Ramy and Céline Shaath v. Arab Republic of Egypt

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Case Manager

Ramy Shaath is an Egyptian-Palestinian national and a prominent human rights defender and political activist who was an active participant in the 2011 Egyptian revolution. For decades, Egypt has targeted Shaath for his activism, in particular, through myriad ways to deny his Egyptian nationality and symbolically cut Shaath’s ties to Egypt. In 1990, Egypt began this pursuit in earnest: issuing him a non-standard passport requiring yearly renewal and outright refusing to issue Shaath a passport in 2012. In 2019, he was arrested and arbitrarily detained by the Egyptian government, which made the renouncing of his Egyptian citizenship a condition of his release on January 6, 2022. At the time of his arrest, Shaath’s wife, Céline Shaath-Lebrun, a French national legally residing in Egypt, was taken into custody by Egyptian authorities and deported to France without consular access.


On June 25, 2019, Egypt began arresting human rights activists and former politicians, some of whom became victims of enforced disappearance, including several close to Shaath and his activism. Those arrested were brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (“SSSP”)—a special branch of the Public Prosecution responsible for investigating national security threats—for questioning on suspicion of involvement with a terrorist group or publishing false news. These arrests and disappearances helped to quash political opposition and denied the exercise of a legitimate right to political participation. Those arrested were added to Case 930/2019 known as the “Hope Plan” case, after the targeting of the “Hope Coalition,” a civil opposition political alliance of activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, who allegedly supported a run in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

On July 5, 2019, Shaath was targeted in this campaign and had his home, which he shared with his wife, Céline Shaath-Lebrun, a French national, raided by at least a dozen officers, who were heavily armed, masked, and in black clothes without any identifying markers or insignia. The officers seized several items including money, documents, computers, and mobile phones. Shaath and his wife Céline were detained and placed into separate vehicles.

The vehicle carrying Céline took her to the Cairo International Airport where she was placed in a room under surveillance for several hours. Céline was never told why she was being deported, nor given consular access despite her multiple requests and legal entitlement to speak with the French authorities in Egypt. After approximately seven hours, Céline was removed to a plane bound for Paris. She was also never allowed the opportunity to challenge the decision in front of a court.

Shaath was taken to an undisclosed state security facility where he was held incommunicado for approximately 36 hours, after which he was transferred to Tora Investigations (Tahqiq) Prison at the Tora Prison Complex in Greater Cairo without trial. In April 2020, Shaath was added to Case 571/2020, resulting in his inclusion on Egypt’s terrorist list. Neither he nor his lawyer was aware of the case and only learned of his designation through the Egyptian press. Under Egypt’s Terrorist Entities Law, the Public Prosecutor has the power to submit to courts lists of persons to be designated as “terrorists” within a broad and vaguely worded definition of terrorism. This provides ample discretion to authorities in a process that can be manipulated and subjected to politicization. Foreign governments and United Nations experts have widely condemned this practice, noting that terrorism charges in Egypt “are being used to target legitimate human rights activities, and have a profound chilling effect on civil society as a whole.”

Several entities have documented the persistently brutal, inhuman, and degrading conditions inside the Tora Prison Complex. Throughout his detention, Shaath was housed in severely overcrowded cells and exposed to extreme temperatures. Shaath was held in the cell for approximately 23 hours Monday through Friday and only permitted approximately one hour to one hour and a half of outdoor time, which was suspended on weekends and holidays. Access to clean water was intermittent, and food was often inedible and inadequate. Shaath and his cellmates shared one toilet, which consisted of a hole in the ground, and the shower was placed over it. All meals were prepared near this area. Medical treatment was withheld and on two occasions, Shaath contracted scabies. The prison authorities also failed to implement the necessary precautionary measures against COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic. Shaath’s visitation rights were severely limited or altogether denied and he was denied access to his lawyers.

In December 2021, Egypt took its most brazen and shameless attempt at stripping Shaath of his Egyptian citizenship, by offering to consider his release if he renounced his Egyptian nationality and dropped his administrative lawsuit against the state. After refusing several times, on December 14, 2021, Shaath was compelled to file a document with the Ministry of Justice waiving his Egyptian nationality and his lawsuit against the Ministry of Interior.

On January 6, Shaath was handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken to the Cairo International Airport, after being disappeared for a second time by the State. There, a troop of heavily armed security officers paraded him through the airport. He was given his Palestinian passport and summarily expelled from his country to France.

Open Society Justice Initiative Involvement

The Justice Initiative serves as counsel to Ramy Shaath and Céline Lebrun-Shaath alongside organizations the Freedom Initiative, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.


The complaint alleges that the following violations occurred under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Violations Against Ramy Shaath

  • Article 5 (Enforced Disappearance): Shaath was transferred to unknown locations without proper legal authorization, and subjected to sensory deprivation and physical restraints, despite clear prohibitions in international standards like the Mandela Rules and the African Commission’s Guidelines. His experiences in custody, including blindfolding and subjection to physical and psychological suffering, not only breach these guidelines but also infringe on his rights under Article 5 of the African Charter.
  • Article 5 (Forced Renunciation of Citizenship): Article 5 of the African Charter protects the dignity inherent in every individual and their right to recognition of their legal status, which encapsulates one’s capacity to hold rights and obligations. Denationalization is considered a violation with strong protection under international law, only permissible in extremely rare cases. Shaath was left with no option but to relinquish his nationality under threats and promises of potential freedom. This coerced renunciation is in direct contradiction with the principles of Article 5, violating his inherent dignity and depriving him of his legal status.
  • Article 5 (Violations of Dignity): Shaath was regularly detained in conditions that did not respect his dignity, in further violation of Article 5 of the Charter.
  • Article 6 (Arbitrary Detention): Shaath was held without procedural protections for over 900 days. His detentions in Tora Prison, his enforced disappearance, and his detainment at Cairo International Airport before deportation are constitute a breach of Article 6.
  • Articles 7 and 26 (Right to Access an Independent Court): The State’s handling of Shaath’s passport, Egyptian citizenship, detention, inclusion in the “terrorist list,” and deportation, represent multiple infringements on his right to be heard and to access independent courts.
  • Article 7(1) (Right to Fair Trial): Shaath experienced multiple violations of Article 7(1) including the right to be tried within a reasonable time (or at all), his right to be presumed innocent, right to access to his lawyer, and right to information regarding the reasons and evidence underlying his arrest and detention. He was not properly informed of the specific criminal charges against him nor of his designation as a terrorist. Additionally, the stripping of his Egyptian nationality without proper procedural safeguards and his subsequent deportation highlight clear violations of Article 7(1).
  • Article 9 (Right to Information and Expression): Shaath faced continuous violations of his right to information under Article 9(1) of the Charter, as crucial details regarding his arrest, disappearance, detention, and other state actions were either withheld or never provided. The State also violated Mr. Shaath’s rights to freedom of expression under Article 9(2) by arresting, detaining, and deporting him to suppress his political activism and dissent against the government. This also deprived the rights of Egyptian society to receive information.
  • Article 10 (Right to Association): The arbitrary arrest, disappearance, detention, terrorism designation, and deportation, infringed on Shaath’s right to association. Moreover, these actions in response to his political beliefs and works are a further violation of Article 10.
  • Article 12 (Right to Freedom of Movement): Article 12 protects an individual’s right to freedom of movement and residence within the state, as well as the right to leave any country and return to his own. Shaath’s experiences, particularly the non-renewal of his passport, his forced renunciation of citizenship, and his designation on the terrorist list, violate these rights.
  • Article 13 (Right to Political Participation): Shaath’s right to political participation and access to public services was violated as a consequence of his denationalization, deportation, and passport denial.
  • Article 14 (Right to Property): The State violated Article 14, by not paying Shaath court-ordered legal expenses, confiscating personal property without justifiable cause or returning it, and placing him on a terrorist list, thus freezing his assets, without adequate justification or compensation.
  • Article 16 (Right to Health): Shaath's experiences during detention, including lack of clean water, substandard food, insufficient healthcare, unsanitary conditions, and ill-treatment, violated his right to health.
  • Article 18 (Right to Family Life): The state separated the Shaath family through the forced disappearance of Shaath and the unlawful deportation of Lebrun. The state further denied Shaath his right to family life by holding him incommunicado as well as severely restricting proper communication and denying him visitation with his family while in detention.
  • Article 1 (Failure to Provide Redress): The government failed to take any steps to give effect to Shaath’s rights and to provide redress for the violations that he suffered, contrary to Article 1, in conjunction with each of the above articles.

Violations Against Céline Lebrun-Shaath

  • Article 6 (Arbitrary Detention): Lebrun was held at the Cairo International Airport without clear justification or consular access, and was not free to leave voluntarily, thus constituting an arbitrary deprivation of her liberty.
  • Article 9 (Right to Information): Lebrun was deported without clear reasons in breach of her rights under Article 9(1) of the Charter.
  • Articles 12(4) and 7 (Freedom of Movement and Residence; Right to Fair Trial): Lebrun was unlawfully and arbitrarily expelled without proper legal justification or the chance to challenge her deportation, in direct violation of Article 12(4), which ensures protection against unjust expulsion for non-nationals legally admitted in a state.
  • Article 18 (Right to Family Life): Lebrun’s expulsion violated her right to family life as it separated her from her husband.
  • Article 14 (Right to Property): The confiscation of Lebrun’s property during the raid of her residence with Shaath violated the right to property enshrined in Article 14.
  • Article 1 (Failure to Provide Redress): The Government failed to take any steps to give effect to Lebrun’s rights and to provide redress for the violations that she suffered, contrary to Article 1, in conjunction with each of the above articles.
August 03, 2023

Ramy Shaath and Céline Shaath-Lebrun file their submission with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights regarding the admissibility and merits of their case, requesting a series of remedies, including reinstatement of Shaath’s Egyptian citizenship and the issuance of damages.

May 05, 2023

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights notifies of its seizure (acceptance) of the complaint.

December 12, 2022

The Justice Initiative, alongside the Freedom Initiative, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, file a complaint before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on behalf of Ramy Shaath and Celine Lebrun-Shaath.

January 06, 2022

Ramy Shaath is deported from Egypt.

December 14, 2021

Ramy Shaath is coerced into renouncing his Egyptian citizenship.

July 05, 2019

Ramy Shaath and Céline Shaath-Lebrun are detained by Egyptian security forces following a raid of their home and are forcibly separated. Shaath is forcibly disappeared for 36 hours, and Lebrun is unlawfully deported from Egypt without consular access or due process.

December 14, 2021
Citizen Renouncement Document (English) Download the two-page document. Download

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