In an interview with the Middle East News Agency (MENA), Egyptian Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar stressed that Egypt has zero forced disappearance cases and the term “detainee” is no longer used in legal cases since the expiration of the emergency law.
Abdel Ghaffar made his statements in response to several claims by human rights institutions that have documented thousands of enforced disappearance cases in Egypt. He claimed that these institutions are working in concert with the Muslim Brotherhood to spread these rumours to terrorise citizens and to hinder the Interior Ministry its task of securing the country.
Abdel Ghaffar supported his case by stating those who report enforced disappearance circumvent the normal state institutions and make recourse directly to the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) and international media outlets and human rights institutions.
In many cases, he said those who have been reported to have disappeared were arrested in the presence of their families’ according to the prosecution orders. However, Abdel Ghaffar claims their families say those arrested have been subject to enforced disappearance and disseminate photos on social media to pressure the authorities to release them.
Abdel Ghaffar said the Ministry of Interior worked with NCHR to form committees that investigate all complaints and reports of enforced disappearances. These committees were unable to contact all those who have been reported disappeared. He intimated that some of those who have gone missing might have illegally immigrated to Syria or Iraq to join the “Islamic State” (IS) without informing their families.
He denied the presence of detainees in Egyptian prisons and asserted that all prisoners are either in remand according to judicial decisions or imprisoned based on judicial verdicts. He claimed the term detainee has no legal basis since it disappeared from the Egyptian legal code with the expiration of the emergency law, which was first enacted in Egypt in 1958 and expired in May 2012.
Prominent lawyer Haleim Heneish told Daily News Egypt the Ministry of Interior should clearly state whether the National Security Apparatus operates under its auspices since this institution is responsible for enforced disappearances, according to the testimonies of all those who been subject to the practice.
Heneish said the Ministry of Interior has previously denied involvement in the enforced disappearances of Esraa El-Taweel and Islam Khalil. However it was later proven the two men had been detained without official charges by the Egyptian state. Further, their location was not disclosed during their period of detention.
The families of those who have been subject to enforced disappearances regularly attempt to communicate with the Ministry of Interior, according to Heneish. However the ministry often ignores this communication and does not report the claims of enforced disappearance.
Relying on testimonies of those who have been subject to enforced disappearance, Heneish said there are too many cases of reported disappearances to accept an absolute dismissal. Mohammed Desouky and Mohamemd Tarek are currently being held in the headquarters of the National Security Apparatus. Heneish said however the Ministry of Interior denies this claim.
According to various reports, there were approximately 1,500 cases of enforced disappearance in 2015. Several international and local human rights organisations have expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Egypt.