UN Rights Chief Calls on Egypt to Release Jailed Hunger Striker

On Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk urged Egypt to immediately release British-Egyptian jailed hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah, warning that his life "is in great danger."

UN Rights Chief Calls on Egypt to Release Jailed Hunger Striker
Image credit: AFP [via Le Monde]

Facts

  • On Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk urged Egypt to immediately release British-Egyptian jailed hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah, warning that his life "is in great danger."
  • Since the opening of the COP27 climate summit, Turk and UN Secretary-General António Guterres have reportedly raised the case with Egyptian authorities as Abd el-Fattah went on a full hunger strike last week and stopped drinking water on Sunday to coincide with the conference.
  • Abd el-Fattah was a prominent dissident in the 2011 pro-democracy uprising that led to the ousting of former Pres. Hosni Mubarak. Under the rule of Pres. Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, who rose to power in 2014, Abd el-Fattah has spent most of his time detained and is currently serving a five-year sentence for "broadcasting false news."
  • At a press conference on Tuesday, Abd el-Fattah's family voiced concerns that officials may be force-feeding him and called for proof of life. This comes alongside reported comments by Egyptian Pres. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi that he's "committed" to ensuring the activist's health "is preserved" after more than six months of consuming only 100 daily calories.
  • 15 Nobel Literature Laureates have also urged politicians attending the summit to pressure Cairo to free political dissidents, demanding them to use this opportunity "to help those most vulnerable, not just to the rising seas, but those imprisoned and forgotten" in Egypt.
  • At least 60K political prisoners are estimated to have been jailed since Pres. el-Sisi overthrew the democratically-elected Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Last week, Egyptian authorities arrested at least 65 people who called for demonstrations on Nov. 11 during COP27.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Le Monde, BBC News, Guardian, Common Dreams, and Middle East Eye.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Guardian. Leaders attending the COP27 summit have the power to free Abd el-Fattah and should use their visit to Egypt to do so. If those who claim to be fighting for change don't do something this time around, not only could Fattah die, but so too could countless activists and others who face persecution.
  • Narrative B, as provided by DW. The West has already been ramping up multi-faceted pressure on Egypt, with international human rights watchdogs urging the country to stop its repression of civil society and the US deciding to withhold millions in foreign military aid over Egypt's failure to fulfil human rights conditions. Former MP Ziyad el-Elaimy has already been pardoned, and Fattah must also be released soon.