100+ UK Parliamentarians write to Foreign Office on case of Alaa Abd el-Fattah

A letter signed by more than 100 MPs and members of the House of Lords was today submitted to the UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, to urge fresh approaches on the case of British-Egyptian pro-democracy writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah.

In their letter, the parliamentarians called on the government to take two particular actions directly under the Foreign Secretary’s control:

  • For the UK to lead on a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council; and
  • To update the FCDO’s travel advice for British visitors to Egypt.

It has now been 18 months that the British embassy in Cairo has been prevented from visiting British national, Alaa Abd el-Fattah, in prison in Egypt. In February this year, FairSquare and the family of Alaa Abd el-Fattah submitted written evidence to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, urging the government to “end its sole reliance on a strategy of high-level lobbying” on the case.

Update: on 3 August, a response was received from Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa. This can be read on the CAABU website.

Subject: British national Alaa Abd el-Fattah and UK leadership role at the UN Human Rights Council

Dear Foreign Secretary,

We are writing to express our concern at the lack of progress on the case of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, six months on from the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Sisi in Sharm el-Sheikh. As a result, we are asking you to take the lead on a joint statement on Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council, and to update the UK’s travel advice for the country.

You are of course aware that while the two leaders were meeting, Alaa was perilously close to death, collapsing just days later. Since he chose to end his hunger and water strike, he has remained imprisoned in his cell and has still not received a single visit from a consular official, despite repeated commitments to Alaa’s family from British ministers and officials that they are doing everything they can.

Private lobbying of the Egyptian government, even at the highest levels, is yet to deliver results. This calls for fresh approaches that draw on traditional British strengths of international diplomacy. The Human Rights Council presents a key opportunity for the UK to lead on a joint statement. The last collective expression of concern at the Council was in March 2021. In the months following this statement, the Egyptian authorities lifted the state of emergency and launched a new human rights strategy. While these largely cosmetic measures did not ultimately improve the dire human rights situation, they nonetheless indicate the attention the authorities pay to events at the Council.

British leadership is necessary and critical. As a founding member of the Human Rights Council, which pledged when elected to “continue to hold to account all those responsible for the worst violations and abuses”, the UK has the assets and credibility to deliver a well-supported joint statement. We have no doubt that your partners and allies in the Council and beyond would stand ready to support such important efforts.

We also urge you, as a matter of priority, to update the FCDO’s travel advice to align with US travel advice on the situation for detained nationals in Egypt. The US government warns that “U.S. citizenship does not provide protection from detention or arrest by Egyptian authorities, and individuals detained may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention.” It also states that, “the Egyptian authorities do not automatically notify the U.S. Embassy when a dual national is detained, or provide information about their alleged crime”.

It is a matter of serious concern that British nationals do not have clear advice to rely on in this matter, which is vital for their personal security. The fact that the UK has been refused consular access to Alaa Abd el-Fattah suggests that the situation of British dual nationals is similar or even worse to that of Americans.

Yours sincerely, 

Rt Hon. Alistair Carmichael MP

Full list of signatories

Rt Hon. Alistair Carmichael MP 

Rt Hon. Diane Abbott MP

Debbie Abrahams MP

Rushanara Ali MP

Lord David Alton of Liverpool

Baroness Joan Bakewell DBE

Hannah Bardell MP

Rt Hon. Hilary Benn MP

Baroness Natalie Bennett of Manor Castle

Rt Hon. Baroness Tessa Blackstone

Olivia Blake MP

Paul Blomfield MP

Crispin Blunt MP

Steven Bonnar MP

Sir Peter Bottomley MP

Rt Hon. Ben Bradshaw MP

Baroness Sal Brinton

Deirdre Brock MP

Alan Brown MP

Sir Chris Bryant MP

Richard Burgon MP

Dan Carden MP

Sarah Champion MP

Joanna Cherry MP

Rt Hon. Jeremy Corbyn MP

Wayne David MP

Martyn Day MP

Marsha De Cordova MP

Rt Hon. Lord Navnit Dholakia OBE DL

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP

Rt Hon. Baroness Frances D’Souza

Lord Alf Dubs

Rt Hon. Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP

Julie Elliott MP

Marion Fellows MP

Margaret Ferrier MP

Rt Hon. Lord George Foulkes of Cumnock

Vicky Foxcroft MP

Rt Hon. Lord Edward Garnier KC

Patricia Gibson MP

Patrick Grady MP

Lord Leslie Griffiths of Burry Port

Rt Hon. Lord Peter Hain

Lord David Hannay of Chiswick GCMG

Lord John Hendy KC

Drew Hendry MP

Wera Hobhouse MP

Lord Raymond Hylton

Baroness Barbara Janke

Christine Jardine MP

Kim Johnson MP

Rt Hon. David Jones MP

Baroness Jennifer Jones of Moulsecoomb

Baroness Helena Kennedy of The Shaws KC

Ben Lake MP

Chris Law MP

Kim Leadbeater MP

David Linden MP

Baroness Ruth Lister of Burtersett

Sir Tony Lloyd MP

Tim Loughton MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Kenny MacAskill MP

Angus MacNeil MP

Andy McDonald MP

Stewart McDonald MP

Stuart McDonald MP

Rt Hon. John McDonnell MP

Lord Mark McInnes of Kilwinning CBE

Anne McLaughlin MP

Carol Monaghan MP

Layla Moran MP

Rt Rev. Lord Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome

John Nicolson MP

Rt Hon. Baroness Lindsay Northover

Lord Jonathan Oates

Brendan O’Hara MP

Baroness Nuala O’Loan DBE MRIA

Kate Osamor MP

Rt Hon. Lord Chris Patten of Barnes KG CH

Lord Jeremy Purvis of Tweed

Anum Qaisar MP

Lord Rupert Redesdale

Lord Simon Russell of Liverpool

The Earl of Sandwich

Tommy Sheppard MP

Rt Hon. Lord Nicholas Soames of Fletching

Zarah Sultana MP

Rt Hon. Sir Desmond Swayne MP

Sam Tarry MP

Alison Thewliss MP

Owen Thompson MP

Richard Thomson MP

Rt Hon. Sir Stephen Timms MP

Rt Hon. Valerie Vaz MP

Lord William Wallace of Saltaire

Rt Hon. Lord Norman Warner

Rt Hon. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

Baroness Janet Whitaker

Dr. Philippa Whitford MP

Nadia Whittome MP

Munira Wilson MP

Mohammad Yasin MP