Egypt: Three new cases of disappearances by State Security as systematic practice of abduction and torture continues unabated
Despite the official denial of human rights violations by Egyptian authorities, abuses committed by the security forces continue unabated in the country. Alkarama has documented three new cases of enforced disappearances that occurred in the Beheira Governorate between April and October 2017 following abductions by State Security Forces and the police.
The victims, Sumaya Maher Hazeema, Mohamed Abdelhafiz Ayari and Abdelmalek Qassem, remain missing to date, and their families, who are constantly denied information about their fates and whereabouts, are extremely concerned about their physical integrity and safety.
On October 17, 2017, Sumaya Maher Hazeema, a 26-year-old chemical laboratory analyst, was at home in the city of Damanhur when, at 3:30 a.m., a large group of uniformed State Security and police officers surrounded and raided the house. They searched the house for three hours and confiscated all of the family’s mobile phones, laptops and other personal electronic devices.
Hazeema was arrested without a warrant and taken to an unknown location. Her mother, who refused to let her go alone, was arrested as well. While Hazeema’s mother was released the next day, Hazeema still remains missing to date.
Following her disappearance, Hazeema’s relatives enquired about her fate and whereabouts in several detention centres in Damanhur, but they were constantly denied information by the authorities. Her husband enquired about her whereabouts at the Prison Authority of Cairo, but he was told that her name did not exist in their records and that no public prison had ever registered her.
Ms Hazeema’s abduction follows a pattern of reprisals against families of political opponents. In fact her father Maher Ahmed Hazeema, a member of the Shura Council (upper house of the parliament) for the Beheira Governorate, was arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Military Court of Alexandria after the military takeover.. Her father is currently arbitrarily detained at the Burj al Arab prison awaiting his appeal trial.
In a similar case, Mohamed Abdelhafiz Ayari, a 30-year-old lawyer from Al Ashrah Al Aalaf village, was arrested on August 25, 2017 at 11 p.m. while he was driving back home with his wife and children after a family visit to Alexandria. His car was stopped and surrounded by three unmarked cars belonging to the State Security Forces, and Ayari was arrested and taken to an unknown location. He remains disappeared to date.
Immediately following his abduction, Ayari’s wife filed complaints with the Minister of Interior, the Public Prosecutor, and the Attorney General. However, she never received any information about his fate and whereabouts from the authorities.
Finally, on April 12, 2017, 38-year-old Imam Abdelmalek Qassem from Abu Al Matamir, was at home with his family when members of the State Security Forces raided the house and arrested him without any arrest mandate and without explaining the reasons for the arrest. Qassem was taken to an unknown location and remains disappeared to date.
Following his abduction, Qassem’s relatives filed several complaints to enquire about his fate and whereabouts with the authorities, including the Office of the Attorney General, the Public Prosecutor of Abu Al Matamir, and the Prosecution Office of Damanhur. To date, the authorities continue to deny detaining him.
“The situation in Egypt has taken an extremely concerning turn in recent months as human rights violations, committed in complete impunity, continue to escalate at a high rate,” said Radidja Nemar , Alkarama's Regional Legal Officer for the Maghreb and the Nile. “Dozens of enforced disappearances of students and opposition voices are reported every day, and the abductions of these three individuals are part of a systematic practice. It is time for the Egyptian authorities to understand that this systematic practice of enforced disappearances amounts to a crime against humanity, and that perpetrators can be prosecuted under international criminal law,” she added.
On October 30, 2017, Alkarama submitted the cases of Sumaya Maher Hazeema, Mohamed Abdelhafiz Ayari and Abdelmalek Qassem to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID ), asking them to call upon the Egyptian authorities to immediately release the three individuals or at the very least put them under the protection of the law.
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