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Clear escalation in enforced disappearances: Activists - Daily News Egypt

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Clear escalation in enforced disappearances: Activists

Security forces in campaign of disappearances, arrests against people of all political leanings after 6 April calls for general strike and Arab Sharkas executions

Student groups say that security forces forcibly “kidnap” students and claim that police in plainclothes fight along security forces during clashes with students.  Forced disappearances have seen a general rise over the past two years.  (Photo by Gehad Abaza)
Student groups say that security forces forcibly “kidnap” students and claim that police in plainclothes fight along security forces during clashes with students. Forced disappearances have seen a general rise over the past two years.
(Photo by Gehad Abaza)

The 6 April Youth movement and various student groups have said they now face not just arbitrary arrests at the hands of security forces, but “kidnappings” as well, a joint statement read.


Meanwhile, lawyers and activists working with detainees reported at least 16 cases of enforced disappearances since May.


“Over the last four years, there were cases of enforced disappearances, but it was not the default, it was more rare… one among other violations,” Mona Seif, an activist working with political detainees said. Seif added that over the past few months this phenomenon has spread.


The tactic has become increasingly used after the Arab Sharkas case, Seif said, in reference to the case in which Egypt executed six young men at the end of May.


A Ministry of Interior spokesperson previously denied that police use this tactic, and told Daily News Egypt that Egypt’s police force are currently not targeting any youth, regardless of their political stances and positions.
Nasser Amin, a National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) representative told Daily News Egypt that this phenomena of enforced disappearances exists, and is gaining more attention now. This is because it is happening to more famous activists, Nasser stated, adding “but this has existed for a while, and many people who are not famous have been arrested in this manner, from their homes, without their families knowing anything after the arrests.”
“Sometimes people will even face prosecution secretly,” he added. “This is extremely illegal. And it is dangerous, and puts the lives of those arrested at risk. They are often put under severe torture and it can lead to loss of lives.”

Mahmoud Basha, an engineer, was forcibly disappeared from Sheikh Zayed, on the outskirts of Cairo, on Thursday. The Ministry of Interior refused to speak to lawyers about Basha’s possible whereabouts, 6 April reported.


Seif also documented that Ahmed Sulayman, a 44-year-old working with the US embassy has been missing since 26 May, after security forces raided his home a day earlier and did not find him. His family remain uncertain of his whereabouts.


“We even notice that this is happening inside university campuses, with the more famous case being Islam Ateeto, who was killed and thrown in the desert a day after he disappeared,” Seif said.


In their joint statement, the student groups stated that university campuses are an “unsafe” place for students. Islam Ateeto, an Ain Shams Engineering student disappeared after an exam in late May. The next day, his family found him dead in the desert near to the Fifth Settlement. The Ministry of Interior released a statement claiming Ateeto was a “terrorist” who died in an exchange of fire with the police.


The students also noted that “dawn visitors”, a name referencing security forces that raid peoples’ homes and arrest them at dawn, have been making more appearances over the past two years. They added that students cannot practice any activities “political or non-political” without risk of arrest.


Ahmed Ghoniem, a former spokesperson for the Students Against the Coup (SAC) group, was missing for over a month until he was found in the Istienaf prison four days ago. Ghoneim is not the first SAC spokesperson to have disappeared before finally being found in prison weeks or months later. Three spokespeople before him had also been disappeared and imprisoned, Youssef Salaheen previously told Daily News Egypt.


Seif added that 30 May saw a “very very clear escalation” of the phenomenon. She added this tactic is used against the youth of various political leanings, Islamist activists, 6 April activists, and even people who have no political interests.


6 April youth have been disappearing forcibly from the streets, and security forces have been taking them from their homes at dawn. When they do appear in front of prosecution, they face charges of belonging to a banned group and for calling for a general strike.


The group, which had been banned by a court last April, called for a general strike on 11 June under the title, “And what is the end of it?”


Three 6 April members in Beheira governorate will be facing prosecution Friday, while another member, Dalia Ibrahim, who had disappeared for 48 hours after her arrest will be facing prosecution in Alexandria. Two further members, Nagwa Ezz and Ahmed El-Zayat will be facing prosecution at the Marg police station.


On 1 June, Esraa El-Taweel, Subahib Saad, and Omar Mohamed, also disappeared after the three had gone horseback riding by the pyramids before later heading to Maadi, Esraa’s father Mahfouz El-Taweel said in a statement.


The family heard reports that approximately 150 people were arrested in the Maadi proximity that night. Lawyers have told the family that it is likely the three are detained at the Maadi police station, but the police station denies the allegation.


The rest remain missing, with no news of facing prosecution soon and no news of their official registration in any police station. Families go through with their routine procedures in these cases, Seif said.


The phenomenon is not limited to Cairo. Sabry Al-Ghoul, a North Sinai resident who was also forcibly disappeared, was found dead the next day.


The statement concluded by asking the state-backed National Council for Human Rights: “Where are you from all of these kidnappings?” They also held the Egyptian authorities responsible for the mass scale arrests.

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