EGYPT: The case of former governor Dr. Hossam Abouelezz submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

حسام أبو العز مع أحد أحفاده

On February 16th, 2022, Alkarama addressed the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture regarding the case of the former governor of Qalyubia, who was arrested on September 17th, 2013 by the police and has been held in solitary confinement since then.

Arrest and enforced disappearance of Mr. Abouelezz

Mr. Abouelezz was a university professor at one of Cairo's engineering schools. After Mohamed Morsi was elected president, he was appointed governor of Qalyubia until the military coup that ousted the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi and brought General Abdel Fattah el Sisi to power. After the coup, Dr. Abouelezz refused to leave his country but lived in fear of assassination or arbitrary arrest by the security services.

On September 17th, 2013, while driving with a friend in the Hadaeq Al Qubbah district of Cairo, Dr. Abouelezz was stopped at a police checkpoint. According to witnesses, when the officers checked his identity, one of them made a phone call after which he was immediately arrested and taken, along with his friend, to an unknown destination. No reason was given for the arrest.

Dr. Abouelezz was then kept in a state of enforced disappearance by the state security forces for two months. During this period, his family and lawyer asked the authorities to inform them of his fate and whereabouts, as well as the reasons for his arrest, to no avail. After two months, his family was informed that he was in the Tora high security prison, known as the "Scorpion prison", with hundreds of other political prisoners living in inhumane conditions. He is still being held there in a lightless, unventilated cell that has been completely cut off from the outside world for eight years now.

Conviction after an unfair trial

On September 20th, 2013, Dr. Abouelezz was notified by the State Security Prosecutor's Office of several charges among them "premeditated murder" in the case of the dispersal of the peaceful sit-in in Rabaa which was the subject of one of the most important mass trials after the coup.

"The dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in" refers to the sit-in of thousands of pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Cairo's Rabaa Al Adawya Square that took place from June 21 to August 14, 2013, and was the subject of an attack by the military who fired live ammunition at the protesters killing more than 1,000 people and injuring thousands more.

No lawyer was allowed to assist him during his trial and no specific facts related to the charges against him were established other than he was part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and had administrative and political responsibility by virtue of his position. Dr. Abouelezz was therefore sentenced to life imprisonment in a mass trial unanimously described as unfair, including by the experts of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Dr. Abouellez was never allowed to consult his criminal case file to prepare his defense nor was he allowed to consult or communicate with his lawyer before, during or after the trial, during which the defendants were kept in soundproof glass cages without being able to even intervene to address the court. He has only been able to receive one visit from his wife since his arrest eight years ago.

Conditions of detention synonymous with torture

Dr. Abouelezz has now been held for eight years in Tora high security prison in solitary confinement in a small cell without natural light. He is deprived of any form of communication with the outside world, including with his family who are not even allowed to call him. Despite numerous requests by the family and his lawyer to the authorities, they have not been granted the right to visit him or to communicate with him by telephone.

For the past eight years, the only news his wife has received has been from the families of his cell neighbors who have received visits from their relatives.

Recently, his wife was informed of the serious deterioration of his health and his deprivation of medical treatment for his diabetes and other pathologies from which he suffers; many political detainees in Egyptian prisons have died due to the absence of any medical care since the military coup in a worrying silence from the international community.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture seized by Alkarama

It is in these circumstances that Alkarama addressed the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture on February 16th, 2022 in order to call on the Egyptian authorities to release Dr. Abouellez and to provide him with urgent medical care. Alkarama has regularly drawn the attention of the United Nations special procedures to the human rights situation in Egypt and in particular to the cruel and inhumane conditions of detention of political prisoners.

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