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Based on a complaint from CFJ, UN group says detention of four Egyptians ‘arbitrary’

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Communicating with various United Nations mechanisms is a strategic goal for the Committee for Justice (CFJ) to lift injustice against victims of human rights abuses and to raise the awareness of the international community about the violations targeting everyone indiscriminately in Egypt.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, at its 93rd session, adopted an opinion on the detention of Egyptian citizens: Omar Abdel Aziz Mohamed Abdel Aziz, Khaled Mohamed Abdel Raouf Sahloub, Hossam Abdel Razek Abdel Salam Khalil, and Mohamed Abdel Aziz Farag Ali, based on a complaint submitted by CFJ on April 14, 2021.

In its complaint, CFJ stated that Omar Abdelaziz Mohamed Abdelaziz had been arbitrarily detained twice, the first time was on November 27, 2014, when he was still a minor, and he was sentenced to 3 years in prison and released in 2017. The second time was on July 21, 2018, when he was taken to an unknown place where he was held incommunicado for a month. He was then brought before a military court that sentenced him to 10 years after a year and a half of being held in pretrial detention. The sentence was then reduced after an appeal to 3 years, which he had already served. But instead of being released, he was subjected to enforced disappearance and forced confessions before being charged in a new case.

On the case of Khaled Mohamed Abdel Raouf Sahloub, the organization said that he was arrested on January 2, 2014, because he was carrying a professional camera, and was taken to an unknown location where he was subjected to enforced disappearance for two weeks. He was then held  in pre-trial detention in renewed periods until he was sentenced to 7 years on June 24, 2014. The sentence was then reduced to 3 years. Sahloub was then held in connection with the Helwan Brigades case on August 13, 2014. He is still held in the Scorpion Maximum Security Prison, where he was tortured during the period of his disappearance, which caused a dislocated shoulder and fractured collarbone. As a result of the ill-treatment in prison and the ban on visiting him, he launched several strikes, the last of which lasted for 200 days.

Concerning the case of Hossam Abdel Razek Abdel Salam Khalil, CFJ indicated that he was arrested on February 18, 2015, without a warrant or legal explanation, was subjected to enforced disappearance for a week, and remained in pre-trial detention until the court sentenced him to 15 years in prison on May 26, 2016, and his appeal was rejected. He was severely tortured during his disappearance and after his first presentation to the Public Prosecution, and he suffers from severe ill-treatment inside his prison.

With regard to the case of Muhammad Abdul Aziz Faraj Ali, he was arrested on August 25, 2015, when he was subjected to enforced disappearance for four months. He was then brought before a military court in two cases on the same charges. He was acquitted in the first, and sentenced to 10 years in the second case, and his appeal got rejected. Ali was also subjected to torture during his disappearance, and suffered from diabetes, blood pressure and spinal cord compression during his detention.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made it clear, at the outset of its opinion, that the burden of refuting the information provided by the Committee for Justice in its complaint rests with the Egyptian authorities, which have not responded to these allegations or even wished to do so.

The Working Group also emphasized in its opinion that at the time of the arrest of the four individuals, the enforcement forces did not present them with arrest warrants, and the reasons for their detention were not explained, in violation of Article 9 (1) and (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Therefore, the Working Group considered that the authorities did not establish a legal basis for arrest and detention.

The Working Group also noted that the right of the four individuals to be released pending trial was violated, in contravention of article 9 (3) of the ICCPR, as they were all held until the time of sentencing, despite the well-established rule of international law that pretrial detention is the exception, not the rule, and should be ordered for the shortest possible period.

The Working Group also clarified in its opinion that the detention of persons in secret and undisclosed locations and in conditions unknown to the person’s family constitutes a violation and prevents them from challenging the lawfulness of their detention, which is the case with the four individuals, and thus violates their rights to an effective remedy under article 8 of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 (3) of the ICCPR. The group also referred the complaints to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for consideration.

The Working Group pointed out that the four individuals were subjected to torture and ill-treatment, especially during the period of enforced disappearance, to force them to confess, and that this treatment caused them severe body pain and deterioration of their health. Although they reported such treatment, neither the prosecution nor the judges took any action. This constitutes a violation of the right not to be subjected to torture to obtain confessions under Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Working Group also expressed its grave concern that Abdulaziz was arrested the first time while he was still a minor, yet the authorities made no attempt to treat him as stipulated in international law, consistent with his status as a minor throughout the period of arrest, detention and trial. It also expressed its concerns about the conditions of detention in which the four are allegedly held, as well as about the limited contact with their families.

In its opinion, the Working Group concluded that the arrests and detentions of the four individuals had no legal basis and were therefore arbitrary under categories I and III.

The Working Group also called on the Egyptian authorities to take the necessary steps to rectify the situation of the four individuals without delay, and bring it into compliance with relevant international standards, including those stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Working Group also considered that the appropriate remedy would be the immediate release of the four individuals, and an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations in accordance with international law.

The Working Group also urged the authorities in Egypt to ensure a full and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of the four individuals, and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for violating their rights.

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