Egypt: UN concerned about disappearance and trial of a Yemeni citizen, amid fears of his deportation to his country
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: September 1, 2022
UN experts have expressed their deep concerns about the arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and trial of Abd al-Baqi Saeed Abdo, a member of the Yemeni Christian minority recognized as a person of concern by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who is currently at imminent risk of forcible return to Yemen.
Enforced disappearance and investigations without a lawyer:
The experts explained in a UN memorandum sent to the Egyptian authorities on June 30, 2022, with no answer received so far, that on December 15, 2021, about five policemen in civilian clothes arrested Abdo from his home in Cairo, and took him away without informing him or his family about the place to which he was transferred.
The experts quoted Abdo’s family as saying that for two weeks, they had not received any information about his whereabouts. On December 28, 2021, someone called and told them that he was being held with him in a central Giza prison, and also recommended that the family ask a Christian TV channel to remove some of the interviews Abdo had posted on YouTube, in which he publicly described his conversion to Christianity and the alleged persecution he faced in Yemen.
The experts added that on January 4, 2022, a family member was able to visit him in Giza Central Prison and confirm his whereabouts for the first time since his arrest on December 15, 2021, as Abdo was wearing the same clothes he was wearing when he was arrested, and it turned out that after his arrest, the police took him to a high-security underground prison, where he was held secretly for 10 days before being transferred to a central Giza prison, and that he was subjected to interrogation sessions without the presence of a lawyer.
Joining a terrorist group and contempt of religion:
In a document issued by the Egyptian Public Prosecutor in Case No. 2993, Abdo is being investigated on charges of joining a terrorist group. He was also investigated for contempt of Islam. He is currently being held pending trial. His lawyer has not received information about any upcoming trial against his client. He was also not allowed to discuss the case with him.
The experts also pointed out in their memorandum that Abdo’s health conditions deteriorated significantly during detention, as he lost weight significantly, and the authorities did not provide him with the appropriate medical treatment that he regularly needs for chronic heart and liver diseases.
UN refusal to deport to Yemen:
On the steps of his deportation to Yemen, the experts said that on June 23, 2022, the Egyptian authorities transferred Abdo to the Embassy of Yemen, where he was asked to hand over his passport. After his refusal, the embassy issued a document valid for one month that was said to be intended to allow him to be deported within the following 30 days.
The experts expressed deep concern about the apparent detention, enforced disappearance and trial of Abdo for the peaceful exercise of his religious beliefs, with a deliberate refusal by the Egyptian authorities to acknowledge his detention after the police arrested him publicly, amounting to enforced disappearance, while depriving him of due process and judicial guarantees.
UN demands from the Egyptian authorities:
The experts called on the Egyptian authorities to provide detailed information on the current status of the judicial proceedings initiated against Abdo, the well-established legal and procedural safeguards designed to protect his rights under national and international law, and how these safeguards are effectively implemented.
The experts also called on Egypt to provide information on the compatibility between detention, prolonged solitary confinement, enforced disappearance and denial of due process and a fair trial, and on the compatibility of the possible forced deportation of Abdo to Yemen – while he is one of several thousand persons of concern to UNHCR in Egypt – with the 1951 Refugee Convention ratified by Egypt.
The experts also requested that details be provided about the results of any investigation, judicial or non-judicial, conducted in connection with Abdo’s trial, in order to determine his legal rights under international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.
The experts also called on the authorities in Egypt to provide detailed information on the steps they have taken to research, assess and determine the risks that Abdo may face in the event of his forcible deportation to Yemen, especially with regard to his rights to life, liberty, security, freedom of religion and peaceful expression.