Three months following Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s decision to reactivate the Presidential Pardon Committee, the undersigned human rights organizations call for political detainees to be pardoned. Today 28 July, a group of Egyptian human rights organizations sent their second list of 536 cases of detainees in Egyptian prisons to members of the Presidential Pardon Committee. The organizations had sent the first list on 23 May 2022, which included 2,418 cases. Only 49 detainees listed in these cases were released by criminal or prosecution courts, an equivalent of less than 2 percent of the prisoners requested for release, and inclusive of two detainees who were recycled in new political cases under the same accusations. A total of 2,954 cases has been sent, including 2,583 detainees in political cases and 241 in criminal cases, in addition to 130 cases of enforced disappearance.
The President ordered the reactivation of the Pardon Committee on 26 April, and human rights organizations called for any decision releasing or pardoning detainees to be made in adherence to clear and publicized criteria and regulations, whether the detainee is serving a prison sentence after conviction or in pre-trial detention for political cases. The organizations had hoped that the Presidential Pardon Committee would prioritize the release of all detainees held on political charges or in retaliation for their opinions.
Nevertheless, the Presidential Pardon Committee’s continued indifference towards the required criteria and regulations has led to a conflict in the work of the committee and an undermining of its competence. Although a member of the pardon committee, in a statement to Al-Bawaba News, claimed that the committee is working in compliance with clear mechanisms; in reality, thousands of detainees and their families are still waiting to be informed of the criteria through which decisions to release or pardon detainees are taken. For years, their aspirations of a committee or party restoring the freedom of arbitrarily held pre-trial detainees have been blighted by perpetual state inaction and obfuscation.
The work of the Presidential Pardon Committee has been further called into question by conflicting statements regarding its scope. Some members asserted that the committee’s efforts are responsible for the recent release of some pre-trial detainees from prosecution or counselling sessions. Yet Recently and in contradiction of the committee member claims, Minister of Justice Omar Marawan stated that the presidential pardon applies only to convicts; further dashing the hopes of those deprived of their freedom without due process for years, often beyond the two-year limit imposed by Egyptian law for pre-detention.
Fewer political prisoners than anticipated have been released over the past months, including those released under presidential pardons. Despite the repeated promises to release pardoning lists coinciding with the anniversary of 30 June, and on Eid al-Adha, only six political detainees were released through presidential pardons. Meanwhile, state security continues to newly arrest citizens over political charges; the newly detained far exceed the number of detainees released. This represents a continuation of an ongoing state security strategy that has already resulted in the exacerbation of the political prisoners’ crisis without a solution for years.
The undersigned human rights organizations call on the Presidential Pardon Committee to announce the criteria and regulations governing the selection of detainees’ names submitted to the Presidency for a pardon. We renew our demand for the immediate and comprehensive release of all prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, as a first step towards ensuring the state’s commitment to its national dialogue. Otherwise, the dialogue will simply remain as ‘ink on paper’, continuing to fail in effectively alleviating Egypt’s current human rights crisis.
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
El Nadim Center For Management & Rehabilitation of victims of violence
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
The Freedom Initiative