In response to a referral by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has recognized that Hisham Gaafar, an Egyptian journalist and human rights defender, has been held arbitrarily since October 2015. RSF is concerned for his health and reiterates its call for his immediate release.
Gaafar has been in preventive detention for the past 38 months, which is far more than the maximum allowed under Egyptian law. The Working Group published its finding on 17 December.
Gaafar was arrested on 21 October 2015 for allegedly "belonging to a banned group," a spurious charge used to gag all critics of the current regime. The label "banned group" refers to the Muslim Brotherhood, which backed the government that was overthrown by a coup in 2013.
Denied family visits for more than year, Gaafar now has many ailments resulting from the conditions to which he is being subjected in prison, and his state of health has declined sharply in recent months. RSF has learned that he needs an operation as soon as possible but the prison management is preventing it by deliberately mislaying his medical files.
"Holding a journalist without trial for more than three years, keeping him in prison although his health has worsened dramatically, and forbidding him from receiving any visits for more than a year constitute an act of cruelty as well as violating the law," RSF's Middle East desk said.
"Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Egypt has ratified, the Egyptian authorities are responsible for Hisham Gaafar's health, they must urgently provide him with the medical attention he needs, and they must release him unconditionally."
RSF referred Gaafar's case to the UN Working Group in July. RSF's referral also included the case of Wael Abbas, a blogger who was released conditionally on 12 December.
Egypt is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.