Maikel Nabil Sanad, the imprisoned pacifist blogger and conscientious objector sentenced to three years' imprisonment for "insulting the military" on 10 April 2011 (see co-alert, 11 April 2011), began a hunger strike in protest against his continued imprisonment on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 (see co-alert, 24 August 2011). In a new development, he has now been moved to solitary confinement, but the prison authorities refuse to transfer him to the prison hospital.
In a statement on his hunger strike, he declared that his hunger strike is in protest against the severe injustice he is subjected to, namely his unfair trial in front of a military court, the slow processing of his appeal, and the difference of treatment in the cases of Asmaa Mahfouz and Louie Nagati (who had their charges dropped on 18 August 2011) and in his case.
He demanded that the injustice his is suffering is being investigated by the prosecutor, and also requested to be transferred to the prison hospital. He ends his statement: "I will no longer accept injustice, and if my death is the price I have to pay to put an end to this injustice by the military, I am prepared to pay it."
Maikel Nabil Sanad's sentence is based on article 184 of the Egyptian penal code, which criminalizes "insulting the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council or any State Authority, or the Army or the Courts", and article 102, "spreading false information".
Egypt is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial in article 14, and freedom of opinion and expression in article 19. The interim constitution of Egypt also guarantees the right to freedom of expression, and the freedom of the press.
In his writings, Maikel Nabil Sanad made use of his right to freedom of opinion and expression. This includes his right to criticise the role of the military during and after the revolution. On 21 July 2011, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations passed a new General Comment 34 on the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It writes: "States parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration." (see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/GC34.pdf). The sentencing and imprisonment of Maikel Nabil Sanad is in clear violation of the interpretation of article 19 ICCPR, as shown in General Comment 34.
Human Rights Watch reports that military courts are currently trying numerous protesters. In an case from 15 August 2011, six protesters faced charges of "insulting the military" before a military tribunal for chanting "antagonistic" slogans about Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the de facto ruler of the country, in addition to charges of assaulting a police officer. The military court sentenced Hassan Bahgat to six months in prison in another case, 3779/2011, for insulting the military in Tahrir square on 6 August 2011.
War Resisters' International is extremely concerned about Maikel Nabil Sanad's health. He is presently refusing to eat, but is taking water and medicine for his heart condition. However, should there be no response from the authorities, he will escalate his hunger strike and first also refuse to take water, and as a final escalation refuse to take his medication. Already now, prisoners who have been in contact with him report that his health is poor, and deteriorating.
War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the Egyptian authorities.
Director of Military Judiciary
Major-General Ahmed Abd Allah
Military Judicial Department
Fax: +202 2 402 4468 / +202 2 411 3452 (ask for fax)
Military General Attorney
Major-General Medhat Radwan
Military Judicial Department
+202 2 412 0980 (ask for fax)
Minister of Defence
His Excellency Muhammad Tantawi
Ministry of Defence
firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
Fax: +20 2 2 5748 822
A protest email can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/node/13611.
War Resisters' International calls on the Egyptian authorities to respond to Maikel Nabil Sanad's hunger strike by releasing him immediately. As an interim measure, we call on the authorities to transfer Maikel Nabil Sanad to the prison hospital, where he can receive medical care if and when needed as a consequence of his hunger strike.
War Resisters' International, Connection e.V., and DFG-VK Hesse are also calling for an international day of action in support of Maikel Nabil Sanad on 9 September 2011. More information is available at http://wri-irg.org/campaigns/supportmaikelnabil .
War Resisters' International