Name: Ramy Kamel Saied Salid (commonly known as Ramy Kamel)
Country of Origin: Egypt
Background: Kamel is a notable Egyptian human rights defender and Coptic Christian who has participated in numerous events to highlight the ill-treatment of Egyptian minority groups. He is a founder of the Maspero Youth Union, which works towards ending discrimination towards Coptic Christians.
Reason for arrest:
On 23 November 2019, Kamel was ambushed and arrested in his home on 23 November 2019 after he had been documenting attacks on Coptic Christian churches and houses of worship in Egypt. Upon his arrest, which was carried out without a warrant, police also confiscated personal information documents, his computer and cellphone, and even his camera. Kamel is currently in a pre-trial detention facility at Tora Prison in Cairo, Egypt, where he faces multiple charges: “funding a terrorist organization”, “defamation” and using social media to propagate “false news threatening public order.” Kamel’s arrest also came directly after he applied for a Swiss visa to attend the UN Forum of Minority Issues in Geneva as a speaker on the forced displacement of and discrimination against Coptic Christians.
It is believed that Kamel has faced physically assaulted by the police as a means of acquiring his passwords for his electronic devices, and that he has faced other means of cruel treatment in detention, including being denied medication for his asthma and high blood pressure conditions. Kamel receives extraordinarily few visits from his family or legal counsel. As of yet, no date has been set for Kamel’s formal trial, and he remains in solitary confinement in the pre-trial detention facility.
Multiple United Nations experts – Special Rapporteur on minority issues Mr. Fernand de Varennes; Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mr. Michel Forst; Special Rapporteur on the promotion an protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Mr. David Kaye; Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Mr. Nils Melzer; Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Mr. Ahmed Shaheed; Special Rapporteur and member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Ms. Leilani Farha; Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy Mr. Joe Cannataci; and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism- released a joint statement on 11 December 2019 condemning the arbitrary arrest and detention of Kamel:
“No person should face intimidation, harassment or reprisals of any sort for participation in or contribution to the work of the UN and its human rights mechanisms. Mr. Kamel’s alleged arbitrary detention and torture fall into a pattern of raids, arrests and travel bans against human rights defenders, journalists, dissidents and their family members. Individuals who have cooperated or tried to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms have been repeatedly the target of reprisals. We also deeply regret 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.”
Current Status as of December 2020:
A recent visit from Kamel’s family members heightened their concern that his asthma condition has deteriorated rapidly. On December 30, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a public statement calling for the release of Kamel due to his health complications which undoubtedly place him at greater risk if he contracts COVID-19 in detention:
“USCIRF implores the Egyptian government to immediately release Mr. Kamel and dismiss all charges against him, after more than a year of unjust pre-trial detention. His lifelong commitment to highlighting the Coptic Christian community’s struggle to attain full religious freedom and other rights as equal citizens of Egypt makes this situation even more troubling. The government should take this opportunity to show support for the Coptic community, including those who advocate on its behalf, by releasing Mr. Kamel.” – USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza
“Egypt has demonstrated repeatedly that even as it makes some incremental progress towards improved religious freedom conditions, it has no tolerance for individual citizens who call for the very same reforms. The government must recognize it is the detention of human rights and religious freedom advocates like Ramy Kamel which deeply damages the country’s international image – not the sincere efforts of these advocates to make Egypt a more inclusive and just society.” – USCIRF Commissioner Frederick Davie