Egypt: Abduction and arbitrary detention of Ms. Sanaa Seif, sister of Alaa Abdel Fattah

23/06/2020
Urgent Appeal

New information
​EGY 002 / 0320 / OBS 025.1
Abduction /
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Assault
Egypt
June 23, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the abduction and subsequent arbitrary detention of Ms. Sanaa Seif, sister of detained human rights defender Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement [1], who has been arbitrarily detained since September 29, 2019 [2].

According to the information received, at around 2pm on June 23, 2020, Ms. Sanaa Seif was abducted by unknown persons in a minibus while she was walking behind her sister Mona Seif and her mother Laila Souef, in front of the gate of the Headquarters of Egypt’s Public Prosecutor in El Rehab, in New Cairo. At around 4pm, Ms. Sanaa Seif appeared before the State Security Prosecution. At the time of publishing this Urgent Appeal, charges against her were not known yet.

Accompanied by their lawyers, the women had gone to lodge a complaint in person to the Public Prosecutor after they were assaulted the day before in front of the gates of Tora prison in Maadi, Cairo, by a group of women in plain clothes, in plain view of the security forces who did not intervene to end the assault. The attackers beat the three activists with sticks, tore their clothes, dragged them on the ground and stole some of their belongings. Ms. Sanaa Seif, Ms. Mona Seif and Ms. Laila Souef also wanted to show the Public Prosecutor their bruises and other evidence of the assault. 

For the two previous days, the three women had been sitting in the street in front of Tora prison waiting to receive a letter from Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, whom they have not been able to visit since the beginning of March 2020 due to a ban on prison visits applied by the Ministry of Interior, supposedly to prevent the spread of coronavirus COVID-19 into prisons. Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah’s family received the last letter from him about three weeks ago, which was only given to them after similar pressure by his mother and sisters staying several days at the time in front of Tora prison. 

The Observatory expresses its utmost concerns over the abduction and arbitrary detention of Ms. Sanaa Seif and urges the Egyptian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances her physical integrity and psychological well-being and to release her immediately and unconditionally.

The Observatory further condemns the assault against Ms. Sanaa Seif, Ms. Mona Seif and Ms. Laila Souef, which seems to be only aimed at punishing them for the exercise of their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities, and urges the Egyptian authorities to carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into these events in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law.

Background information:
 
On March 18, 2020, Ms. Mona Seif, co-founder of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement, Ms. Laila Souef and Ms. Ahdaf Souef, Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatta’s aunt, as well as Ms. Rabab Elmahdy, a university professor, were arrested and taken to the Qasr al-Nil police station, in Cairo, after they staged a small protest outside the Cabinet Minister Headquarters, calling for the release of prisoners as part of the State’s efforts to combat the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in prisons.
 
On March 19, 2020, Ms. Mona Seif, Ms. Laila Souef, Ms. Ahdaf Souef and Ms. Rabab Elmahdy were granted release from State custody on an EGP 5,000 bail (around 297 EUR) after appearing before the Qasr al-Nil Prosecution. They all face charges of calling for an illegal protest with the aim of blocking traffic and publishing false news and rumors with the intention of spreading panic by standing in public with signs carrying misinformation about negligence in prisons amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
 
Despite their bail was paid immediately, Ms. Mona Seif, Ms. Ahdaf Souef and Ms. Rabab Elmahdy were only effectively released from Qasr al-Nil police station late in the afternoon on March 19, 2020. Ms. Laila Souef was also finally released later on an additional EGP 3,000 bail on another set of similar charges.
 
Actions requested:  
 
Please write to the authorities in Egypt, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Sanaa Seif, Ms. Mona Seif and Ms. Laila Souef and Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, as well as that of all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Sanaa Seif and Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee Ms. Sanaa Seif and Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah’s immediate and unhindered access to their family members and a lawyer of their choice;

iv. Carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ms. Sanaa Seif’s abduction and assault against her, Ms. Mona Seif and Ms. Laila Souef, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

v. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Sanaa Seif, Ms. Mona Seif and Ms. Laila Souef and Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah, as well as against all human rights defenders in Egypt and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;
 
vi. Conform in all circumstances to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2.;
 
vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Egypt.
 
Addresses:

• President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Email: p.spokesman@op.gov.eg, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
• Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Kemal Madbouly Mohamed. Email: pm@cabinet.gov.eg 
• Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mahmoud Tawfik, Email: center@iscmi.gov.eg
• Head of the Egyptian parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Mr. Alaa Abed, Email: humanrightscomplaints@parliament.gov.eg
• Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council for Human Rights, Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg
• H.E. Mr. Alaa Youssef, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt@bluewin.ch
• Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Email: embassy.egypt@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country. 
 
***
Geneva-Paris, June 23, 2020
 
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] This movement was set up in 2011 and denounced human rights abuses committed in particular by security forces and the army during the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) after the fall of former President Mubarak.
[2] For more information, see Observatory Urgent Appeal EGY 004 / 0919 / OBS 075.2, published on October 10, 2019 as well as the Joint Statement “Egypt: Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah on hunger strike protesting his continued illegal detention”, published on April 30, 2020.

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