Egypt: Enforced disappearance of human rights defenders

Cairo, EGYPT: Egyptian human right activists protest against torture in police stations in Cairo, 25 January 2007. An outcry by Egyptian and international rights groups sparked when a video appeared on blogs and websites in November 2006, showing an Egyptian man being beaten and sodomised by policemen, and eventually led to the arrest of the officers involved. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Front Line Defenders (FLD) expresses its concern over the increasingly difficult situation of human rights defenders in Egypt and detailed several cases to show how the State Security Agency systematically bypasses judiciary rulings in Egypt; several human rights defenders who were released by court rulings have been disappeared from the places of their detention.

According to FLD, Human rights defender Ezzat Ghoneim disappeared from Al Haram police station, 10 days after he was granted conditional release on 4 September 2018. He remained unlawfully detained until 13 September 2018, when police officers informed his wife of his alleged release. His whereabouts have been unknown ever since. Cases of enforced disappearances of human rights defenders, after courts ruling in their favor, have become a frequent practice in Egypt in recent months.

He was detained on 1 March 2018 in relation to case No. 441, 2018, known as the “media activism” case, along with a number of Egyptian journalists whose investigative reporting aimed to expose high level corruption in the Egyptian government. The charges against him also include “membership of an unlawful organization”.

On 14 October 2018, human rights defender and lawyer Sayed El Banna was arrested on charges of belonging to a banned group. No one knew his whereabouts, until he appeared blindfolded before the State Security Prosecution 3 days after his arrest. Sayed el Banna’s pre-trial detention is renewed every 15 days and can be renewed for a period of up to 150 days by the State Security Prosecution.

FLD deplored that since 2014 increasing restrictions on civil society and peaceful public protests are being imposed and numerous human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and peaceful protesters face travel bans, unlawful arrests and judicial harassment. In this challenging context, the State Security’s practice of disappearing human rights defenders, ignoring judicial decisions in their favour, is particularly worrying.

FLD urged the Egyptian authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Ezzat Ghoneim. It also asked to release them immediately and unconditionally release Ezzat Ghoneim and Sayed El Banna and to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Ezzat Ghoneim and Sayed El Banna;

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