Egypt: WHRD Esraa Abdel Fattah abducted and tortured, arbitrarily detained

15/10/2019
Urgent Appeal

EGY 006 / 1019 / OBS 079
Abduction / Torture /
Enforced disappearance /
Arbitrary detention
Egypt
October 15, 2019

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the abduction, enforced disappearance, acts of torture and arbitrary detention of Ms. Esraa Abdel Fattah, a journalist, political activist and founder of the “Free Egyptian Women Group” for women’s political empowerment [1]. Ms. Esraa Abdel Fattah recently campaigned for the release of all political prisoners detained to repress the September protest movement.

According to the information received, on October 13, 2019, Ms. Esraa Abdel Fattah appeared before the State Security Prosecution and was assigned to Case 488/2019 for “collaborating with a terrorist organisation to achieve its goals”, “spreading false news” and “using social media to publish false rumours”. The Prosecutor ordered a 15-day pre-trial detention against Ms. Esraa Abdel Fattah. She is now detained at a local police station in Cairo, in which family visits and access to lawyer are banned. She will be transferred to Al-Qanateer women’s prison on October 15, 2019.

During the night of October 12, 2019, Ms. Esraa Abdel Fattah was abducted from the streets in Cairo after a road chase. Ms. Abdel Fattah was driving her car, in presence of a friend, when two unidentified vehicles full of plainclothes police officers started chasing them on the road until they were able to stop Ms. Abdel Fattah’s car. Ms. Abdel Fattah and her friend were both forcibly taken out of their car and separated in different vehicles. Ms. Abdel Fattah’s friend was thrown away on a highway after one hour and reported being blindfolded and severely beaten. Ms. Abdel Fattah’s fate and whereabouts remained unknown for 24 hours.

According to her lawyers, Ms. Abdel Fattah was physically assaulted and tortured during the first 24 hours of her disappearance. When abducted, Ms. Abdel Fattah was blindfolded until she was taken to an unknown destination where she was kept in an unknown building. There, Ms. Abdel Fattah was left for almost seven hours standing, facing a wall, while blindfolded and handcuffed. Then, she was beaten repeatedly as she refused to give the passwords of her mobile phone to her guards. Afterwards, she was relocated to another unknown building where she was stifled with the jacket she was wearing, then hung with it in order to force her to unlock her phone. After these attempts had failed, the security forces used Ms. Abdel Fattah’s fingers to enter fingertouch passcode through which they succeeded in getting access to her phone, in search of her contacts.

As a result of these acts of torture, Ms. Abdel Fattah went on a hunger strike when attending her interrogation. Her lawyers requested forensic evaluation to prove the State’s violations against Ms. Abdel Fattah in the context of the investigation. Consequently, security forces threatened Ms. Abdel Fattah that she would face more abuses if she disclosed the details of her detention. Despite the abuses suffered, Ms. Abdel Fattah was denied medical care.

The Observatory recalls that since the outbreak of popular protests across the country on September 20, 2019, calling for the resignation of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, at least three thousand people have been detained by the Egyptian authorities, including protesters, journalists, lawyers, and members of opposition political parties. Other human rights defenders have also been arrested, including human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry [2], who is also prosecuted in Case 488/2019, blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah and his lawyer, Mohamed El-Baqer [3], and women human rights defender Asmaa Dabees and her husband, the lawyer Mohamed Helmy Hamdoun [4].

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the abduction, enforced disappearance, acts of torture and arbitrary detention of Ms. Esraa Abdel Fattah and calls on the Egyptian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances her physical integrity and psychological well-being, give her immediate access to medical assistance, her family members and lawyer, and to immediately and unconditionally end any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her and all the human rights defenders in Egypt.

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. Esraa Abdel Fattah, as well as that of all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Esraa Abdel Fattah as her detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing her for her human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee Ms. Esraa Abel Fattah’s immediate and unhindered access to medical assistance, her family members and a lawyer of her choice;

iv. Carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture 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. Esraa Abdel Fattah and all the 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, Fax: +202 2391 1441. 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
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim, Fax: +202 2795 8103 
• Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel Sadek, Fax: +202 2577 4716
• 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, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. 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, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email: embassy.egypt@skynet.be
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country. 

***
Paris-Geneva, October 15, 2019

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 FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). 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 FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] Ms. Abdel Fattah has been involved in pro-democracy and political activism since the mid-2000s. She was a prominent figure of the 25th January Revolution and helped to drew international media attention to the event. In 2011, she was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal EGY 003 / 0919 / OBS 074, published on September 23, 2019.
[3] See Observatory Urgent Appeal EGY 004 / 0919 / OBS 075.2, published on October 10, 2019.
[4] See Observatory Urgent Appeal EGY 005 / 0919 / OBS 076.1, published on October 4, 2019.

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