Experts of the Human Rights Council have concluded that the Egyptian authorities have detained blogger Karim Amer arbitrarily for his online criticisms and for exercising his right to freedom of expression. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) communicated its decision to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) welcomed the decision. They described it as ground-breaking and a landmark in the fight against arbitrary detention and restrictions to freedom of expression in Egypt.
Amnesty International and the two Egyptian human rights organizations, whose lawyers worked extensively on the case of Karim Amer, are urging the Egyptian authorities to urgently comply with the WGAD’s decision and release Karim Amer immediately and unconditionally. The three organizations have considered Karim Amer a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his release.
Karim Amer was sentence in 2007 to four years in prison for writing on his blog criticizing Egypt's al-Azhar religious authorities and President Mubarak. Charges against him include "spreading information disruptive of public order and damaging to the country’s reputation", "incitement to hate Islam" and "defaming the President of the Republic".
Recent years have witnessed an increase in the number of journalists tried for defamation charges in Egypt. In its decision, the WGAD considered that imprisoning journalists and bloggers on defamation charges or insulting State authorities is disproportionate and impact seriously on freedom of opinion and expression.
The decision of the Working Group is a welcome warning to the Egyptian authorities not to hide behind defamation of religion or insults to heads of state as a way to curb freedom of expression.
The three organizations are calling on the Egyptian authorities to review or abolish legislation that, in violation of international law, punishes the exercise of the rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Read the full WGAD statement in the attachment below.