Egypt: Rights groups call on UAE to release Egyptian-American citizen

Several human rights groups have called on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to release the Egyptian-American citizen Sherif Osman, warning that he could face torture and arbitrary detention should he be forcibly returned to Egypt.

Five rights organizations on 9 December called on the UAE to release recently detained Egyptian-American political dissident Sherif Osman amid fears that he will be deported to Egypt.

Osman, who lives in the United States, was arrested last month during a trip to Dubai.

Egypt had requested his detention on charges that include “speaking negatively against government institutions” after he posted several videos on YouTube criticizing Egypt’s government and calling for protests during the country’s hosting of COP27. His fiancée has voiced fears that he could be deported to Egypt soon.

“The arrest of Osman comes as part of the Egyptian authorities’ growing attempts to target dissent abroad,” the five organizations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, wrote.

“If deported to Egypt, Osman will share the fate of tens of thousands of political prisoners who are detained in inhumane conditions, and suffer torture and degrading treatment while being detained indefinitely without access to fair trial.”

Amnesty International also separately urged the UAE not to forcibly return Osman to Egypt.

Sherif Osman has been in detention in Dubai for more than a month and is at risk of multiple human rights violations if extradited to Egypt.

“UAE, which will host COP28 next year, arrested the dissident at Egypt’s request. The treatment of Sherif Osman does not bode well for the next UN Climate Conference,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

The United Arab Emirates must not extradite Egyptian-American political dissident Sherif Osman to Egypt where he would be at risk of torture and other human rights violations, Amnesty International said.

On 6 November, plain-clothed Emirati security officials arrested Osman in a restaurant in Dubai. The officials didn’t present an arrest warrant or explain to him or his distraught family the reason for his arrest, and he was taken away in an unmarked car. A month later, Emirati officials told his lawyer that they had acted in response to a request from Egypt.

The Emirati authorities prevented Osman from signing a power of attorney document until a month after his arrest, and he still hasn’t been allowed to meet with his lawyer. Instead, he’s been permitted to speak by phone with his family, telling them he’s been detained at Dubai’s al-‘Awir prison since 8 November.

Osman has previously posted several videos critical of the Egyptian government. In a video posted a week before his arrest, he called for protests during COP27 in Egypt.

Saija Virta, Osman’s fiancée, told Amnesty: “We have no documents at all from any Emirati authority. We don’t have any reason for why he’s being detained. We have been given no reason why he hasn’t been allowed to meet with a lawyer for 32 days.”

Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“Sherif’s family vacation to the UAE has turned into a nightmare following his arbitrary arrest during a family meal.

“The UAE authorities must halt any plans to forcibly return Sherif to Egypt where he would be at real risk of torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and unfair trial due to his vocal opposition to the Egyptian government.

“Sending him to Egypt for expressing his views peacefully online would be a grave violation of the UAE’s obligations under international law, and send an ominous message that peaceful opponents of the Egyptian government are not safe, even outside its borders.

“He should be immediately and unconditionally released, and the extradition case against him dropped.

“The treatment of Sherif Osman does not bode well for the next UN Climate Conference. His arrest took place during this year’s COP in the country where the next will be held, at the request of this year’s COP host country.

“The Emirati authorities must also commit to protecting the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly during COP28.”