In Egypt, enforced disappearance is a daily risk

In Egypt, enforced disappearance is a daily risk
A new report by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms says Egypt witnesses three cases of enforced disappearance everyday, with a total of 340 from August to November 2015.
3 min read
24 December, 2015
Some abducted people turn up in prisons, facing terrorism or illegal protesting charges [Twitter]

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) issued on Tuesday a report documenting 340 cases enforced disappearance in Egypt between August and November 2015, with a daily average of three cases.

According to testimonies collected by the Cairo-based human rights organization, victims have been subjected to different forms of torture and abuse during their disappearance.

Torture forms included electric shocks, hanging by the hands, and threats of sexual assault, all aiming to extract confessions and information on possible suspects of terrorism or organising protests.

The ECRF report said that the fate of some victims who disappeared following the 30 June protests in 2015 remains unknown.

The Commission based its report on information collected through the campaign "Stop Forced Disappearance", as well as interviews with survivors, families of victims, and lawyers.

In its report, ECRF accused the Egyptian authorities of giving the green light to State Security officers to torture people without any form of accountability or prosecution.

Egypt has witnessed a surge in human rights violations since the uprisings against the Mubarak regime in 2011, with the Sisi regime coming in for particular criticism for its banning of protests, mass arrest of political opponents and journalists, the expansion of military courts and the lack of accountability of its security forces, according to Human Rights Watch.

Enforced disappearances has been of particular concern, as the Egyptian regime has been accused of forcibly disappearing hundreds of people this year alone, according to documentation by several local and international human rights organisations.

Human Rights Watch issued a report in June, in which it highlighted the issue of the enforced disappearances in Egypt.

"Egyptian authorities should immediately disclose their whereabouts and hold those responsible to account," the report said.

"The authorities should either release anyone illegally detained or charge the person with a recognisable crime," it added.

The ECRF report said that the fate of some victims who disappeared following the 30 June protests in 2015 remains unknown.

In August, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the United Kingdom (AOHR) released a report entitled "The Missing in Egypt Await their Fate", calling attention to enforced disappearances.

"One of the most serious crimes the Egyptian government is continuing to commit against members of the opposition is enforced disappearances," the report said.

"Following the 2013 military coup, Egyptian authorities began systematically committing this crime to terrorise opponents, prevent resistance against the military, suppress freedom of opinion and expression and kill the democratic process," it added.

In some cases, people believed to have been kidnapped by the government had turned up in detentions centres within a few days, facing charges related to terrorism or illegal protesting.

Persons subject to forced disappearances are held without documentation, charge, or referral to trial, empowering authorities to fully deny possession of the detainee in question and to torture the victim, harass family members, and violate due process without accountability.

Abducted persons are often kept as "disappeared" until they become willing to confess to a particular crime as a result of overwhelming torture.

In October, the interior minister's human rights assistant Salah Fouad said that no enforced disappearance cases had been recorded in Egypt.

"With complete confidence [I can say that] there are no forced disappearances in Egypt, and whoever claims otherwise must provide evidence," Fouad told local media.

However, he insisted that the state had the right to deprive a person of their liberty under certain circumstances.

"If people are claiming that there are forced disappearance cases, they should provide the ministry with specific names so we can search for them instead of just creating a state of confusion," Fouad said.

Critics say one of the toughest security crackdowns in Egypt's history may just create more radicals. But there are no signs the government will let up as the insurgency presses on with suicide bombings and shooting attacks on security forces.