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Egypt: Human rights defender’s health at risk

    Friday, November 20, 2020 - 10:56

    Ibrahim Ezz el-Din © Private

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 104/19 HERE

    On 31 October 2020, the pre-trial detention of human rights researcher Ibrahim Ezz el-Din was renewed for 45 days. His health has been deteriorating since his arrest on 11 June 2019 and his 167 days of enforced disappearance. Ibrahim’s poor health puts him at increased risk of the effects of COVID-19 that has reportedly been spreading in Egypt’s notoriously overcrowded and unhygienic prisons.

    Before his transfer to prison on 26 November 2019, Ibrahim Ezz el-Din was forcibly disappeared at undisclosed locations, where he said he was tortured. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his peaceful human rights work.

    On 31 October 2020, the Cairo Criminal Court renewed Ibrahim’s detention for 45 days pending investigations into case No. 488/2019 over baseless charges of “contributing to the achievement of the objectives of a terrorist group” and the “publication of false information undermining national security”.  

    According to informed sources, Ibrahim suffers from an inflammation in his lumbar vertebrae, chronic allergies, and a fungal infection of the tongue due to poor conditions of detention. In April 2020, Ibrahim was taken to the prison’s hospital, but the prison authorities did not share his medical record with his family, hindering their ability to consult a private doctor and prescribe him the appropriate dosage of medication. The prison hospital does not have X-ray equipment needed to diagnose Ibrahim's back pain. Ibrahim’s poor health puts him at increased risk of the effects of a virus like COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization’s list of vulnerable groups, particularly as he suffers from chronic allergies that cause respiratory difficulties. According to medical professionals familiar with Ibrahim’s case, the torture he endured while forcibly disappeared, in addition to the denial of adequate medical care by the prison authorities, might have triggered his depression. Ibrahim attempted suicide twice in 2020.

    Please send a letter, email, fax or tweet to the Public Prosecutor.

    • Start with Dear Counsellor and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
    • Express dismay at the ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights researcher Ibrahim Ezz el-Din, detained in the Tora Investigation Prison. 
    • Request the prompt and unconditional release of Ibrahim Ezz El-Din given that his detention stems solely from his peaceful human rights work. 
    • Seek assurances that until he is free, he has access to adequate health care, including psychiatric services if needed. 
    • Call on him to open an investigation into the enforced disappearance of Ibrahim Ezz El-Din and the torture to which he has been subjected and bring all those responsible to justice in fair trials. 

    Write to

    Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi
    Office of the Public Prosecutor
    Madinat al-Rehab
    Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt 
    Fax:         011 202 2577 4716
    Twitter:     @EgyptJustice 
    E-mail:     m.office@ppo.gov.eg 

    Please copy

    His Excellency Ahmed Mahmoud A. Abu Zeid 
    Ambassador for the Arab Republic of Egypt 
    150 Metcalfe Street, Suite 1100 
    Ottawa, Ontario  K2P 1P1 
    Phone:        613 368 4911 
    Email:         egyptembottawa@gmail.com

    President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
    Office of the President
    Al Ittihadia Palace
    Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
    Fax:        011 202 2391 1441
    Email:         p.spokesman@op.gov.eg 
    Twitter:     @AlsisiOfficial

    Minister of Interior Mahmoud Tawfiq 
    Ministry of the Interior 
    25 El Sheikh Rihan Street 
    Bab al-Louk
    Cairo, Egypt
    Fax:         011 202 2794 5529
    Email:         center@iscmi.gov.eg  or  E.HumanRightsSector@moi.gov.eg 
    Twitter:     @moiegy
     

    Additional information

    Ibrahim is a researcher at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), where he focuses on the right to housing. 

    Plain clothes police arrested Ibrahim on the night of 11 June 2019 from the street near his home in Cairo. The authorities concealed his fate and whereabouts for 167 days and denied having him in custody to his relatives and lawyers. On 26 November 2019, Ibrahim was brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP). According to his lawyer, he appeared physically weak and lost a considerable amount of weight. He told the prosecutor that he was tortured during his incommunicado detention to extract information about his relationship to the ECRF and about the organization’s work. He also complained about being held in inhumane and degrading conditions of detention, at several security agencies locations. 

    On 31 October 2020, the pre-trial detention of human rights researcher Ibrahim Ezz El-Din was renewed for 45 days. Ibrahim's lawyers told Amnesty International that he appeared frail and thin during the hearing. Following a prison visit on 27 October 2020, his mother also reported that he seemed withdrawn.

    He is the fifth person affiliated with the ECRF to have been arrested since 2016. His arrest follows the detention of labour rights lawyer Haytham Mohamdeen, who also works at ECRF, on 13 May 2019 on trumped-up charges of “aiding a terrorist group”. In May 2018, Egyptian security forces arrested Amal Fathy, a human rights defender and wife of the Executive Director of ECRF and former Amnesty International Researcher Mohamed Lotfy, over a video critical of the authorities’ failure to address rampant sexual harassment. She was conditionally released in December 2018 and put under house arrest until 14 March 2020 when SSSP lifted all precautionary measures imposed on her. In 2016, authorities had also arrested Minorities Program Director Mina Thabet and head of the board Ahmed Abdallah, before releasing them without charge.

    Ibrahim has been unable to defend his master’s thesis as scheduled in December 2019 given his arrest. While Ibrahim’s lawyer obtained permission for him to receive books in prison, he was prevented from writing his thesis by prison authorities. Ibrahim is allowed one visit per month for a duration of 10 minutes. He also receives packages that include food and medicines once a week.

    Ibrahim’s arrest came amid a human rights crisis in Egypt, characterized by a crackdown on independent civil society and arrests of hundreds of individuals over their human rights work or their exercise of their rights to freedom of expression or peaceful assembly. The crackdown has affected journalists, football fans, critics, politicians and staff of civil society organizations. Many of those arrested have been abducted and subjected to enforced disappearances, before being charged with unfounded “terrorism” charges and held in pre-trial detention for months or even years, without trial. (https://bit.ly/38Zqqgm)

    Amnesty International has documented Egyptian security forces’ use of enforced disappearance as a tool against political activists and protesters, including students and children in Egypt (https://bit.ly/38VXeqK). Hundreds of people forcibly disappeared were arbitrarily arrested and held incommunicado in secret detention with no access to their lawyers or families and no external judicial oversight. ECRF is one of the main Egyptian NGOs working extensively on the issue of enforced disappearances.

    Amnesty International has documented how the Egyptian authorities mishandled the outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons and other detention facilities, including by failing to provide prisoners with sanitary products or systematically test and isolate those suspected of infection. The authorities released thousands of prisoners in annual pardons, but this was insufficient to reduce overcrowding. Pre-trial detainees and those held in political cases were excluded from the pardons. Authorities also arbitrarily arrested and harassed relatives and supporters of prisoners for expressing concerns over their health. 

    The authorities banned prison visits between March and August citing COVID-19 fears but failed to provide regular alternative means of communication between prisoners and their families and lawyers. Prison officials denied family visits throughout 2020 to several detainees held in relation to political cases. (https://bit.ly/2UIKtHw

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    If you want Updates on this case, send your request to urgentaction@amnesty.ca with “Keep me updated on UA 104/19 Egypt” in the subject line.
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