EGYPT: Authorities deny the operation he needs to survive the seriously ill and arbitrarily imprisoned lawyer Massoum Marzouk
Mr Massoum Marzouk is an Egyptian lawyer, a human rights defender and an opponent to President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, whom he criticized several times for his policy of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances. He is currently in jail, and his life is seriously threatened.
In 2016, Mr Marzouk opposed the transfer of two Egyptian islands (Tiran and Sanafir) to Saudi Arabia. On behalf of politician Hamdeen Sabahi and Moustafa Bakry, he seized the Administrative tribunal and, having proved that these islands had always belonged to Egypt, he obtained the cancellation of the treaty organizing the transfer. The Egyptian State appealed the decision, which was nevertheless confirmed by the High administrative tribunal – in spite of which the islands were effectively transferred.
On August 5th, 2018, during the process of constitutional review aimed at providing Mr al-Sissi with a lifelong presidency, Mr Marzouk wrote a Facebook post proposing a referendum about the political action of the regime.
Less than three weeks later, Mr Marzouk was arrested at his home; the police searched the place and seized some of his goods. The raid was ordered by Mr Abbas Kamel, chief of domestic intelligence and former chief of staff of the president. No warrant was issued to justify the arrest, and the place of detention was kept secret for several days.
Mr Marzouk is detained in the Tora prison (Cairo) since August 23rd, 2018. He is charged on the ground of antiterrorist laws; but, to date, no trial was held and no hearing date was communicated.
Apart from extremely hard conditions of detention (isolation, privation of light…), Mr Marzouk’s life is seriously threatened: due to an abdominal hernia, his health condition is worsening every day. In spite of the prison doctor’s recommendations, the authorities refuse that Mr Marzouk get the surgery that would save him. It further seems that this constitutes a method which Egyptian authorities resort to in order to get rid of their opponents – some of whom are in “temporary detention” since 2014.
The OIAD calls on Egyptian authorities to urgently take into account Mr Marzouk’s critical health condition, and accordingly to authorize the surgery he needs, in accordance with United Nations’ Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (1990). The latter protect the right of prisoners to “have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation” (9th principle); they also recall that prisoners enjoy the rights enounced in the 1966 International covenant on economic, social, and cultural rights, amongst which the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (article 12. 1).
The OIAD furthermore invites Egyptian authorities to comply with United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, according to which lawyers have, “like other citizens (…) the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights” (23rd principle).
Lastly, the OIAD calls on Egyptian authorities to immediately cease any arbitrary detention and, with due regard to the rule of law, to satisfy the requirements of the fair trial.
Who are we?
The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger was created by the National Bar Council (France), the Paris Bar (France), the Consejo General de la Abogacía Espanola (Spain), and the Consiglio Nazionale Forense (Italy). Its goal is to conduct a constant monitoring on lawyers facing threats around the world because they lawfully practice their profession and to provide assistance to attorneys whose lives, freedom or practice are threatened.