UN condemns arbitrary detention of Egyptian citizens and prolonged detention of human rights defenders
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Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: November 2, 2021
United Nations human rights experts have expressed their concerns about the continued arbitrary detention and alleged mistreatment of Egyptian citizens.
In a memorandum sent to the Egyptian authorities on September 3, 2021, which has not yet been responded to, the experts said that the two Egyptian citizens, Oqaba Alaa Labib Hashad and Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan, were subjected to arbitrary detention and ill-treatment, following their arrest.
The case of Oqaba Labib Hashad:
The experts pointed out that Oqaba Labib Hashad has no political activity or party affiliations, but he is the brother of the lawyer and human rights defender, Amr Alaa Labib Hashad, explaining that Hashad at the age of 6 underwent surgery to amputate part of his right leg from below the knee. His disability means that he is unable to walk without his prosthetic limb.
The experts pointed out that Hashad was arrested on May 20, 2019, from the city of Sadat in Menoufia, after several National Security Agents and policemen forcibly entered and searched his house without presenting a warrant, and forcibly disappeared for nearly 75 days in an undisclosed location alleged to be the National Security premises inside Menoufia Security Directorate. During that time, he was subjected to physical and psychological torture, including being stripped of his clothes, hanged from the ceiling of a room, and electrocuted on different areas of his body including his amputated leg and genital areas. It was also reported that an officer tied a rope to his neck and dragged him on the floor referring to him as a dog. As a result of the torture he was subjected to, he was forced to receive urgent medical treatment from a doctor while being held incommunicado.
The experts added that Hashad appeared before the Shebin al-Koum Public Prosecution on August 1, 2019, and was charged with “joining a group formed against the rule of law”, “participating in demonstrations to overthrow the regime”, and “possession of a pistol”. It is believed that Mr. Hashad was charged in connection with a case known as Ashmoun case, however the exact case number could not be verified as his lawyer was not allowed to view the case file.
Also, on September 5, 2019, Hashad was transferred to Shebin El-Koum General Prison, where he remains at the time of writing this memo. In January 2021, he was called to the office of the head of investigations in the prison and allegedly was told that he would be punished as a result of a human rights report released by his brother a week earlier. The head officer then ordered for Hashad’s prosthetic leg to be taken away from him. Reportedly, his assistive device still has not been returned to him, making everyday tasks extremely challenging and making him even more vulnerable in the context of his detention. It is reported that Mr. Hashad complained about being deprived of the use of his prosthetic leg during a routine inspection by the Prison Authority. The following day, the head of investigations in the prison allegedly slapped him, shaved his head, took away all his personal belongings, and put him in solitary confinement where he remained for three months. Family visits were also prohibited during this time.
The case of Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan:
In their memorandum, the experts mentioned the case of Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan “Oxygen”, a human rights defender who runs a YouTube channel and a Facebook page called Oxygen Egypt, where he publishes video clips and audio, video and written reports on human rights and political, social and economic issues in Egypt.
The experts said in their memo that “Radwan was re-arrested on 21 September 2019 while reporting to a local police station in Cairo, in line with his precautionary measures. On 8 October 2019, the Supreme State Prosecution charged Mr. Radwan with “membership of a terrorist organisation”, “defamation”, and “misuse of social media”. Since then, he has had his preventive detention periodically renewed and continually extended.”
On August 24, 2020, Radwan was transferred to Tora Maximum Security Prison 2, where he has allegedly been ill-treated, and has been denied family visits and access to his lawyer since March 2020, allegedly denied access to money sent by family members to pay for basic goods inside the prison.
He was released on November 3, 2020, then placed on another case on November 10, 2020, Case No. 855, in which he was accused of “joining a terrorist group”. During Eid al-Adha 2021, Radwan attempted suicide in prison as a result of his continued detention and arbitrary measures against him in Tora High Security Prison 2.
Prolonged detention is a strategy in Egypt:
The experts expressed their concerns about the continued arbitrary detention of Hashad and human rights defender Radwan, which appears to be a response to their human rights work or contact with human rights defenders, as well as their alleged ill-treatment and inhumane conditions of detention.
In their memo, the experts stressed that the ongoing and prolonged pre-trial detention of both of them highlights the Egyptian authorities’ strategy of renewing and extending the detention of imprisoned individuals, including human rights defenders, for long periods, in direct violation of Egyptian law, which states the amount of time an individual can spend in pre-trial detention without trial is a maximum of two years, after which they must be released or brought to trial. Hashad has spent more than two years in pre-trial detention, and by September 2021, Mr. Radwan will have too.
UN demands from Egypt:
The experts called on the Egyptian authorities to provide the factual and legal basis for Hashad’s arrest and the charges against him, as well as to provide information showing his whereabouts from May 20 to August 1, 2019, and information on whether an investigation was carried out into the alleged enforced disappearance and torture during this time period, and whether those responsible have been held accountable, as well as the factual and legal basis for Radwan’s arrest.
The experts also called on Egypt to provide information on the current state of the physical and mental health of Hashad and Radwan, and the measures taken to ensure that they receive appropriate medical assistance and treatment and to avoid any irreparable harm to their life and personal safety.
The experts also called on the Egyptian authorities to clarify how the practice of prolonged pretrial detention and the renewal and continuous extension of pretrial detention are consistent with both Egyptian and international law, especially in the specific cases of Hashad and Radwan, and explain the reason for constantly renewing their pretrial detention violation of domestic legal provisions and Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law, and why neither of them have been brought to trial.
The experts also called on Egypt to identify the measures it has implemented to ensure that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate and peaceful work without fear of reprisals, to identify measures taken to protect human rights defenders and their families and to ensure that they are not targeted because of their defense of human rights in Egypt.