The Committee for Justice calls for transparency in Egypt’s investigations into the disappearance of French national Yann Bourdon, who has been missing in Egypt for nearly a year.
On Friday 22 July, French President Emmanuel Macron is preparing to host Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sisi despite the ongoing human rights violations committed by the Sisi government not only against its citizens but also against foreign nationals on its soil.
Yann Bourdon, the 27-year-old French citizen, has disappeared in Cairo in mysterious circumstances since August 2021. CFJ has submitted a complaint about Bourdon’s disappearance to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, noting that the facts known so far constitute a specific practice of enforced disappearance increasingly used by Egyptian authorities.
In its complaint, CFJ said that Bourdon, a student of history at the Sorbonne University in Paris, decided in the summer of 2021 to travel across Europe and take a break from his studies. He arrived in Istanbul, Turkey on July 24, 2021, and from there booked a flight to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to visit the country and explore its historical sites. On the morning of July 25, 2021, his plane landed at Sharm el-Sheikh Airport in Egypt. In Sharm el-Sheikh, he visited the city, climbed Mount Sinai and spent time with locals who lived in nearby villages. He also visited Saint Catherine. Bourdon traveled across the cities he was visiting by stopping cars and asking drivers to drop him to specific locations (hitch-hiking). Throughout his time in Egypt, Bourdon sent emails to his family every time he got access to public Wi-Fi (usually every two to six days).
On July 28, 2021, Bourdon sent the last detailed email to his family, in which he said that he was going to Suez to meet an off-duty police officer who came to talk to him, and told him that he was returning from his vacations and that he could give him a ride to Cairo. The police officer then dropped him at a subway station in Cairo. Before allowing Bourdon to leave, the police officer invited Bourdon to join him for dinner with some friends. Bourdon agreed and joined them on the night of July 28, 2021. On August 4, 2021, the same day he disappeared, Bourdon replied to his sister’s last email, confirming to her that he would write to the family soon.
In early September 2021, after several weeks passed without hearing from Bourdon despite several attempts to contact him, his family began to worry, especially when he missed his mother’s birthday. According to his family, he never missed the birthday of any member of his family. Also in November 2021, the same thing happened with his sister’s birthday, so the family decided to take action.
On November 24, 2021, the Bourdon family sent a request to the French Foreign Ministry’s Crisis and Protection Center. Two days later, the French National Police opened an official investigation into Bourdon’s disappearance. After taking the family’s testimony, the investigation has been forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The family requested an update in January 2022, especially with the failure of the authorities in Egypt to cooperate with the investigations and their assertion that Bourdon was not on Egyptian soil. The assertion came despite the French police’s knowledge of the last financial transactions carried out by Bourdon using his credit card, which he used at an ATM machine next to the Sadat metro station in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
On February 16, 2022, the Egyptian authorities contacted the Bourdon family requesting a copy of his identity card. On the 28th of the same month, an employee of the Egyptian Consulate called the family, and used a sharp tone in dealing with them, arguing that Egyptians had also disappeared in France. On March 25, 2022, the Egyptian authorities finally admitted that Bourdon was indeed inside the country after checking his flight records and his passport number. So his family decided to travel to Egypt on May 21 to follow up the case.
CFJ stated that Bourdon’s family tried to meet with any security official in Egypt, but their request was repeatedly turned down. On May 23, 2022, the family met with the Giza Attorney General, to ask questions about the disappearance of their son. Instead, the attorney general had no information about the case or about Bourdon, and ended up questioning the mother for three hours. When the family insisted that they needed to know whether Bourdon was in custody or not, they did not find an answer from Egyptian officials. The mother was forced to sign each of the 15 pages of the transcript of the interrogation that took place with her, but the authorities did not provide a copy to the family.
The Bourdon case has begun to receive media attention, with several media outlets making comparisons with the case of Giulio Regeni, the Italian student who disappeared before his dead body was found in the streets of Cairo. CFJ said in its complaint that it fears a repeat of the Regeni scenario.
At the conclusion of its complaint, CFJ called on the UN group to intervene and urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately conduct an official and transparent investigation to reveal the whereabouts of Bourdon. It also called for the Giza Prosecution to obtain a copy of and share the surveillance camera footage from the bank where Bourdon made his last banking transactions. It also demanded an investigation into the identity of the police officer who appears to have been the last person to see Bourdon.