CAIRO: Two Sudanese men who have been held without charge for nine months have been refused the right to appoint a lawyer to challenge their detention.
Nezar Hammad and Salah Eddin Moussa were part of a group of 11 Sudanese nationals arrested outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Mohandiseen office on the morning of April 2, 2007.
The 11 had gone to the office to enquire about financial compensation for two children killed during the violent break-up of the 2005 Mostafa Mahmoud protest, during which nearly 30 people died.
The group was charged with riotous assembly and disturbing the peace. They were cleared of charges on April 29, 2007 but Hammad and Moussa were kept in a state security office for 38 days – where they allege they were tortured – before being transferred to El-Qanater Prison.
Rights groups have repeatedly criticised the systematic and widespread practice of administrative detention in Egypt, whereby detainees who receive court release orders “disappear in state security offices or police stations until a new administrative order for their detention is issued.
Lawyer Mohamed Bayoumy told Daily News Egypt that no explanation was provided for the refusal.
“Reasons are rarely given when a detainee’s application for legal representation is refused and people are left with no way of challenging their detention, Bayoumy said.
Bayoumy told Daily News Egypt that they are continuing to request that the Cairo office of the United Nations High Commission or Refugees (UNHCR) take action to protect the two men.
On July 16 the two men were returned to the state security office from El-Qanater Prison, and forced to write applications to UNHCR for resettlement in Kenya or Chad.
Hammad and Moussa made clear that the applications were made against their will to a UNHCR officer (whose name is omitted here upon UNHCR’s request) who visited them in prison on the July 24, 2007.
The UN officer next visited them on the Jan. 27, 2008. Bayoumy says that an offer was made to settle the two men in the United States, where Hammad has a sister.
The UNHCR’s policy of not commenting on individual cases prevents this from being verified.
Hammad is currently experiencing health problems for which he is not receiving medical treatment, according to his brother Mohamed.
“Nezar started feeling stomach pain two months ago and told the prison authorities about it, but he hasn’t been given any medicine, hasn’t been treated and hasn’t seen a doctor, Mohamed told Daily News Egypt.
Bayoumy and Martin Jones, a researcher at AUC’s Forced Migration Studies department sent a letter to UNHCR at the end of January in which they requested urgent action in the case and set out the legal framework governing the detention of the two men.
The letter states that neither men have committed a crime or been involved in political activity, and do not pose a threat to national security – and therefore cannot be legitimately expelled from Egypt under the exceptions to the Refugee Convention’s prohibition of refoulement in cases where a refugee commits a crime or poses a threat to public order.
“While both participated in the demonstration of 2005, both participated in a non-violent manner and attempted to negotiate a peaceful end to the demonstration. Neither has been involved in political activities in Egypt apart from their advocacy of the rights of refugees before UNHCR, the letter reads.
“It is a painful irony of their situation that their past attempts to draw attention to the violations of the rights of refugees in Egypt is now being used as a reason to further deprive them of their rights.