Urgent Appeal

Egypt: Death while in custody of Mr. Shady Habash


The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the death while in custody of Mr. Shady Habash, film director, photographer and human rights defender.

According to the information received, on the night of May 1, 2020, Mr. Shady Habash, 24, was found dead in Tora prison (Cairo). His health reportedly deteriorated dramatically in the last days of his detention. He was momentarily hospitalised, then transferred back to the prison on the evening of May 1, 2020, where he died during the night. The prison guards were slow to intervene despite being alerted by his cellmates, who reportedly called out and shouted for help repeatedly throughout the hours preceding his death. At the time of the publication of this Urgent Appeal, the exact reasons of Mr. Habash death remained unknown.

Mr. Shady Habash had been arrested in March 2018, together with his colleague Mr. Mustafa Gamal, and charged with several accusations, including “membership of a terrorist group” (article 12 of the Counter-terrorism law of 2015), “spreading false news” (article 102 bis of the Egyptian Criminal Code), “blasphemy and contempt of religion” (article 98 F of the same Code) and “insulting the military” (article 184 of the same Code). The charges stemmed from the release of the videoclip they directed for the song “Balaha” by singer Mr. Ramy Essam, which mocked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi by comparing him to a notorious liar and condemning alleged government corruption. The pair have been held in pre-trial detention pending investigation ever since their arrest. The author of the song, Mr. Galal el-Behairy, is also in jail and the singer Mr. Ramy Essam, who performed the song, is currently exiled in Sweden.

The Observatory deplores the death of Mr. Shady Habash while in custody and denounces the medical negligence he suffered within that framework. The Observatory further recalls that his detention was arbitrary, as it was only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities and his exercise of freedom of expression.

How You Can Help

i. Carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thoroughinvestigation into the death of Mr. Shady Habash, in order to identify all thoseresponsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, sanction them asprovided by the law and provide Mr. Habash family with effective remedies;ensure Shady’s co-detainees are heard as witnesses and protected from unduepressure, during the investigation;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Mustafa Gamal andGalal el-Behairy and put an end to any form of harassment, including at thejudicial level, against them as well as against Mr. Ramy Essam and moregenerally against all human rights defenders in Egypt;

iii. Guarantee thephysical and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in Egypt inall circumstances;

iv. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, inparticular with Articles 1, and 12.2;

v. Ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in allcircumstances, in accordance with international human rights standards andinternational instruments to which Egypt is a State party.

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