30 rights groups urge Egypt to release jailed blogger Maikel Nabil



GENEVA, Dec. 29 – The fate of Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil hangs in the balance as the renowned democracy activist marks more 120 days on hunger strike in protest against his detention by the Egyptian army, a Geneva-based human rights group warned today.

UN Watch is leading a coalition of 30 non-governmental organizations, human rights activists and dissidents from around the world in making a direct appeal (see below for full text & signatories) to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner Navi Pillay, the President of the Human Rights Council, and several UN Special Rapporteurs to highlight Nabil’s dire situation, and press the government of Egypt to release him.

“If Maikel Nabil perishes, so does the dream of a free Egypt,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

“The UN must speak out to save Maikel out of basic compassion for a person who sought only to exercise his universal right of free speech, and to demonstrate the international community’s rejection of the repression under way in Egypt as the Egyptian army clings to power.”

The appeal was also sent today to the Government of Egypt.

As one of the early voices of Egypt’s Arab Spring, Nabil, 26, initially endorsed the familiar chant of the Tahrir Square demonstrations that the “Egyptian army and the people are of one hand.”

But a blog he wrote on March 7 made clear he no longer had faith in the army as protector of the Egyptian people’s rejection of authoritarian rule.

He wrote that he had documents showing the army “never stood alongside the people, not even once, during the revolution,” and that the “behaviour of this army was cunning the whole time, and it was protecting its own interests only.”

Nabil’s arrest in March following the February resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak makes him one of the first – and certainly the most prominent – of the unknown number of Egypt’s prisoners of conscience in the post-Mubarak era.

A rallying cry of Nabil’s supporters in Egypt is “We are all Maikel Nabil.”

Nabil was charged with “insulting the Egyptian military” and convicted by a military tribunal in April. A re-trial resulted Dec. 14 only in the reduction of his sentence from three to two years as the proceeding upheld his conviction.

Nabil launched his hunger strike late August, and is now consuming only water in place of the juice he was previously accepting.

His health situation is believed to be dire.




Whereas Egypt is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees everyone the right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal and the right to be presumed innocent, under Article 14; the right to freedom of thought, under Article 18; and the right to freedom of expression, under Article 19;

Whereas Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil, age 26, has just passed the 120th day of a hunger strike that may claim his life;

Whereas Mr. Nabil was one of the early voices in Tahrir Square, inspiring the Egyptian-Arab Spring, and became the first political prisoner in the post-Mubarak era simply for exercising his universal human rights;

Whereas Mr. Nabil initially affirmed the notion that “the Egyptian army and the people are of one hand,” that the two were working together for freedom, democracy and human rights for Egypt, but later wrote on his blog that the army and the people were “no longer of one hand” when he saw the army repressing protesters;

Whereas for this act of defiance Mr. Nabil was charged with “insulting the Egyptian military” and convicted last April in a sham legal proceeding before a military tribunal, a conviction upheld last week in a re-trial held amidst the renewed brutality by the ruling military authorities in Tahrir Square;

Whereas this verdict came in a hearing that had been postponed several times after Mr. Nabil earlier rejected an offer of freedom in exchange for a confession of his alleged crime;

Whereas the tribunal’s decision has been condemned by Reporters without Borders and other human rights NGOs, while the United States State Department has urged the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to reconsider this verdict and to protect the universal rights of all Egyptian citizens, including the right to free expression;

Whereas upon hearing the result, Mr. Nabil announced that his hunger strike would now be limited to consumption of water, whereas he had previously been drinking juice;

Whereas Mr. Nabil rejects the injustice of his verdict and the legitimacy of the military tribunal, at a time when Egypt’s ruling military council has tried 12,000 people in the post-Mubarak era, being more civilians than were tried during all of Mubarak’s rule.

Whereas the tribunal currently boasts above a 93-percent conviction rate, with the remaining percentage accounted for by matters not yet having gone to trial;

Whereas there is no presumption of innocence before the Egyptian military tribunals, but rather a presumption of guilt.

Whereas the Egyptian military tribunals are agents of the army, and fail to guarantee to the accused the right to a trial before an independent and impartial judiciary.

Whereas the Egyptian military tribunals fail to guarantee the right to rebut evidence, denying consideration of the evidence; deny the right of appeal, regardless of how manifest the errors of law may be; and deny the right to independent counsel, allowing only a tribunal-appointed lawyer;

Whereas in the case of Mr. Nabil, his tribunal-appointed lawyer acted against his client by calling for Mr. Nabil’s confinement in a psychiatric prison, whose director released Mr. Nabil and pronounced him perfectly sane; and whereas Dr. Basma Abdel-Aziz of the General Secretariat of Mental Health condemned the decision to send Mr. Nabil to a mental hospital, describing it as a “moral assassination” of intellectuals;

We, the undersigned human rights activists and non-governmental organizations,

Having considered the facts surrounding Mr. Nabil’s unlawful arrest, conviction and imprisonment, do hereby find that the Government of Egypt stands in breach of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including by grossly violating the rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 18 and 19, and do hereby issue the following appeal:

1. The UN Human Rights Council should convene an emergency Special Session on the situation of Mr. Nabil’s arbitrary and unlawful detention by the Government of Egypt, and dispatch an impartial, international and independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the government’s gross violations of Mr. Nabil’s fundamental human rights;

2. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillayshould speak out forcefully to ensure that the Government of Egypt end its violation of the fundamental human rights of Mr. Nabil, and of other human rights defenders, bloggers and peaceful protesters, and consider initiating an investigation by a Panel of Experts and by the Office of the High Commissioner.

3. The independent experts of the UN Human Rights Council, including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, should speak out forcefully to ensure that the Government of Egypt end its violation of the fundamental human rights of Mr. Nabil, and of other human rights defenders, bloggers and peaceful protesters.

4. The governments of UN member states, inter-governmental groupings including the European Union, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, and members of parliament worldwide, should speak out forcefully and take all necessary action to demand that the Government of Egypt end its violation of the fundamental human rights of Mr. Nabil, and of other human rights defenders, bloggers and peaceful protesters.

5. Non-governmental, human rights and religious organizations, together will all members of civil society worldwide, should speak out forcefully and take all necessary action to pressure the Government of Egypt into ending its violation of the fundamental human rights of Mr. Nabil and of other human rights defenders, bloggers and peaceful protesters.

Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch, Switzerland

Amina Bouayach, President, Moroccan Organisation for Human Rights, Morocco

Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy, USA

Yang Jianli, Former prisoner of conscience and survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre, President, Initiatives for China, USA

Faisal Fulad, General-Secretary, Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS), Bahrain

Mohamed Abdulmalek, Chairman, Libya Watch, UK

Denise L. Perron, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, Executive Director, USA

Art Kaufman, Senior Director, World Movement for Democracy, USA

Yang Kuanxing, Chinese writer, original signatory to Charter ’08 manifesto calling for political reform in China, Editor of China E-Weekly

Esohe Aghatise, Associazione Iroko Onlus, Italy

Ali Egal, Chairman, Fanole Human Rights & Development Organization (FAHRO), Somalia/Kenya

Obinna Egbuka, President, Youth Enhancement Organization, Nigeria

Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Delegate, Vietnamese League for Human Rights, Switzerland

Francois Ullmann, President, Ingénieurs du Monde, France

Dr. Harris O. Schoenberg, President, UN Reform Advocates, USA

Anyakwee Nsirimovu, Executive Director, Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), Nigeria

Mawuli Dake, Co-Founder, Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa, Ghana

Maurice Namwira, Executive Secretary, Héritiers de la Justice, DR Congo

Olanrewaju Suraju, Chairman, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, Nigeria

Alex Gladstein, Director of Institutional Affairs, Human Rights Foundation, USA

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President, Stop Child Executions, Canada

Gibreil Hamid, President, Darfur Peace and Development Centre, Switzerland

Marina Sikora, Member of the General Council, Nonviolent Radical Party, transnational and transparty (NRPtt)

María José Zamora Solórzano, Member of the Board, Movimiento por Nicaragua, Nicaragua

Hu Ping, Editor in Chief, Beijing Spring

Christina Fu, President, New Hope Foundation, USA

Kim Nichols, Co-Executive Director, African Services Committee, USA

Michael Craig, President, China Rights Network, Canada

Wang Longmeng, President, Chinese-Tibetan Association, France

Abdinoor Farey, Executive Director, Somali Youth for Peace and Development, Somalia

UN Watch