Egypt: 12-year old child forcibly disappeared and held in solitary confinement in state’s “fight against terrorism”
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Save Abdullah Boumedine
The undersigned organizations condemn the unlawful measures taken by the Egyptian authorities against Abdullah Boumedine Nasr al-Din, age 12, of the town of Arish in the Sinai region. He was arrested from his home on terrorism charges, forcibly disappeared for seven months, interrogated without an attorney, and is being held in solitary confinement for nearly 100 days. Immediate action must be taken to save Abdullah from the Egyptian state’s brazen violations of its own Child Law and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Abdullah Boumedine has suffered numerous violations inflicted by the Egyptian authorities, who have maltreated him with an arbitrary severity not commensurate with his age. He arrested by military forces on December 31 2017; the military had previously arrested his father. He was then disappeared for seven months, and finally brought to the State Security Prosecution for the first time on July 2, 2018, where he was interrogated without an attorney on charges of joining a terrorist group and helping to plant explosives, in connection with State Security case no. 570 of 2018. Questioning a child without an attorney present is in violation of the fundamental precepts of national and international law on the rights of a child. Moreover, according to Egypt’s Child Law, State Security Prosecution cannot question a child under the age of 15 for a crime committed in concert with adults.
Egyptian authorities then transferred the child to Azbakeya Police Station in Cairo where he has spent over three months in solitary confinement –long denied by the police station – in extremely poor, deteriorating conditions. Unable to bathe for months, an itchy rash has spread all over his body and his health has deteriorated due to a restricted diet of bread and cheese. He has a chronic respiratory allergy, and a disability in his right hand requiring immediate physical therapy. Previously a student in the first year of preparatory school, Abdullah’s detention has interrupted a critical stage of his education.
The Egyptian authorities’ refusal to implement an order placing Abdullah in a care facility is in violation of Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is binding on Egypt and states that there can be no unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of a child’s liberty. The imprisonment of children should only be used as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. The convention further upholds the right of every child to promptly access legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of their deprivation of liberty before a court or other competent, independent, and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any appeal.
Moreover, the events surrounding the charges may have taken place before Abdullah was 12 years old; the prosecution failed to establish Abdullah’s age by birth certificate or other official document as required by Article 2 of Egypt’s Child Law. Children under 12 years old cannot be held criminally culpable under Article 94 of the Child Law, with the juvenile court given exclusive jurisdiction over such matters.
The lawyer who has taken up Abdullah’s case filed a complaint with the child hotline of the National Center for Childhood and Motherhood on October 11, but the council did not treat the report as an emergency. Six days later, the council said that it had contacted the human rights bureau within the Interior Ministry; the child was not contacted. Abdullah’s lawyer also filed Petition no. 17479/Public Prosecutor, seeking the child’s transfer from solitary confinement to a care facility.
The undersigned organizations are extremely concerned about the safety of Abdullah Boumedine Nasr al-Din and hold the Egyptian authorities entirely responsible for his wellbeing. It is deplorable that the Egyptian state views a middle-school child as a threat warranting a full year of pretrial detention, choosing a security-based approach and solitary confinement for a 12-year-old.
We demand that Abdullah be immediately moved from solitary confinement in Azbakiya Police Station to a safer place. He should be questioned by the appropriate authorities, in accordance to both Egyptian and international law, and brought before the juvenile prosecution to swiftly resolve his state. An investigation should be opened into the illegal actions taken against him and the violations he endured, which amount to torture and inhumane treatment.
- Egyptian Front for Human Rights
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
- Nadeem Center
- Committee for Justice
- Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)