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Egypt: Arbitrary Detention of Young Individuals is Systemic and Widespread Says UN Working Group

On 28 April 2015, following an urgent appeal sent by Alkarama on 8 January 2015, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued an Opinion regarding the detention of 16-year-old Egyptian high school student, Ahmed Mahmoud Mahmoud Taha Mahmoud as arbitrary and requesting "the Government of Egypt to release the minor immediately and provide him with an enforceable right to reparation." If Ahmed Mahmoud was released on bail on 18 April 2015, he is still under investigation and at risk of being arrested again. In view of the present case together with previously adopted opinions related to Egypt, the WGAD also expressed "a grave concern" regarding the "systemic and widespread practice of arbitrary detentions of young individuals" in the country. According to Alkarama Egypt's researcher, at least 3,200 children have been arrested and detained since the July 2013 military coup, many of whom were also tortured and ill-treated or detained with adults.

Arrested by security forces agents on 18 May 2014, Ahmed Mahmoud was held incommunicado for almost a year on charges of "belonging to a terrorist group [the Muslim Brotherhood]" and having "torn a poster of Al Sisi." During his secret detention, the 16-year-old was detained, never brought before a judge or even allowed to see a lawyer. In its Opinion, the UN Working Group considered that "holding a minor in incommunicado since the date of his arrest for almost a year, without any rights to visit being granted to his family or his lawyer, despite their repeated requests, is generally to be regarded as a violation of article 7 and 9 of the ICCPR [International Covenant on civil and political rights]," which is binding on Egypt by virtue of its ratification in 1982. Consequently, it reported the case to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

The Working Group also noted that "the refusal of the prosecutor to provide medical assistance to the minor and initiate effective investigation, after the minor reported on 19 May 2014 that he was beaten up at the time of arrest and showed the subsequent marks on his body amounts to violation of article 2 in conjunction with article 7 of the ICCPR," and that "the Government [had] failed to demonstrate that it has safeguarded the minor his due process rights and guarantees, as well as the right to fair trial, in compliance with articles [...] and 9 and 14 of the ICCPR."

Finally, the WGAD expressed a grave concern regarding the non-compliance of Ahmed Mahmoud's detention with applicable international human rights standards, in particular "with the principle that the deprivation of liberty of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time," as well as the fact that, during the entire time of his detention, Ahmed Mahmoud was detained at the Security Forces Camp of Banha with adults, in violation of ICCPR article 10(2)(b)(c) which state that "Accused juvenile persons shall be separated from adults and brought as speedily as possible for adjucation," and "Juvenile offenders shall be segregated from adults and be accorded treatment appropriate to their age and legal status."

Welcoming the release on bail of Ahmed Mahmoud, Alkarama calls upon the authorities to immediately drop the charges against him. "We also welcome the UN WGAD opinion which recognises that arbitrary detentions of young individuals is systemic and widespread in Egypt," said Rachid Mesli, Legal Director at Alkarama. "In these circumstances, this practice amounts to a crime against humanity according to the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court."

Since July 2013, thousands of children have been the victims of the authorities' repressive policies without any guarantee being taken to preserve their specific vulnerability. In fact, law enforcement officials do not make a difference between them and adults and they are subjected to the same continuous and systematic violations of their fundamental rights, as acknowledged by the Working Group in its Opinion.

Alkarama calls again the Egyptian authorities to end the investigations into Ahmed Mahmoud and to dismiss his case. The authorities should end its practice of arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings of peaceful political opponents and citizens in general. Moreover, they should ensure that all the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice ("The Beijing Rules") and Egyptian law are applied to young individuals in the event of their detention.

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team at media@alkarama.org (Dir: +41 22 734 1007 Ext: 810)