• October 22, 2015
  • 12 minutes read

NGO Joint Statement Response to Egypt Interior Ministry on Enforced Disappearances Denial

NGO Joint Statement Response to Egypt Interior Ministry on Enforced Disappearances Denial

 On October 14, 2015 Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk published an interview with the major general who now serves as Egypt’s assistant minister of the interior, on human rights, citing the Middle East News Agency. We were surprised at the general’s unjustified attack in this interview on human rights organizations working in Egypt, especially in the issue of enforced disappearance.

Since the interview included a large number of fallacies and inaccuracies that we would like to correct, we highlight and respond to several important points as follows:

First: In this interview, the general said there were no reports made to proper authorities about enforced disappearance of any persons. This claim completely contradicts the truth and thoroughly documented facts. We – as lawyers, human rights organizations and official legal representatives for the victims’ families – did report (or were present with families while reporting) many incidents of forced disappearance to the public prosecutor. We do have detailed lists of these reports and communications.

Absurdly, the public prosecutor refused to investigate these reports, which forced us to file formal complaints against him before the High Court of Appeal in Cairo. We asked for him to be removed from the cases in question for failing to carry out the necessary investigations into complaints from families about the enforced disappearance of their loved ones.

Examples of these cases include a lawsuit registered under number 16, 17, 18 and 19 for the year 232, and a challenge still pending before the Court of Cassation. In addition, we turned to the Administrative Court to get the enforced disappearance incident on record. The College of Commissioners issued several reports confirming the State’s responsibility to clarify the fate and whereabouts of victims of cases registered under number 24468 for the year 69 and 24465 for the year 69 and 24469 for the year 69.

Second: The general said that Egypt signed the Convention against enforced disappearances, which is certainly not true, as signed international conventions are well known, and they show that Egypt refused to sign the International Convention for the protection of citizens against enforced disappearance.

Third: We were surprised that the general said most complaints of enforced disappearances are reported by families of those involved in terrorist acts. This is a mistake by the general, who spoke as if he was the public prosecutor, accusing people haphazardly when neither the public prosecutor nor the judiciary investigated these cases. In any event, if a person is accused of a criminal case, it does not entitle security forces to detain him or her in secret in violation of the Constitution and the law, which state that any detainee must be presented to the prosecutor within 24 hours from the time of arrest.

Fourth: In this interview, the general made a direct accusation and a threat to civil society organizations and NGOs, in a blatant attempt to stop those organizations from playing their part in raising the grievances of the citizens to the state and its police and judiciary, especially since all Egyptian NGOs work for the interests of the country and the rights of its citizens.

Fifth: The general said the victims’ families submit complaints directly to the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), without reporting incidents to the police or the public prosecutor. This is not at all true. Hundreds of complaints were submitted to the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the heads of prosecution service branches across Egypt.

Reports were also submitted to all police agencies about cases of enforced disappearance. Evidently, all human rights organizations have reference numbers for these complaints and reports, and can provide all the details to anyone looking for the truth.

When any of the victims’ families comes forward to an NGO, the organization takes a number of specific actions, the first of which is to report the incident and submit notifications, statements and reports to the public prosecutor.

Sixth: The general said that some cases are not enforced disappearances. He failed to mention the whereabouts of any of the victims he mentioned. The case of a citizen called Islam Khalil (from Gharbiya province) is evidence that contradicts what the general said. The period from Khalil’s arrest and his first appearance at the public prosecutor – as mentioned in official records – was 122 days. Again, this is well-documented through formal communications and reports submitted to judicial and police authorities at the time.

Seventh: The general said that all Egyptian prisons are under the supervision and control of the public prosecutor. Although this is indeed a "legal text", the reality is that the public prosecutor does not have constitutional or legal oversight of certain prisons and places of detention. Practically, there are lots of places of detention that are not subject to the authority of the public prosecution, its supervision or control, including the most notorious Central Security compounds and National Security headquarters.

Also, the public prosecutor does not inspect even the places of detention it officially should supervise. As rights organizations, we submitted a lot of requests to the public prosecutor to inspect places of detention. But we never got any response.

Based on the above, NGOs signatories of this statement, demand the following:

– The Egyptian Interior Ministry must stop committing the crime of enforced disappearances, immediately disclose all the names and whereabouts of the disappeared, promptly apply the law to everyone, and present all the accused and the detainees to the public prosecutor immediately after their arrest – with clearly stated charges and evidence.

– The Ministry of Interior must stop its standard of policy of covering up its violations of the terms of the Constitution and the law, admit that there are abuses which must be stopped, and hold to account all those involved in such crimes and abuses no matter who they are.

– Establishing a law and order and human rights culture among workers in the areas of policing, prosecution and the judiciary, and following international standards, which stipulate protecting of the interests of the accused, providing an appropriate environment for them to defend themselves, and using all the evidence of innocence.

– Underlining the importance of the public prosecutor carrying out tasks prescribed by the law for the inspection of prisons and prevention of all violations, and the need to eliminate the phenomenon of unofficial prisons and places of detention.

Human rights organizations signatories to this statement:

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

Adalah (Justice) for Rights and Freedoms

Nidal – Arab Foundation on Civil and Political Rights

National Committee for Defense of the Oppressed

Arab Observatory for Freedom of Information and Expression

Egyptian Observatory for the Defense of Detainees

Azhari Observatory of Rights and Freedoms

Freedom Seekers Monitor
Shehab Center for Human Rights
Arab-African Centre for Rights and Freedoms