MEDIA RELEASE June 19, 2018
Ola Al-Qaradawi in Failing Health; Urgent Need for Hospitalization
“The deprivation of liberty of Ola Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Hosam al-Din Khalaf, being in contravention of articles 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of articles 2, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and of article 16 (7) of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, III and V.”
The full text of Opinion No. 26/2018 is available here.
Under Category I, the Working Group determined that the imprisonment of Ola and Hosam lacked any legal basis because the magnitude of abuses committed by the Government of Egypt throughout Ola and Hosam’s arrest, detention, and ongoing imprisonment are so severe as to render their entire detention legally baseless.
Under Category III, the Working Group noted a broad range of violations of Ola and Hosam’s right to a fair trial, including arrest without a warrant; failure to inform at the time of their arrest of the reason for arrest or the charges against them; denial of access to legal counsel, family visits, and consular assistance; indefinite renewal of “temporary” detention orders resulting in ongoing denial of a fair and public hearing; denial of the presumption of innocence; and subjection to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in prison.
And under Category V, the Working Group determined that the Government’s arrest and detention of Ola and Hosam was inherently “discriminatory based on birth and family relations” and that it “cannot but conclude that [Ola and Hosam] have been arrested and detained for their family ties with Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi,” Ola’s father.
While the Government of Egypt fully participated in the Working Group’s process, it specifically and adamantly rejected every one of the Government’s arguments because the “Government has failed to rebut with credible evidence” the arguments presented in the petition. The Working Group also recognized Ola and Hosam’s case as one of many in Egypt brought to the Working Group in the past five years, noting that “widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”
Additionally, the Working Group concluded that “[Ola and Hosam’s] ordeals in prison amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” and referred their cases to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
In response to this decision, Aayah Khalaf, the U.S. citizen daughter of Ola and Hosam, stated: “I am incredibly thankful that the United Nations has found the detention of my parents illegal. And we desperately hope that this opinion convinces Egyptian authorities to release my parents on humanitarian grounds. My mother is critically ill and should be in a hospital, not a prison cell.”
Ola and Hosam’s international counsel, Jared Genser, emphasized: “Today’s decision vindicates what we have maintained all along, that Ola and Hosam are innocent victims wrongly targeted and arbitrarily detained by the Government of Egypt. Egypt must now resolve these cases and reunite them with their loved ones. They must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Background on the Case
Ola Al-Qaradawi (56) and Hosam Khalaf (58), who both had been granted legal permanent residence status by the Trump Administration at the time of their arrest, have a number of close personal and professional ties to the United States. They are alumni of the University of Texas-Austin and have eight immediate relatives who are American citizens, including their children and grandchildren.
On June 30, 2017, the couple was arbitrarily arrested by Egyptian State Security agents while on vacation in northern Egypt. While they have yet to be charged with any crime, both have been held in pre-trial detention pursuant to 45-day court orders, which have been consistently renewed in hearings that last only minutes. They have been denied access to legal counsel, family visits, and adequate medical care. While their counsel has consistently been refused information – including any purported “evidence” – the Egyptian state-affiliated media has claimed the couple have committed acts of “terrorism, a clear violation of their right to the presumption of innocence.
Ola, in particular, has been subjected to gratuitously cruel treatment by prison authorities, who have held her in solitary confinement since her arrest. Her health has rapidly deteriorated over the past months and she has fainted in court at least once. She is regularly subjected to physical and verbal abuse. Ola’s lawyer most recently saw her during the last detention renewal hearing on May 12, 2018 and reported to her family that he is not only worried about her health, but also now believes she is at risk of dying as a direct result of the abusive and inhuman detention conditions.
Ola and Hosam’s case has been repeatedly highlighted in human rights reports, including by the U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, which condemn their arbitrary detention and prison conditions. Recently, Amnesty International published a report on solitary confinement in Egypt, stating that Ola and Hosam’s “prison treatment . . . amounts to torture . . . [and is] in violation of . . . the UN standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners.”
Ms. Khalaf will be in Washington, D.C. from June 25-27 and is available for media interviews.
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