Several Egyptian human rights groups have called for putting an end to forcible disappearances that are “increasingly widespread and systematic,” according to a joint statement.
A group of Egyptian human rights organizations have issued to a joint statement in which they called on the government to stop forcible disappearances and carry out independent investigations into perpetrators.
The joint statement stressed the need for the Egyptian authorities to independently investigate the reappearance of prolonged forcible disappearance victims before the State Security Prosecution, and immediately put an end to enforced disappearance.
Between 2013 and January 2023 the Stop Enforced Disappearance Campaign documented that over 3,600 people were forcibly disappeared.
“These harrowing numbers indicate a systematic crisis in which citizens continue to be at risk of enforced disappearance and reprisal,” their joint statement read.
Forcible disappearances are “increasingly widespread and systematic,” say the Egyptian Front for Human Rights and El Nadeem Centre, who are among the signatories.
“The undersigned human rights organisations demand an end to the crime of enforced disappearance in Egypt and condemn the State Security Prosecution’s charges against victims of this crime,” the statement read.
“In defiance of the Egyptian constitution and law, and the international covenants to which Egypt has acceded, the Prosecution has abandoned its role as an investigative body into incidents of prolonged disappearance while neglecting to hold accountable implicated Ministry of Interior and National Security personnel.”
Between the end of 2022 until February 2023, 40 people have reappeared after being forcibly disappeared, including a 13-year-old boy.
According to the statement, these detainees were tortured and held incommunicado at the National Security headquarters. Most of them were accused of “joining a group established in violation of the law.”
In addition to rising forcible disappearance cases, Egyptian authorities target people and organisations that document these cases inside Egypt.
Co-founder of the Association of the Forcibly Disappeared, Ibrahim Metwally, has been detained since 2017.
Ibrahim’s son, Amr Ibrahim Metwally, was forcibly disappeared in 2013, which inspired his father to work on the issue of enforced disappearances.
He was also the lawyer for Giulio Regeni’s family. Regeni was a PhD student researching trade unions when his body was found by the side of the road after he was tortured to death.
The Committee for Justice has said that enforced disappearance is one of the most serious and prominent violations practiced against detainees in Egypt, in particular political prisoners.
The signatories are: The Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR), The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), Stop Enforced Disappearances Campaign, El Nadeem Center, The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).
The JOINT STATEMENT
At least 40 Egyptian citizens have been imprisoned by the State Security Prosecution after being unlawfully held incommunicado at National Security headquarters. Many among them were disappeared for prolonged periods of over three years, constituting a glaring refutation of the authorities’ repeated denial of the increasingly widespread and systematic nature of forcible disappearance in Egypt.
The undersigned human rights organizations demand an end to the crime of enforced disappearance in Egypt and condemn the State Security Prosecution’s charges against victims of this crime. In defiance of the Egyptian constitution and law, and the international covenants to which Egypt has acceded, the Prosecution has abandoned its role as an investigative body into incidents of prolonged disappearance while neglecting to hold accountable implicated Ministry of Interior and National Security personnel.
From the end of 2022 until February 2023, rights organizations monitored the reappearance of at least 40 people before the State Security Prosecution, after more than three years since their arrest and disappearance, including a child who was only 13 years old at the time of his arrest and disappearance. Victims were tortured and illegally interrogated as they were held incommunicado at National Security headquarters, scattered in isolated areas in Sheikh Zayed, Abbasiya, and Aswan. The majority of them were brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution, charged with ‘joining a group established in violation of the law’, and were imprisoned for fifteen days pending nine different cases.
Although the defendants alleged that they were tortured while being held in illegal detention sites, rather than credibly investigating their claims, the State Security Prosecution became complicit in falsifying the facts surrounding their disappearance; markedly by altering the date of their disappearance to a recent one immediately preceding the Public Prosecution’s investigations. The Public Prosecution then upheld the security narrative by uncritically adopting the investigation records issued by National Security.
In recent years, Egypt has continued to witness a systematic increase in the practice of enforced disappearance by state security forces. More than 3,600 people were forcibly disappeared from 2013 until January 2023, as documented by the Stop Enforced Disappearance campaign. In 2018, 173 cases of enforced disappearance were the subject of concern by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. These harrowing numbers indicate a systematic crisis in which citizens continue to be at risk of enforced disappearance and reprisal. The authorities target persons and organizations that document disappearance cases inside Egypt, as exemplified by the arbitrary imprisonment of human rights defender Ibrahim Metwally, lawyer and co- founder of the Association of the Forcibly Disappeared, who has been detained since September 2017.
The Egyptian constitution requires that any person accused be brought before the prosecution within 24 hours of their arrest, thus rendering unconstitutional the prolonged enforced disappearance to which many citizens are subject. The Penal Code stipulates penalties of imprisonment or fines for public officials implicated in the crimes of enforced disappearance or torture. According to Article 280, anyone who arrests, imprisons, or detains a person without an order from a competent judge, and in cases other than those in which laws and regulations authorize the arrest of suspects, shall be punished with imprisonment or a fine. Articles 126 and 127 of the same law stipulate a penalty of detention or imprisonment from three to ten years for every public official or employee who orders the torture of an accused person or involves themselves in coercing a confession from an accused person. Upon ordering or implementing a penalty more severe than that imposed by law, or upon ordering a penalty falling outside the realm of the applicable legislation, a public employee and person entrusted with a public service shall face imprisonment.
The crime of enforced disappearance is a crime against humanity, as defined by the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. In 2019, the Egyptian government received at least five UN recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review of its human rights file before the Human Rights Council. UN member states recommended that Egypt ratify the aforementioned convention and address impunity, including by investigating allegations of disappearance and coercion by security forces, with the investigation results made public and those responsible prosecuted.
The signatory human rights organizations reaffirm their demand for an end to the crime of enforced disappearance, alongside their demand for a guarantee that perpetrators are brought to justice through the opening of independent investigations into all information provided by the victims, their families, lawyers, and independent human rights organizations. Enforced disappearance must be urgently prioritized in National Dialogue discussions on the file of rights and freedoms, with serious measures implemented to put an end to this crime, starting with Egypt’s ratification of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, together with the identification of effective accountability measures that deter security services from engaging in the illegal practices of disappearance, torture, and other human right crimes and violations.