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UN reacts to CFJ’s complaints on the detention, disappearance and torture of Egyptian human rights defender Ahmed Amasha

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Press release

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice

Geneva: January 16, 2023

UN experts have expressed grave concerns about the repeated enforced disappearance, torture, ill-treatment and medical neglect of Egyptian human rights defender, Dr. Ahmed Shawky Abdel Sattar Mohamed Amasha.

In a memorandum sent to the Egyptian authorities on November 11, 2022, which has not yet been answered, the experts stated that Amasha is a veterinarian and former head of the Veterinary Doctors Syndicate. He is an Egyptian human rights defender and environmental rights advocate. He also campaigned for and supported the families of victims of enforced disappearance in Egypt through an NGO he co-founded.

A second arrest, disappearance and torture:

The experts added that Amasha was arrested in March 2017, then conditionally released without trial in October 2019. On June 17, 2020, he was arrested for the second time from his home in the Helwan suburb of Cairo, and forcibly disappeared for the second time, as his lawyer and family members submitted complaints to the Public Prosecutor and the Minister of Interior to report his arrest and enforced disappearance, but his whereabouts have not been disclosed for more than 25 days.

The experts indicated that he appeared before the State Security Prosecution on July 12, 2020, where he was interrogated in connection with Case No. 1360/2019, on charges of joining a terrorist organization. He was held incommunicado in Scorpion 2 maximum security prison, and complained of being electrocuted and severely beaten during his detention.

The experts also noted that on March 23, 2021, the prison authorities wrote to the Public Prosecutor requesting permission for Dr. Amasha to undergo gallbladder removal surgery, which was refused despite his family’s offer to cover the costs. On August 21, 2022, when he appeared in court with his lawyer to renew his arrest, he was barely able to walk, lost weight, and complained of medical negligence.

Inhuman conditions of detention in Badr Prison:

The experts stated that since his transfer to Badr Prison in September 2022, Dr. Amasha has allegedly been held in isolation in a cell with continuous electric lights and 24-hour camera surveillance, and has been allowed only little time for outdoor exercise, and no visits from his lawyer or his family members.

The experts also quoted Dr. Amasha’s family as saying that on October 25, 2022, he joined other detainees in Badr Prison in a hunger strike to protest against prison conditions, which were described as worse than those in Tora Prison.

The detainees complained that the prison staff removed cleaning materials from their cells, woke them up with loudspeakers in the early morning, and took them handcuffed outside their cell in order to transfer a number of them to the court. The detainees are given a limited amount of food and one bottle of water per week, and the cell door does not have a window, so they communicate through loudspeakers.

UN concern:

The experts expressed their grave concern about the allegations of enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of Dr. Amasha, which appear to be related to his activities as a human rights defender, expressing their concerns about his physical and psychological integrity due to the alleged torture and ill-treatment he was subjected to during his detention, and the subsequent enforced disappearance and detention. They are concerned that he was not provided with adequate medical care due to the serious injuries to his ribs that were allegedly sustained as a result of torture, and that he was kept in solitary confinement under constant bright light and 24-hour camera surveillance.

UN demands from the Egyptian authorities:

The experts called on the Egyptian authorities to provide information on the factual and legal grounds for the arrest and detention of Dr. Amasha, detailed information about his health condition and the measures taken to ensure his access to medical care and treatment as needed, with the need to make available the results of any investigation, medical examinations, judicial or other investigations that may be conducted in connection with this case.

The experts also called on Egypt to explain what measures have been taken to ensure the upholding of Dr. Amasha’s rights to due process and a fair trial, while explaining how his treatment and conditions of detention comply with international standards, in particular the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules).

The experts have also requested that investigations into the enforced disappearance of Dr. Amasha be conducted, and if they are not conducted, the reason for the delay and, if alleged perpetrators have been identified, full details of any prosecutions undertaken.

CFJ had submitted 3 complaints to various UN mechanisms regarding the case of the Egyptian human rights defender Amasha.

The first complaint was dated July 15, 2020, immediately after his arrest, and the second was a general complaint about the repression of human rights defenders in Egypt, sent on March 18, 2021. The third and final complaint, on the basis of which the memorandum was issued, was an update on the re-arrest and disappearance of Amasha on 29 March 2022.

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