues, experts, and allies in calling for Alaa’s immediate release. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention must address Alaa’s unjust and arbitrary incarceration.”

Read in Arabic / للقراءة بالعربية

23 November 2023

Dear Members of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,

We, the undersigned 34 freedom of expression and human rights organisations, are writing regarding the recent submission to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) filed on behalf of the award-winning writer and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a British-Egyptian citizen.

On 14 November 2023, Alaa Abd El-Fattah and his family filed an urgent appeal with the UNWGAD, submitting that his continuing detention in Egypt is arbitrary and contrary to international law. Alaa Abd El-Fattah and his family are represented by an International Counsel team led by English barrister Can Yeğinsu.

Alaa Abd-El Fattah has spent much of the past decade imprisoned in Egypt on charges related to his writing and activism and remains arbitrarily detained in Wadi al-Natrun prison and denied consular visits. He is a key case of concern to our organisations.

Around this time last year (11 November 2022), UN Experts in the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council joined the growing chorus of human rights voices demanding Abd el-Fattah’s immediate release.

We, the undersigned organisations, are writing in support of the recent UNWGAD submission and to urge the Working Group to consider and announce their opinion on Abd El-Fattah’s case at the earliest opportunity.

Yours sincerely,

Brett Solomon, Executive Director, Access Now

Ahmed Samih Farag, General Director, Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies

Quinn McKew, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

Bahey eldin Hassan, Director, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Jodie Ginsberg, President, Committee to Protect Journalists 

Sayed Nasr, Executive Director, EgyptWide for Human Rights 

Ahmed Attalla, Executive Director, Egyptian Front for Human Rights 

Samar Elhusseiny, Programs Officer, Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF) 

Jillian C. York, Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN 

Wadih Al Asmar, President, EuroMed Rights 

James Lynch, Co-Director, FairSquare 

Ruth Kronenburg, Executive Director, Free Press Unlimited 

Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director, Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Adam Coogle, Deputy Middle East Director, Human Rights Watch

Sarah Sheykhali, Executive Director, and Mostafa Fouad, Head of Programs, HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement

Matt Redding, Head of Advocacy, IFEX

Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, Director, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute

Alice Mogwe, President, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Shireen Al Khatib, Acting Director, The Palestinian Center For Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)

Liesl Gerntholtz, Director, Freedom To Write Center, PEN America

Grace Westcott, President, PEN Canada

Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director, PEN International

Tess McEnery, Executive Director, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

Antoine Bernard, Director of Advocacy and Assistance, Reporters Sans Frontières

Ricky Monahan Brown, President, Scottish PEN 

Ahmed Salem, Executive Director, Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR)

Mohamad Najem, Executive Director, SMEX 

Mazen Darwish, General Director, The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) 

Mai El-Sadany, Executive Director, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)

Kamel Labidi, Board member, Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

Aline Batarseh, Executive Director, Visualizing Impact 

Menna Elfyn, President, Wales PEN Cymru 

Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui, Head of the Europe Office, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders