A non-stopviolation

8thECRF Annual “Stop Enforced Disappearances Campaign”Report

“Stop Enforced Disappearance” is a campaign launched by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) on 30 August 2015 to coincide with the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearances in light of the expansion of the Egyptian authorities’ exercise of this crime. The campaign aims to spread awareness of the seriousness of the crime of forced disappearance on Egyptian society, and the need to address it and provide all forms of support to its victims and their families, such as media and legal support and psychological support for them. The campaign seeks to reveal the fate of forcibly disappeared persons in light of the state’s constant denial of the crime. It also seeks to prosecute the perpetrators of the crime to prevent their impunity, obtain reparations for victims, pressure decision-makers to address legislative deficiencies in Egyptian laws by issuing a law to criminalize enforced disappearance, and Egypt’s accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from forced disappearance.

Facebook page of the campaign:


Campaign webpage: https://www.stopendis.org

Table of Contents

Executive summary


How to understand the concept of “short term forced disappearance and in which context does it occur.

Law enforcement bodies… complicity to exercise forced disappearance

Existing/absent practices that support the prevalence of the crime with the criminal justice system

Neglected roles of the prosecution that contributed to making forced disappearance a routine practice

Weak judicial supervision of places of detention

Ignoring complaints by families regarding disappearance of their family members

Neglecting investigation of allegations of disappearance and torture by defendants to the public prosecution

Remote prosecution sessions

Legislation and attempts to legalize crimes of forced disappearance.

Anti-terrorist law no. 95/2015

Law no. 175/2020

Statistical analysis of cases of forced disappearance(August 2022-August 2023)


Executive Summary

Forced disappearance in Egypt remains at the top of the list of violations committed by security, most notably the National Security Sector of the Ministry of Interior, against citizens and opponents of the Egyptian government’s policies, and despite the continuous calls and demands, locally and internationally, for the necessity of stopping the practice of this crime, enacting legislation to confront it,and holding its perpetrators accountable in view of its social and political repercussions, which are difficult to avoid. However, the authorities in Egypt continue to deny and ignore the crime, and even seek to provide a legal cover for its practice and use it as a tool of repression against citizens and opposition alike.

Despite attempts by the Egyptian authorities to promote in the media that they are taking steps to improve the human rights situation in Egypt through the National Human Rights Strategy launched by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in 2021, as well as the call made by the President to hold a comprehensive national dialogue in 2022, those invitations were completely devoid of any discussions related to the phenomenon of forced disappearance in Egypt, which clearly indicates that the Egyptian authorities continue to ignore the crime and deny its practice.

Since 2013, security authorities have expanded the practice of forced disappearance against citizens in a systematic and widespread manner. The periods of forced disappearance of victims ranged from days to years. However, the most common pattern during the period of forced disappearance during the report period is for short periods followed by the appearance of the victims as defendants before the prosecution, which indicates insistence by authorities in Egypt on normalizing forced disappearance as an essential part of the process of arrest and detention in violation of the constitution, law, and international conventions.

In light of this, the report attempts to shed light on the phenomenon of short-term forced disappearance, and the campaign considers short-term forced disappearance  to range between two days to six months.

In its first section, the report reviews the pattern of forced disappearance for short periods, and how forced disappearance is normalized as part of the arrest and detention process, as well as the practices adopted by state agencies to continue to arbitrarily imprison people after their release, and to recycle them on a new case after they have been subjected to enforced disappearance instead of releasing them, indicating the systematic and widespread nature of the practice.

The report also discusses how law enforcement institutions in Egypt cooperate in the practice of forced disappearance, starting with the establishment of the National Security Sector – primarily responsible for practicing this crime – and how people are arrested and detained in unofficial detention facilities, and subjected to many violations to extract confessions.

Through a number of testimonies, the report also reviewsthe role played by the investigative authorities, led by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, in normalizing the crime and providing legal cover for its practice, starting with the continuous restrictions on victims and lawyers, depriving them of communication and providing the necessary legal support, ignoring defense requests, and ignoring allegations of torture and disappearance, ignoring the actual arrest history in the victims’ statements, as well as the coercion and threats they are subjected to.

The report also attempts to shed light on the constant threats faced by the families of the forcibly disappeared during their journey to search for their relatives and find out any information about their places of detention, as the Egyptian security authorities continuously use methods of intimidation and instilling fear in the families of the victims, as well as the threats faced by lawyers and human rights defenders, which may lead to their arrest.

The report also reviews newly introduced national legislation and laws, which have contributed significantly to normalizing the practice of forced disappearance against citizens, and the introduction of legal articles that allow law enforcement agencies to circumvent the right to personal freedom.

Between august 2022 – August 2023, the Stop Enforced Disappearances campaign documented 821 cases of enforced disappearance;the whereabouts of 55 of them remain unknown at the time of the release of this report.  With regard to the classification of periods of disappearance, 614 people were subjected to forced disappearance for periods between two days and six months; according to the place from which the victims were taken, 350 people disappeared after being arrested from their homes, and 117 from the street; 19 people were arrested and forcibly disappeared after being summoned to one of the National Security headquarters.

Finally, the report reiterates its call for the need to place forced disappearance as a violation on the agenda of the National Dialogue discussions. The report also presents a number of recommendations, most notably the need for the National Security Sector to stop the practice of forced disappearance against Egyptian citizens and detain them in unofficial detention facilities, and the need for the Public Prosecution and other investigation bodies to exercise their roles in accordance with the law, criminalizing forced disappearance as a crime without a statute of limitations in the Egyptian Penal Code, holding those responsible for this crime accountable, joining the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from forced disappearance and adopting the definition of torture that was approved by the International Convention against Torture.


For the purpose of preparing this report, the Stop Enforced Disappearances campaign documented reports of enforced disappearances received by the campaign by conducting interviews with the families of the victims and a number of lawyers appointed to defend them, in the period from August 2022 to August 2023.

Due to the ongoing security restrictions imposed, families and relatives of the victims are subjected to restrictions or threats that may lead to their arrest and disappearance during the search for their children. This is in addition to the continuous security restrictions faced by human rights institutions reaching the point of targeting some human rights defenders, sometimes with arrest. Therefore, the predominant feature of collecting information was conducting interviews via telephone and online.

Within the framework of the monitoring and documentation process carried out by the campaign, and in the event that it receives a report about the disappearance of a person, the campaign reviews all documents, official papers and legal procedures taken by the victims’ families during their journey to search and find out the fate of their forcibly disappeared relatives, and secures copies in its archive as well as documenting all official steps taken by the families of the forcibly disappeared.

As part of the work on the annual report, the campaign conducted interviews with a number of lawyers who worked as legal representatives for some of the victims’ families and a number of survivors of disappearance before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo.

The campaign seeks to continuously communicate with the families of the victims in order to follow up on new developments since the arrest of their relatives and their forced disappearance, on the emergence of court cases, document the data regarding the emergence, and to provide the necessary legal, media, and psychological support in the various stages the victims go through.

During the period covered by the report, from August 2022 to August 2023, the campaign received a number of reports of enforced disappearance, and the campaign team re-contacted those who submitted the reports. 821 reports of disappearance for various periods of time from 26 governorates were documented.

The report also includes some cases that were subjected to forced disappearance in previous periods and appeared during the period covered by the report, or a complaint was received by the campaign about their forced disappearance a year or more ago and the campaign had not included it in the database of any of its previous reports.

The campaign calls on all those whose relatives are subjected to forced disappearance to immediately contact the campaign to provide all means of support and legal and media assistance. The campaign team confirms that it has been and will continue to be a partner and supporter of the families of the forcibly disappeared in their arduous journey to search for their relatives, and to fully support the rights of the victims to obtain reparation, and to prosecute perpetrators of the crime of enforced disappearance, and combating their impunity



Security authorities in Egypt continue to practice the crime of forced disappearance continuously and on a wide geographical scale, led by the Ministry of Interior, foremost of which is the National Security Agency, which is primarily responsible for the crimes of forced disappearance and the subsequent crimes of physical torture against Egyptian citizens. Despite the announcement by the President of the Republic of launching a national strategy for human rights, and calling for holding the so-called national dialogue, the denial by officials in Egypt of the existence of FORCED DISAPPEARANCEcontinues, and the agenda of this dialogue has been devoid for months of any discussions related to stopping this practice. In view of this continuous disregard and denial, the lives and destinies of many Egyptians remain pending at the disposal of National Security Agency officers.

The journey of forced disappearance begins from the moment the house is raided by security men and the victim is arrested without warrant or legal basis, to find himself blindfolded in one of the unofficial places of detention, which is often one of the headquarters of the National Security, to begin his journey with all forms of torture and maltreatment at the hands of National Security personnel in order to extract confessions and obtain information.

The International Convention defines forced disappearance as ” the arrest, detention, abduction or any form of deprivation of liberty carried out by agents of the State, or by persons or groups of individuals acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to recognize the deprivation of liberty or concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, thereby depriving him or her of the protection of the law”.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court also included enforced disappearance, along with murder, extermination, enslavement, and torture, as crimes against humanity if committed systematically and widely.

forced disappearance as a violation of fundamental human rights is enshrined with great secrecy, as in addition to being a crime in itself and a violation of the human right to legal protection, it entails a number of violations associated with it that are committed against the forcibly disappeared, such as physical and psychological torture, as forced disappearance and torture are inseparable in the minds of national security officers.

Forced disappearance also entails a violation of a number of fundamental rights of the individual victim, foremost among them the violation of the right to recognition of his or her legal personality, the right to liberty and security of person, and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment.

The damage and suffering as a result of forced disappearance does not affect only the disappeared person, but also the family to the same extent, as the families of the forcibly disappeared endure a lot of fear and horror concerning the fate of their disappeared relatives during the periods of disappearance, wondering whether they are still alive or not. There are also other violations to which the family of the disappeared person is exposed in the event that the victim is the breadwinner and head of the household, adding another form of suffering the family faces as a result of its lack of resources and the increase in the cost of living, which violates the family’s right to an adequate standard of living and the right to receive protection and assistance. Article 24 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from forced disappearance includes a definition of a victim that includes not only the disappeared person, but also the family of the disappeared person as victims of the crime of forced disappearance. The same article also recognized that each state party should take the necessary measures, in addition to searching for the fate of the disappeared person, to take action to assist the families of the disappeared in material matters and social security areas.

The state official discourse issued by its institutions and authorities still insists on denying the existence of the crime of enforced disappearance, despite the Egyptian authorities’ continuous propaganda that there is a tangible development in the exercise of human rights in Egypt. However, this propaganda, although fictitious, is still devoid of any talk about the practice of forced violation against citizens and opposition of the authority in Egypt.

Egypt’s failure to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from forced disappearance has given it protection from the obligation of member states to issue national legislation to criminalize enforced disappearance, hold perpetrators accountable, and combat impunity, which was tantamount to authorizing National Security Agency officers to practice the crime without deterrence or fear of accountability. This exempts them from complying with the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 and the Egyptian Constitution – and indeed the provisions of the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure – such as the right to safety and security, the right to be brought before a judge to review the legality of imprisonment, and the right to a fair trial, which are guaranteed to protect persons from falling prey to the crime of forced disappearance.

The Egyptian legislator did not provide for the criminalization of forced disappearance itself as a crime that violates a number of basic human rights. However, the practice of forced disappearance violates a number of national laws and the Constitution, whose texts stipulate to protect the rights violated by enforced disappearance. The Egyptian Constitution stipulates the right to personal freedom and that it is inviolable, and no one may be arrested except under judicial permission or in flagrante delicto. The Egyptian Constitution also recognizes that no one who is be arrested or deprived of liberty shall be subjected to torture or degrading treatment and shall be detained in decent places that preserve human dignity.

A number of provisions in the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, which are national laws, affirm the rights of persons not to be detained or imprisoned without legal basis, not to be subjected to torture or physical or moral abuse, and to be treated in a manner that preserves their dignity. A number of rights of persons deprived of their liberty, such as the legal right to communicate with their lawyers and to appear before the prosecution within a period not exceeding twenty-four hours, are recognized by national laws, but the practices pursued by the Ministry of the Interior do not honor the legal rights established for citizens, and the police, especially the National Security Agency, violate human rights without deterrence.

Within the framework of the continuous efforts of the Egyptian authorities to deny the existence of the crime of forced disappearance and their constant attempts to legitimize it, state agencies spare no effort in committing the crime and issuing legislation that makes periods of forced disappearance a legal detention regardless of the rights that have been violated during this period. This is evident in Law No. 94 of 2015, amended on April 27, 2017, known as the Anti-Terrorism Law, which was ratified by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, specifically Article 40 thereof, which stipulates that the Public Prosecution is granted the authority to detain the accused for a period of fourteen days, which is renewed only once due to the necessity required to confront the threat of terrorism crimes.

How to understand the concept of “short term forced disappearance and in which context does it occur.

In 2015, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances expressed concern in its annual report[1] about “the emergence of a pattern of short-term enforced disappearances in the recent period”, and in observations concerning Egypt in its 2016 annual report[2], the Working Group expressed grave concern about what appears to be “an increasing pattern of disappearances, especially short-term disappearances”, stressing that no circumstances may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances.

Forced disappearance, in accordance with the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from forced disappearance, refers to the deprivation of liberty of a person in any form by individuals affiliated with the State, followed by the refusal to recognize the deprivation of liberty and conceal the person’s fate from family or legal representative, which puts the person outside the protection of the law; and usually the person appears before the prosecution as a defendant, with a seizure report with a forged arrest date, often written on the date of the day before it is presented to the prosecution; the practice is routinely carried out as if it were part of the criminal proceedings for the process of arrest and investigations.

The campaign considers forced disappearance of a short duration when people disappearfor a period not exceeding 6 months. Those who disappeared for short periods represent the largest number of victims of enforced disappearance. Out of (3611) cases of disappearance documented by the campaign since its inception in 2015 until 2022, (2411) cases of forced disappearance were subjected to periods of less than six months, and in the period from August 2022 to mid-August 2023, the campaign documented 821 incidents of enforced disappearance, and the disappeared for short periods constituted about 80 percent of survivors, i.e. 614 out of 766 which is the total number of people who survived disappearance.

Perhaps one of the patterns of forced disappearance documented by the campaign throughout its work is the victim’s exposure to forced disappearance  again after obtaining a release order and during the completion of paperwork related to his release, and then his unlawful detention in one of the official or unofficial detention facilities, while continuing to deny his presence, and where he is denied any legal rights and hence is subjected to interrogation, torture and inhuman treatment; later he would appear as a defendant again – and usually faces the same charges – for which he was previously imprisoned and interrogated. However, the incident of which he is accused takes place during the period of forced disappearance.

In this pattern, security authorities use forced disappearance as a tool for the purpose of continuing the arbitrary detention of individuals for long and continuous periods without the need to refer the accused to trial or prove the accusations against them. When the accused is released by the prosecution due to the ridiculousness or inappropriateness of the accusations or the end of the period of pretrial detention stipulated by law, state security authorities hide them again in preparation for recycling them on new cases. The process of disappearing and recycling can be repeated several times in a row, resulting in the continued arbitrary detention of people for consecutive years, up to five years in some cases[3]. The campaign had previously addressed the phenomenon of “repeated disappearance” in detail in its fourth annual report[4] and described it as a continuing pattern.

Law enforcement bodies… complicity to exercise forced disappearance

According to testimonies by a number of interviewed lawyers, they reported that nearly nine out of every ten defendants who appear on trial for the first time have been subjected to forced disappearance. According to some of these lawyers, all the arrests and detentions that Egypt has witnessed over the past years have been accompanied by enforced disappearances, and note that this violation applies to most cases, with the exception of a few cases involving public figures from opposition circles or some influencers.

The severe incursion of the crime of forced disappearance and the continuation of its practice for years without bringing any of the perpetrators to account, with the escalation of the frequency of resorting to it by security authorities in all the crises they face, and with the investigation authorities ignoring the context in which the victims are exposed to these violations, indicates that the former, led by the National Security Agency, although the first perpetrator of the violation, are reinforced by the disregard by investigation authorities allowing the crime to occur on such a large scale. This complicity by state institutions allows for the systematic practice of this criminal, secretive and dangerous violation, during which more victims are violated, and the perpetrators of the crime go unpunished.

The report attempts to shed light on these bodies and the nature of the role of each entity, forms of their practices and the legal framework through which they take place, as well as the practices used by these bodies in an attempt to legalize the crimes of FORCED DISAPPEARANCE.

  1. National security sector

The Code of Criminal Procedure regulates in its articles everything related to arrest, interrogation, the conduct of investigations and detention orders, with controls that guarantee the rights of the accused, law enforcement and the course of justice alike. Adherence to them represents the rule of law, while their continuous disregard is the most prominent feature of the performance of Egyptian security authorities and expresses theirviews of their roles and their powers as “above the law”. With this view, the National Security Sector works as an alternative to the Public Prosecution and the police with all their powers and supervisory and executive tasks assigned to them in accordance with the law.

The National Security Agency can be considered primarily responsible for violations of forced disappearance according to the testimonies of victims and their statements before the prosecution during the past ten years, despite the fact that it is not legally entitled to interrogate the accused or detain them inside its headquarters, as its powers in this regard are limited to “collecting information related to the safety of the state and presenting it to the Minister of Interior and submitting any data, information or studies requested from him” as stipulated in Article No. 125 of Law 109 of 1971[5]concerningthe Police Authority within a section entitled “Special Provisions for the National Security Sector” which was recently added to the Law after amending some of its provisions by Law 175 of 2020, in which it stipulated several powers to ensure the achievement of its objectives and competencies, NOT including, of course, the investigation and interrogation of individuals or the use of National Security headquarters as places for disappearance and torture.

Within the framework of the agency’s work as a body to control, interrogate and detain without any controls, oversight or legal basis, citizens are arrested not based on arrest and subpoena orders or a warrant from the Public Prosecution in accordance with the text of the law, but by force by individuals affiliated with the National Security and are them taken in cars that are often unlicensed and are detained inside the headquarters of the agency where they are interrogated and subjected to extraction of confessions by force and in ways that violate the law and violate the dignity of individuals and threaten their security and safety. The arrest may be preceded by a period of illegal surveillance of individuals’ movements, phone calls and activities on social networking sites in complete waste of all guarantees provided by the law that preserve the rights of individuals, as well as encroachment on the authority of the Public Prosecution and its supervisory role over the work of the executive authority and police officers.

“Personal liberty is a natural right, and it is inviolable, and except in flagrante delicto, no one may be arrested, searched, imprisoned or restricted in any way except by a reasoned judicial order required by investigation. Anyone whose liberty is restricted must be immediately informed of the reasons therefor, informed of his rights in writing, be able to communicate with his family and lawyer immediately, and brought before the investigating authority within twenty-four hours from the time of restriction of his liberty. The investigation against him shall only begin in the presence of his lawyer.”[6]

With the expansion of the security authorities’ suspicion of citizens with the aim of tightening the security grip, controlling the real and virtual public sphere, and targeting demonstrators, opponents and human rights defenders, individuals are not only arrested for committing acts that violate the law, but just for “suspicion”, and therefore short-term forced disappearance is used as a means of intimidation, extracting confessions, fabricating accusations without evidence, interrogating individuals regarding their opinions and positions on the current regime, searching their homes and phones, and forcibly viewing their private correspondence akin to the Inquisition. The frequency of these practice increases in the presence of calls for demonstrations or any public event, where arbitrary arrests of citizens, searches of phones, social media accounts and conversations are done with coercion, and followed by arrest and disappearance of citizens.

Security authorities launch wide campaigns of random arrests annually and are often associated with calls for protest, as happened in September 2019 and September 2020, as a result of which dozens or hundreds of enforced disappearances occurred and were documented by the campaign in its fifth and sixth reports. In November 2022 and with the escalation of calls for demonstrations against the regime, security authorities began trying to limit the spread of calls for demonstrations by monitoring social networking sites and monitoring account owners who express oppositionor complain about the economic conditions or merely interact with this type of content. An example isSupreme State Security No. 1893 of 2022 which involved the imprisonment of more than 100 defendants who were arrested in October and the first of November, where National Security arrested them and subjected them to periods of disappearance to appear later before the Supreme State Security Prosecution and be accused of joining a terrorist group established in violation of the provisions of the law, committing a crime of financing terrorism, using an account on social media with the intention of broadcasting false news and statements aimed at destabilizing the nation; they were imprisoned accordingly.

Some of these defendants were merely interacting or inactive members of groups on chat programs and social networking sites, and they were arbitrarily arrested, in addition to dozens of citizens who were randomly arrested, and their phones searched during the same period. Short-term disappearance was used to interrogate them about their political opinions and their position on the current regime. The decision to imprison them was based on broad charges such as joining a terrorist group or spreading false news without attributing specific facts to many of them, which is considered arbitrary detention according to the concept of arbitrariness stated by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. “The concept of ‘arbitrariness’ includes two conditions together, namely that resorting to a form of deprivation of liberty in accordance with applicable laws and procedures and that is proportionate to the aim pursued, reasonable and necessary. The term ‘arbitrariness’ should not mean ‘contrary to the law’, but rather should be interpreted more generally to include factors such as impropriety, unfairness, suddenness, and imprudence and ignoring to observe legal principles”

  • Illegal arrests and fake arrest dates

As part of their ongoing attempts to normalize forced disappearance practices within the justice system, security authorities are using a number of practices aimed primarily at legalizing the crimes of enforced disappearance, even if only in a sham form. The most prominent practice used in most cases of disappearance is the falsification of the arrest reports, so that the report is written on the date before the accused is presented to the prosecution to comply with Article (36) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which stipulates that the accused must be presented to the competent prosecution within 24 hours of his arrest. In fact, we have two dates: the first is the actual date of arrest and disappearance of the victim, in addition to the date of arrest written by judicial officers in police stations, which ignores the period of disappearance in violation of the previous law.

Illegal arrests are those that occur in violation of Articles (35) and (40) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, where persons are taken by orders of the National Security to the police station of the neighborhood of residence of the victim in most cases, and the arrest process is carried out without permission from the prosecution or an arrest warrant, using official police cars and the victim is then handed over to the National Security immediately afterwards, to begin a short or long period of forced disappearance.

These practices may take another form, which is the unlawful detention of people despite the issuance of a decision to release them or acquit them, pending the approval of the National Security to implement the decision of the judicial authorities. In the event there is no approval by national security, the police station ends the procedures for the release “on paper”, and hands over the defendant to National Security instead of releasing him, to enter the cycle of forced disappearance again. This practice was associated with recycling in 2018 and with the escalation of recycling cases. Disappearance from official places of detention has become an increasing pattern, addressed by the campaign in its previous reports after documenting dozens of cases of forced disappearance from police departments and stations with the same pattern.

  • Detention in illegal places of detention

Perhaps one of the most prominent practices used by security authorities to forcibly disappear people is the provision of unofficial detention facilities by police departments and stations within the department. People are arrested and detained in rooms isolated from the outside world and separate from official detention rooms, and their names are not registered or included in the official records of the center, nor are they issued official reports, with denial of their presence in the department’s custody. According to testimonies by survivors, the period of disappearance inside what is known as the “National Security Office” and the detention therein is no different from the experience of disappearance in the National Security headquarters and is no less bad in terms of the nature of cruel and inhuman treatment, conditions of detention and torture.

Police departments and stations also use what is known as the “Fridge”, which is a room within the department dedicated to detaining people who are usually accused in criminal cases, before writing the seizure report and presenting them to the prosecution. This detention may continue for days as a kind of pressure on the suspects and get them to confess. Detainees may be exposed during that period to “parties” of torture, in addition to not enjoying any legal protection because there is no proof of their presence at the police station, and their isolation from the outside world.

The “Fridge” is also used to detain those released or acquitted until investigation bodies complete their investigations, which is considered unlawful detention at best, unless accompanied by denial from the center’s officials, which would then be a case of forced disappearance. Some victims are held inside the “Fridge” for a few days before being transferred to the headquarters of the National Security, or vice versa.

Existing/absent practices that support the prevalence of the crime with the criminal justice system

  1. Introduction to the role and context of performance of the supreme state security prosecution

“Amnesty International has concluded that Supreme State Security Prosecutors (SSSP) are complicit in enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, systematically neglecting to investigate allegations of such practices by the Egyptian police, in particular the National Security Agency, and the acceptance of confessions extracted under torture as evidence in trials. In some cases, this evidence led to the defendants being sentenced to death, and indeed executed. By ignoring allegations of forced disappearance and torture, the SSSP prevent victims from accessing justice and ensure impunity for perpetrators.”[7]

Appearing before the prosecution represents the first stop for the forcibly disappeared after the end of their disappearance period, in which victims are supposed to receive legal protection for the first time after a period of violation. But in reality, it is a continuation of the series of violations to which individuals are exposed, especially if their appearance is before the State Security Prosecution and not the ordinary prosecution.

Instead of proceeding with the procedures of reparation for the victims, hearing their complaints about what they have been subjected to, and opening a criminal investigation to hold the perpetrators accountable, the victims find themselves before the prosecution as defendants, who are supposed to be convicted and not acquitted based on investigation reports issued by the National Security, the same party that caused their disappearance, intimidated and subjected them to torture. Accordingly, a decision is issued to detain them pending one of the cases and they face one of the charges stipulated in the terrorism law (such as joining a terrorist group or spreading false news).

The disappeared usually appear before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo, which has always adopted a set of practices that constitute serious violations that have contributed to the normalization of forced disappearance and its integration into the justice system so that it is practiced smoothly and routinely, reflecting collusion between the National Security Agency on the one hand and the State Security Prosecution on the other. The main factor in making the illegal practice of disappearance productive with a very important legal effect is the arbitrary imprisonment/detention of thousands of citizens annually.

In 2022, the number of defendants presented before the terrorism departments to renew their detention reached (25,034) defendants imprisoned pending (2,294) cases. According to interviews conducted with a number of human rights lawyers about the nature of the progress of investigations in the Supreme State Security Prosecution, about 90% of the defendants who are presented before the prosecution for the first time have been subjected to forced disappearance in the period prior to their presentation. About 5 to 10 new defendants appear for the first time before the prosecution on a daily basis and may reach double or triple the number in times of security alert and random arrest campaigns synchronizing political events such as calls for demonstrations.

  • Tight security measures and arbitrariness against lawyers within the Supreme Setate Security Prosecution

Defendants/survivors arrive at the State Security Prosecution coming from the National Security headquarters directly in most cases, where they are transferred by the “deportations sector” of the governorate to which the National Security headquarters belongs. Since its beginning, the campaign documented through the testimonies of survivors and lawyers the arrival of the defendants to the prosecution building blindfolded and the blindfold is only removed when they get off the transfer van. In previous years the campaign documented more than one incident in which some of the defendants were kept blindfolded during their presence in the corridors of the prosecution building. This practice has been remedied so that victims are blindfolded immediately or before they get out of the deportation vehicle.

After the arrival of the new defendants, they are not taken to the “holding cells” of the prosecution as is customary, for fear that they will mix with other defendants who are there for sessions of renewal of their detention and get any legal advice or reassuring information. Sometimes the survivors are isolated from others in order to mislead them about the nature of their whereabouts, and therefore some are presented for the first time without distinguishing that heis presented to the prosecution and not just an investigation session in the national security. This is a deliberate practice, especially since some victims are exposed to deceptive sessions during their disappearance, akin to rehearsals to check their statements after appearance, according to the lawyers. Therefore, the victims are not detained in the usual holding cells, but in one of the rooms in the prosecution building, or they are left on the streets in front of the interrogation rooms until the start of the investigations, while completely prevented from communicating with any of their family members or lawyers before the start of the investigations.

Lawyers practice their work within the prosecution in strict security conditions and a general atmosphere of tension. Members of the National Security secretaries and officers are present on a permanent basis and officiallyexercise organizational and supervisory roles within the prosecution, starting with the assumption of one of the national security officers the task of receiving the deported defendants from the headquarters of the national security, receiving their minutes and their records, supervising their transfer to the place of the investigation sessions, and distributing them to prosecutors, and finally determining their destination to one of the places of detention according to the security classification of the defendant. This is done based on prior decisions by the National Security Agency and was confirmed by testimonies of ten lawyers who regularly practice their work at the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo during the past years.

“In State Security Prosecution you must watch your step, your breath, and keep your complaints short.”

“It is as if you are trapped; all means of communication with the outside world are taken away from you and, once inside, you have no idea when you will be released.”

Amid a tense security atmosphere and arbitrary procedures that are not commensurate with the procedures for a lawyer to enter the prosecution building where he normallyworks, the lawyer shows his national ID where it is copied and examined; lawyers must hand over their mobile phones, smart watches and any means of communication to the police secretary of the National Security at the external gate, and are allowed only papers and pens. Sometimes the lawyers themselves are not allowed to enter under the pretext that there are enough lawyersinside the building already.

“In an incident involving a fellow lawyer, who stood for seconds to tie the shoelace and then continued walking, he was stopped, his ID checked again and was detained for about 6 or 7 hours in the prosecution building, investigated and the notes and papers in his possessionsearched.”

The situation is not much different inside the corridors of the Public Prosecution Office, where secretaries and members of the National Security are deployed, whose mission is to monitor the accused and the lawyers, prevent communication between them, and also monitor the lawyers’ conversations with each other in a state of unjustified surveillance. Attempting to communicate with one of the accused or giving him a pen and paper, for example, is considered a serious mistake that “causes a major problem” that could lead to the lawyer being detained and a memorandum being drawn up against him.

“It is forbidden to stand with the accused before the investigation nor to advise him. If you just try to look at the accused, the police sergeant will come and tell you to stay away from the accused, Mr.”

Lawyers’ concerns are quite justified, as there are strict inspection procedures for entering the prosecution building, with the withdrawal of all means of communication with the outside world before entering and being in the midst of an intense security presence of National Security personnel who set many rules that violate the law, such as preventing lawyers from communicating with the accused. Quarrels often occur between national security personnel and lawyers during and because of the performance of their work in an attempt to effectively represent their clients. These altercations may result in the lawyer being detained for hours or a memorandum being written against him. This is the atmosphere that one of the lawyers described during an interview with him:

“You feel as if you are in State Security and not in the State Security Prosecution,” especially since the matter has reached the point in some cases of arresting lawyers, whether in front of the court building as happened with lawyer Mahinour Al-Masry, or from inside the building, as happened with human rights lawyer Muhammad Al-Baqer.

“If I argue with a judge, for example, I feel that I might never get out of that place; or if you withdraw from the investigation or renewal session, or insist on proving a certain thing, or insist that a specific accused be allowed to speak, I will do that, but I will still feel threatened, of course.”

These practices are in violation of Article (198) of the Constitution, which stipulates that the legal profession is a free profession, which participates with the judicial authority in achieving justice, the rule of law, and ensuring the right to defense, and is practiced independently by the lawyer, as well as what was stipulated in the Basic Principles of the United Nations regarding the role of lawyers, which emphasized: The role of the state is to ensure that lawyers are able to “perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, obstruction, harassment or inappropriate interference, and without exposing them, nor the threat of exposing them, to legal prosecution or administrative penalties…” as a result of carrying out their work. Article 16(a) and (c)

  • Preventing defendants from obtaining adequate legal representation

The right to defend in person or by proxy is guaranteed. The independence of the legal profession and the protection of its rights guarantee the right to defense. The law guarantees the right to defense for those who are financially unable to appoint a lawyer. Article (98) of the Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt 2014

We previously pointed out that the practices carried out by the Supreme State Security Prosecution in conjunction with National Security undermine the rights of survivors of disappearance and help perpetrators continue to escape punishment. The first of these practices is to prevent survivors of disappearance from obtaining appropriate legal representation and their right to the presence of a lawyer during Investigating them, in violation of Article (124) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 54 of the Constitution.

The first presentation to the prosecution carries great importance for the forcibly disappeared and their families from a humanitarian perspective, as it comes after a period of disappearance in National Security headquarters for days, followed by hours of incommunicado detention inside the prosecution building. The presence of the accused’s lawyer represents a break from the isolation and intimidation and confirmation of the end of the period of disappearance and an opportunity to reassure his family and let them know his whereabouts.

The campaign documented, through the testimonies of victims and their families, and interviews with lawyers, that State Security prosecutors prevent lawyers from attending what is known as a discussion or “chat”, which is more like an initial investigation carried out by prosecutors, and what is stated in it is not recorded in the minutes of the investigation session. Lawyers are prevented from attending, which is a violation that occurs to the vast majority of defendants. Prosecutors usually begin that investigation by asking questions regarding the social backgrounds and political opinions, and sometimes they discuss the accusations attributed to them in the report of the National Security Investigations, with the emphasis being that it is a friendly discussion in principle and does not pose a danger to the accused or contribute to his conviction. However, in reality and according to testimonies by lawyers, this interrogation is usually used by the prosecution to manipulate the accused and try to trap them or direct them to confess by making false promises to release them, or trying to push them to provide evidence against themselves, despite what is stipulated in Article 161 of the Public Prosecution’s instructions prohibiting manipulation of the accused: “The investigator may not promise the accused anything.” Such as mitigating his punishment or trying to frame him through questions directed at him or by suggesting incorrect facts, such as claiming that another accused confessed against him or the testimony of others against him, leading to his confession that he committed the crime,” taking advantage of their lack of knowledge of their rights and intentionally neglecting to inform them thereof in violation of Article (54) of the Constitution and articles 124 of the law of criminal procedures and 6.2 of the general guidelines for prosecutors.

After the end of the initial investigation, the lawyers are usually allowed to attend, and the prosecutors interrogate the accused again about the same topics that they were previously interrogated about and record their statements in the minutes of the investigation session. In some cases, the prosecutors completely prevented the lawyers from attending the investigation sessions with the accused, whether the initial or official investigation, despite the presence of the lawyer in the prosecution building. At others they deny the presence of the accused so that the prosecutor can proceed with the questioning without the presence of the lawyer, which is a violation of the most important basic rights of the accused and which is constitutionally protected by article (98), and stipulated in local and international legislation.

“Investigating the accused for the first time without the presence of lawyers is intentional. This happens a lot, even if the accused’s lawyer is present and standing outside.”

After appearing before the prosecution, survivors of forced disappearance are prevented from contacting their families, their lawyers, or even speaking with the lawyers present in the building. The accused is not allowed to be alone with his lawyer before the investigation, contrary to what is stipulated in Article 6.6 of the Public Prosecution’s instructions. Lawyers are prevented from presenting any type of advice before the beginning of the questioning.

  • Threats and coercion of defendants

Coercion and threats to victims are part of a series of violations to which survivors are exposed in order to obtain confessions extracted under torture, in violation of Article 55 of the Constitution, which equates exposing the accused to torture and any attempts to coerce or intimidate him or merely threaten to do so as reasons for not considering his statements and the confessions issued by him. “Any statement proven to have been issued by a detainee under the pressure of any of the above, or the threat of any of the above, is in vain and unreliable.” This is the same as stated in Article 302 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirmed the impermissibility of coercing the accused to confess in Article 314 (g).

In his dealings with the accused, the investigator must respect his dignity and humanity by avoiding methods and expressions that include an insult to human dignity. It is also not permissible to resort to torture in order to obtain a confession to the perpetration of the incident being investigated. Article 160 of the General Instructions for Public Prosecutions

According to a number of testimonies provided by victims and lawyers, some prosecutors take advantage of the defendants being without a lawyer to threaten them with returning them to National Security and forcibly disappearing them again in order to force them to confess to the accusations against them in the National Security investigation report, or in the event that they retract the confessions extracted under torture. During the period of their disappearance, the campaign also documented in its fifth annual report that the prosecutor in one of the cases assaulted dozens of defendants, tortured them, and photographed their confessions under duress. Lawyers also reported repeated incidents of prosecution representatives assaulting some defendants in the presence of their lawyers, directing insults at them, and this reached the point of threatening them with the prosecutor’s firearm.

“Some of the prosecutors threaten the defendants saying they would send them back to national security, and they may shout and insult the accused. In a famous incident that happened more than once, the prosecutor threw a hammer at the accused, especially those accused of violent charges.”

  • Relying on National Security Investigations as evidence to convict defendants.

“If members of the Public Prosecution come into possession of evidence against suspected persons and they know or believe, based on valid reasons, that it was obtained by illegal means that constitute a serious violation of the human rights of the suspect, in particular by the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or by other human rights violations, they must refuse to use this evidence against anyone other than those who used the aforementioned methods or notify the court thereof, and take all necessary measures to ensure that those responsible for using these methods are brought to justice.” UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, Article 16

The National Security Sector is responsible for conducting investigations in cases in which defendants are accused of committing any of the crimes stipulated in the Terrorism Law. However, it is established in the Court of Cassation’s ruling that the investigations conducted by security are no more than just the opinion of their owner and are not valid alone. There must be evidence to prove the accusation. The presumption of the innocence of the accused is one of the principles stipulated in the Egyptian Constitution (Article 96 of the Constitution), and despite this, prosecutors rely entirely on investigation reports and on the detention orders issued based on investigations, and nothing else is taken into account, whether from the statements of the accused or evidence presented by their representatives.

According to the lawyers, the investigation reports prepared by National Security officers for most of the accused are in a similar wording and do not, in most cases, contain specific facts that the defendants are accused of committing, which challenges their seriousness from the lawyers’ point of view. In some cases, National Security officers include the information and confessions they obtained from interrogating the accused during the time of their disappearance, which obliges the prosecution to withdraw them and not rely on them in accordance with what is stipulated in the Constitution and the law (previous sources). These reports also have in common the fact that the information contained in them is based on confidential national security sources that cannot be disclosed.

Prosecutors also ignore what the victims’ lawyers claim about the presence of forgery in the accused’s arrest report. The forgery incident is not investigated, nor are the accused, as victims, questioned about the incident of their unlawful disappearance or detention. In determining the date of arrest, the prosecution relies on police reports, while ignoring the defense’s requests to prove the true date of arrest in the session minutes. This practice represents a common pattern as it occurs to the vast majority of defendants brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution. However, in some cases – which is not common – the report is drawn up on the date of the actual arrest of the accused and is accompanied by a seizure/detention order issued by the prosecution in accordance with the text of Article (40) of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

  • Violation of fair trial guarantees

It is the duty of the competent authorities to ensure that lawyers have access to appropriate information, files, and documents in their possession or at their disposal, for a period sufficient to enable them to provide effective legal assistance to their clients, and such access should be secured within the shortest appropriate period. (United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article (21))

According to testimonies by lawyers interviewed for the report, the SSSP did not allow any of them to see the seizure report or the minutes of the investigation session in all the cases in which they represented defendants before that prosecution during their years of employment. In all the times when the lawyers asked to see the investigation report to ensure basis for defenses and statements of the accused, their request was rejected on the grounds that he “no disclosure allowed”, which is a violation of the general instructions of the prosecutions, Article (605), which stressed the need to allow the accused or his lawyer to view the entire investigation file and all the procedures therein, even if they were carried out in the absence of the accused.

The repressive practices of national security based on the expansion of the randomly arrest of citizens or merely on suspicion, or for exercise one of their rights protected by law, left hundreds of citizens arbitrarily detained, with detention decisions by the Supreme State Security Prosecution based on investigations in which those accused of committing specific material facts were not confronted, especially with those accused of joining a terrorist group or spreading false news, and who are sometimes not confronted with what was they had allegedly published nor the publishing body, as most of the questions revolved around their social backgrounds and attitudes, their political and related activities, their position on certain historical or political events, and their discussion of their religious beliefs, which is a violation of the right of the accused to be informed of the charges against him in a specific and clear manner (Article 123 of the Criminal Procedure, Article 90 of the General Directives for Public Prosecutions).

The approach followed by the prosecution is to try to verify the defendants’ intellectual, political and social background, examine their convictions, positions and activities, and discuss what is attributed to them in the investigation report, all of this often in the same session, which makes the investigations sometimes last for hours and makes the defendants unjustifiably tired or drained, especially since they appear for investigation after 4 or 5 hours of waiting in the prosecution office, in addition to the previous days of forced disappearance and the accompanying inappropriate conditions of detention and inhumane treatment. The Court of Cassation ruled that the confession resulting from prolonged interrogation was invalid and is considered a form of coercion if it continued for hours and caused material or moral harm to the accused. [Cassation 2/19/1986, Collection of Cassation Rulings, Appeal No. 5583 of Judicial Year 55; Cassation 1/23/1994, Appeal No. 3006 of Judicial Year 62]

“I have a defendant, who was presented to the prosecution after a period of disappearance, and she was in a state of fatigue, but the investigation continued from the afternoon to 12 at night. More than once I asked the prosecutor to stop the questioning and complete it at another time because she was not able to continue and the prosecutor insisted that he was close to ending the questioning. The defendant then refused to respond from exhaustion and would rest for a while and then start responding again.”

Neglected roles of the prosecution that contributed to making forced disappearance a routine practice

Weak judicial supervision of places of detention

 “Prisons and places of detention shall be subject to judicial supervision…” Article 56 of the Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt – 2014

“Members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the presidents and agents of the courts of first instance and appeal may visit the public and central prisons within their jurisdictions and ensure that there are no illegal detainees. They may consult prison books and arrest and detention orders, take copies thereof, contact any detainee and hear from him any complaint he wishes to make to them. The director and staff of the prisons shall provide them with all assistance in obtaining the information they request.” Article 42 of the Code of Criminal Procedures

The importance of judicial supervision of places of detention lies in that it is one of the guarantees to protect the rights of detainees and ensure their safety and to ensure that there is no illegal detainee in accordance with what is stipulated in the Constitution (Article 56) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (Article 42). The Public Prosecution is competent to supervise prisons and other places where criminal sentences are implemented according to Article 27 of the Judicial Authority Law. The Prisons Organization Law stipulates the right of the Attorney General and his agents in their jurisdictions to enter into all places of imprisonment at any time to verify several matters mentioned in the text of Article 85, including the absence of a person illegally imprisoned, observing the provisions of laws and regulations, and undertaking what they deem necessary regarding the violations committed.

According to Articles 1747 to 1750 of the General Instructions for Prosecutions, prosecutors must inspect detention facilities located in their jurisdiction periodically, at least once a month, and the visit must take place without prior notice to determine the nature of the current situation, and the prosecutor is obligated to write an inspection report and send it to the Attorney General’s Office, which is entrusted to one of the members of the Public Prosecution to open an investigation on the crimes and violations that have been monitored.

Despite the important oversight role assigned to it by law, the performance of the prosecution is characterized by extreme weakness and lack of transparency compared to the scale and number of violations inside places of detention in the reports issued continuously by non-governmental organizations working in the field of human rights. In a 2016 paper issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, it was noted that the Public Prosecution made only five visits in 38 months. According to the report “Partners in Violation” issued by the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, the prosecution’s visits are not characterized by the transparency or effectiveness required to bear fruit, as the report described the wording of the texts regulating supervision to be unclear and significantly affecting the effectiveness of the role of the prosecution in supervision, in addition to what can be described as deficiencies in Egyptian legislation and the need to address them to seriously activate the role of the prosecution.

With regard to victims of disappearance and attempts to reduce the violation, the prosecution’s commitment to periodic inspection visits stipulated in these legislations in its current form may lead to the detection of dozens of cases of forced disappearance inside police departments and stations in what is known as the “Fridge”, inside which the released defendants are detained pending the approval of National Security to implement the prosecution’s decision to release them. It is worth noting that the aforementioned legislation is devoid of any regulation to supervise and control some places of detention such as central security camps and National Security headquarters, which are the places of disappearance for the largest number of disappearances.

Ignoring complaints by families regarding disappearance of their family members

“.. Anyone who learns of the existence of an unlawful detainee or in a place not designated for detention may notify a member of the Public Prosecution. As soon as the prosecutor becomes aware of it – he shall immediately move to the place where the detainee is located, conduct an investigation and order the release of the illegal detainee – and he shall draw up a report to that effect.”

Article 43 of the Code of Criminal Procedure

“Each State Party shall ensure to those who claim that a person has been the victim of forced disappearance the right to report the facts to the competent authorities. Where appropriate, appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure that the complainant, witnesses, relatives and defenders of the disappeared person, as well as those involved in the investigation, are protected from any ill-treatment or intimidation because of the complaint or any testimony given.”

Article 12 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

During the years of operation of the campaign, the number of reports submitted by the victims’ families and lawyers to the Public Prosecutor amounted to hundreds of reports, ranging from telegraphs, petitions and reports to the District Prosecutions, none of which resulted in the prosecutor inspecting the place of detention or disappearance referred to in the communication. The forms of response received by the families to their reports varied, but in the best cases they did not exceed hearing the statements of the whistleblowers and unofficially addressing the police station of the place of disappearance to determine the validity of the claim that the victim is in the police station or the headquarters of the National Security mentioned in the complaint, despite the confirmation of the general instructions of the prosecutions and the Code of Criminal Procedure on the need for one of the members of the Public Prosecution to move immediately to the place where the detainee is located.

In recent years, the campaign has increasingly received reports from families of victims stating that they were subjected to various forms of ill-treatment and threats by members of the District Public Prosecution when they tried to submit a report, either by ignoring them and refusing to meet them or only hearing their complaints and refusing to register the communication officially, or insulting them and stigmatizing them and their children as terrorists, in violation of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which affirmed the state’s obligation to protect relatives and defenders of the disappeared person, from any ill-treatment due to complaint submitted.

Neglecting investigation of allegations of disappearance and torture by defendants to the public prosecution

“The Egyptian state is taking all necessary measures to address, combat and prosecute enforced disappearance, and the Public Prosecution [which is an integral part of the judiciary] is dealing with an impartial and transparent judicial investigation all types of reports related to these allegations in order to reach the truth, taking into account considerations related to the eligibility and relatives of the person who reported his enforced disappearance” Responses by the Egyptian Public Prosecution to questions posed by the Universal Periodic Review mechanism November 2019, Counselor Hani Fathy Georgy, State Information Service.

In interviews conducted by the campaign with a group of lawyers who represented dozens of victims before the Supreme State Security Prosecution, they all confirmed that the prosecution representatives ignored the defense’s request to open an independent investigation and hear the accused as victims of disappearance or torture, while some members of the prosecution contented themselves with noting the complaint in the minutes of the investigation session and ignored the lawyers’ request to present him to forensic medicine in many cases, as the lawyers confirmed. The campaign did not document a single case in which the prosecution opened an independent investigation into the defendants’ claims of being subjected to torture and enforced disappearance, which is a covert violation practiced by the prosecution against survivors of disappearance causing the loss of the rights of hundreds of victims to reparation and for perpetrators to escape punishment. It is one of the recommendations that Egypt received in the universal periodic review of November 2019 from the United States of America regarding enforced disappearance, “addressing impunity by credibly investigating allegations of extrajudicial killings.” The scope of justice, torture and forced disappearance at the hands of security forces, public dissemination of the results, and prosecution of those responsible.”

“Prosecutors shall pay due attention to prosecutions relating to crimes committed by public officials, in particular those relating to corruption, abuse of power, gross violations of human rights and other crimes under international law, and to investigate such crimes if permitted by law or in line with domestic practice.”

Guidelines for Prosecutors Article (15)

The Convention for the Protection of All Persons from forced disappearance obliges states parties in Article 12 to examine allegations of disappearance promptly and impartially, to conduct investigations even if no formal complaint has been filed, and to take the necessary measures to prevent obstruction of investigations. Article 6 of the same Convention stipulates criminal responsibility of anyone who commits, is complicit or participates in the commission of the crime of enforced disappearance, such as the superior, who was aware that one of his subordinates was under his effective command and control, has committed or is about to commit the crime of enforced disappearance, or deliberately omits information that clearly indicates it; or has failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures that it could have been taken to prevent or suppress the commission of the crime of forced disappearance or to bring the matter before the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution.”

Online prosecution sessions for renewal of detention

In a previous section of the report, we pointed out that the Supreme State Security Prosecution is under the management and control of National Security personnel, who are responsible for determining the nature of dealings within it in a tight security environment. In 2015, lawyers were surprised to be prevented from entering the prosecution building, and they were informed that a decision had been issued not to allow entry except from those who have sessions. The prohibition included handing over administrative requests to the prosecution guards in front of the iron fence on the street and returning to receive them at another time without entering the building. Accordingly, Case No. 9226 of 1970 was filed, in which the lawyers obtained a ruling in their favor to cancel the State Security Prosecution’s decision not to enable them to enter. The reasons for the ruling stated that the banning decision is in violation of the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure guaranteeing the right of defense for the accused in Articles 54, 96 and 98 of the Egyptian Constitution, Articles 124 and 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and Articles 1, 49 and 52 of the Law of the Legal Profession.

Years after the verdict was issued, lawyers practice their work in more stringent conditions, as the delivery of administrative requests is still done through the prosecution guards outside the building, and lawyers are prevented from entering the building, and despite the absence of an official written decision to prevent lawyers from entering, the prosecution guards of the National Security are trying to limit the entry of lawyers on a daily basis. Hence, lawyers are allowed to enter to attend the investigation sessions of their clients, but they are restricted in different ways, such as sufficiency of already existing lawyers, i.e. allowing a certain number and preventing the rest of the lawyers from entering, or determining a list of lawyers who are available to enter unconditionally and limiting the entry of the rest of the lawyers to attend the sessions of their clients. This happens at a time when the forcibly disappeared appear before the prosecution on a daily basis and are not allowed to contact their families or lawyers, and therefore the lawyers inside the prosecution building constitute the only hope for them to obtain appropriate legal representation and protection. It is also their only opportunity to inform their families of their appearance and their current place of detention, which is the same reason that National Security personnel in charge of managing the prosecution building are pushing to limit the presence of lawyers because their presence constitutes a legal protection and possible respect of the human rights of forced disappearance survivors who appear in the prosecution for the first time.

“Currently, after the transfer of detention renewal sessions from the prosecution building, there is no place or reason from their point of view for the presence of lawyers, and this was our only way to actually see the disappeared as soon as they appear, attend interrogations with them, and try to provide the necessary legal support and reassure their families.”

On the tenth of June of this year, the detention renewal sessions at the Supreme State Security Prosecution began for the first time remotely in a hall in the New Cairo Court and not in the prosecution’s building. In addition to the violation of fair trial guarantees as well as the rights of detainees, the decision also harmed survivors of victims of forced disappearance and their ability to obtain a defense before the prosecution and the right of their families to check on them and know their place of detention after a painful period of disappearance. In the early days of the implementation of the decision, the prosecution guards prevented all lawyers from entering the prosecution building except those known to them, claiming that there was no reason for lawyers to enter due to the transfer of their clients’ detention renewal sessions to another place. According to the testimonies of lawyers, the complete ban lasted for days, and currently a specific list of lawyers are allowed to enter the building, and if another lawyer insists on entering, his request is rejected, and if he justifies the presence of a client inside, the security personnel deny the existence of that defendant, and he may also be questioned about the reason for his desire to enter, “If you ask about a defendant by name, he will deny his existence, of course, and if you insist, he will start questioning you regarding source of your information.”

“In the past we could see those who reappeared after forced disappearance and those coming for the first time; now we don’t.”

Lawyers believe that wasting the right of victims to report their exposure to torture and prove it to the prosecution is one of the indirect negative effects of the decision, as the accused are often presented for the first time without a lawyer, and the second presentation takes place remotely, and in both cases the victims’ opportunities to report are diminished.

Legislation and attempts to legalize crimes of forced disappearance.

Anti-terrorist law no. 95/2015

Articles No. 40, 41, and 42, as amended by Law No. 11 of 2017, came to undermine the most important public freedoms and constitutional guarantees stipulated in Articles 54, 98, and Articles 36, 35, 40, 124, and 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure No. 150 of 1950, which some consider an attempt to legalize forced disappearance.

The law has received widespread criticism since it was presented as a draft law before its issuance. In a statement issued by more than 20 human rights organizations and a number of parties and public figures in July 2015, they expressed their position rejecting the draft law and called on the state to postpone its issuance. On April 9, 2020, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the context of combating terrorism expressed her deep concern about the amendments to the Terrorism Law and confirmed that these legislations taken together lead to the exacerbation of forced detention and the exacerbation of the risk of torture.

Article 40 “… The Public Prosecution or the competent investigating authority may, before the expiry of the period stipulated therein, order the continuation of the detention for a period of fourteen days, which shall not be renewed except once, and the order shall be issued with reasons by at least a public defender or its equivalent. The period of detention shall be counted within the period of pretrial detention, and the accused shall be placed in one of the places designated by law.”

Article 40 of the law first allowed judicial officers to arrest people without judicial permission even if not in flagrante delicto, and also allowed the investigating authority to order the continuation of the “detention” of the accused, for a period of seven days, which was later amended in Law 11 of 2017 to become fourteen days, and is renewed only once without being presented to the prosecution during that period.

Article 41: Without prejudice to the interest of inference, the judicial officer shall inform anyone who is detained of the reasons thereof, in accordance with Article (40) of this Law, and the person concerned shall have the right to contact whomever he deems appropriate to inform him of what has happened and to seek the assistance of a lawyer.

The legislator suspended the most important constitutional rights of the accused to seek the assistance of a lawyer by requiring “without prejudice to the interest of evidence”, which allows the control officers to prevent the accused from contacting his family and his legal representative for a period of up to 28 days, which is the maximum period of detention, in violation of the seventh principle of the United Nations principles on the role of lawyers that the state guarantees to all arrested persons the possibility of seeking access to a lawyer immediately, and in any case within a period not exceeding forty-eight hours from the time of arrest or detention.

Although the articles are a significant retreat and violate the rights of the accused and the guarantees stipulated in the constitution and the law, it is worth noting that forced disappearance practiced by security authorities in its current form is contrary to all local legislation, including the Terrorism Law, as Article (40) requires that the reservation be by order of the investigation authority and not National Security after presenting the defendant’s papers to it, and that the accused is placed in one of the official places of detention and the headquarters of the National Security are not considered as such.

Law no. 175/2020

Law No. 175 of 2020 aimed to amend some provisions of Law No. 109 of 1971 regarding Police Authority, and was published in the Official Gazette in September 2020. The law added to the Police Law No. 109 of 1971 a new chapter entitled “Special provisions for the national security sector” that includes ten articles, one of which stipulates that the phrase “General Investigations, State Security Investigations and State Security Investigations Service” be replaced by “national security” in any law or republican decree. The rest of the articles review the administrative affiliation of the sector, its responsibilities, competencies and powers assigned to it.

Article 125 stipulates that the sector is competent to combat terrorism and organized and dangerous crime, and for this purpose the sector may take all measures to ensure the achievement of its objectives and competencies, including preventing, combating and arresting perpetrators of crimes related to felonies and misdemeanors harmful to the government and crimes stipulated in the Anti-Terrorism Law, collecting information related to the safety of the state, monitoring the problems facing the state and measuring the direction of public opinion in this regard. The law gave the National Security Sector the right to judicial seizure and prevention and combat crimes without specifying the nature of the activities resulting from that jurisdiction. Also, neither this nor other laws did regulate the nature of the supervisory role of the prosecution that it is supposed to exercise on the practices and work carried out by the sector.

The absence of some legislations plays a role in the prevalence of the violation and the inability to effectively confront its effects, such as the failure to explicitly criminalize forced disappearance in the Egyptian Penal Code No. 58 of 1937 and to set a clear definition of the crime and a specific penalty commensurate with the fact that it is a crime that does not have a statute of limitations.

Certainly, Egypt’s failure to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from forced disappearance contributes to the decriminalization of many practices that can be considered enforced disappearances and the inability of victims to make reparations and hold perpetrators of crimes accountable.

Statistical analysis of cases of forced disappearance (August 2022-August 2023)

During the period between the first of August 2022 and mid-August 2023, the Stop forced disappearance campaign documented that 821 people were subjected to enforced disappearance, including (24) females and (4) children under the age of eighteen, inside official and unofficial detention facilities for varying periods of disappearance. The campaign also followed during this period the appearance of 766 people during the same period, some of whom had been subjected to disappearance in previous periods.

I: Classification of enforced disappearances according to the current situation of the victim

The following table shows the current status of thedocumented cases during the previous year:

Currently disappeared: Cases that remain in disappearance.

Survivors of forced disappearance: Cases that reappeared after various periods of forced disappearance.

Unknown: Cases that have been reported disappeared and their current status could not be documented.

Currently disappeared766

II: Classification of enforced disappearances according to age group:

The following table shows the age groups of victims of forced disappearance who were documented by the campaign during the period from August 2022 to August 2023, showing a majority of victims aged between 18-30 years, about 25 percent of the total cases, while people aged 31-40 years came in second place (203). The campaign documented the exposure of 4 minor children under the age of 18 to the crime of enforced disappearance, while it was unable to obtain information about the ages of 130 of the victims.

Age categories (years)No.
18 – 30212
31 – 40203
41 – 50150
51 – 6090
Older than 6032
Adult. Specific age unknown130

Third: Classification of enforced disappearances of survivors of disappearance according to periods of disappearance:

The following figure shows the classification of enforced disappearances according to the duration of disappearance suffered by the victims, with the period from one to six months constituting the highest percentage, amounting to 281 cases.

The campaign also documented the exposure of 128 cases of victims to periods of disappearance from two to 7 days, and documented the exposure of 205 victims to disappearance for periods of time ranging from 8 to 30 days, while 71 victims were subjected to periods of disappearance for more than a year.

The campaign also documented the re-appearance of 56 victims of enforced disappearance, while it was unable to determine the periods of disappearance of each of them and the details of their appearance, either due to the interruption of communication with their families or based on their wish not to communicate with the campaign again.

Duration of DisappearanceNo.
2- 7 days128
8 – 30 days205
1 – 6 months281
6 – 12 months25
More than a year71

Fourth: Classification of enforced disappearances according to place of arrest/disappearance:

The following table shows the distribution of cases according to the place of their enforced disappearance, that is, the place where they were arrested and then disappeared. Home raids come in first place with 350 cases, exceeding 40 percent of enforced disappearances, followed directly by disappearance from places of detention (186 cases) from police stations and departments. The campaign documented that security authorities arrested 117 people from the street, and 19 cases of victims disappeared after responding to a summons from National Security, while it was documented that the security authorities arrested 16 victims from Cairo International Airport.

Place of disappearance, from:No.
Official places of detention186
Summon by state security19
No information available53

Cases of appearance after disappearance for more than a year:

It was established by the Public Prosecution, based on the investigations it singled out for reports of absenteeism, that not all absenteeism is an enforced disappearance. And that there are cases of disappearance as a result of joining takfiri and terrorist groups, illegal immigration, or as a result of social circumstances (such as escaping from revenge or marrying without the parents’ consent).

From the first of August 2022 until the end of July 2023, the campaign documented the appearance of 56 victims of enforced disappearance after years of enforced disappearance. The periods of disappearance ranged between one and four years, as 34 of the victims were subjected to disappearance in 2019, while one victim of the disappeared appeared in 2018. There are 15 victims of those who disappeared in 2021 and one victim of those who disappeared in 2022. 31 of the survivors appeared after being subjected to enforced disappearance for three years, 8 of the victims appeared after four years of forced disappearance, and 11 appeared after a year of disappearance.

Year of disappearanceNo.
Years of disappearanceNo.

Although the 56 victims’ residences are geographically located in ten different governorates, all of them appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo, and it is striking that the prosecution did not open a single investigation into any of them being subjected to enforced disappearance for years.

Among the 56 victims is a child under the age of eighteen, and one woman who was subjected to enforced disappearance in 2019, as she was arrested from her home two hours after her husband was arrested. Both of them were subjected to enforced disappearance and appeared on close days and were included in the same case. At a time when survivors need to be near their families after being victims of a grave violation, and the prosecution is supposed to deal seriously with the incidents of their disappearance, hear the survivors’ statements as victims and not just as accused, and investigate the violations they were subjected to, the Supreme State Security Prosecution issued decisions to imprison them based on reports prepared by National Security officers and the accusations contained in them. The prosecution did not issue a single decision to release any of the victims. The majority of the victims were accused of joining a terrorist group, which was established in violation of the provisions of the law.

Classification of survivors according to detention facilities where they were held during the period of disappearance

29  of the survivors were detained in the headquarters of National Security throughout the period of their disappearance, while 6 were held in central security camps, one victim was held  in Al-Azouli military prison, and the campaign was unable to identify the detention center at the time of the disappearance of 20 of the survivors.

Where were they held during their forced disappearanceNo.
State security headquarters29
Central security camps6


Based on the report’s findings that the facts and allegations of forced disappearance against Egyptian citizens are substantiated, and in view of the grave violations of the rights of persons to obtain the necessary legal protection, freedom from torture, intimidation and any other form of inhuman or degrading treatment, and because the right not to be subjected to forced disappearance is an essential right like the right to life, and reiterating that forced disappearance as a violation has a profound impact on thousands of Egyptians, it must be put on the agenda of the national dialogue discussions. The report also offers a number of recommendations:

To the Egyptian government

  • Declare rejection of the crime of forced disappearance and torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment or dignity, and pledge to hold those responsible to account.
  • Consider the measures taken by the families of the missing in terms of reports and complaints proving the disappearance of their relatives by security, decide on them promptly, and respond to the families of the forcibly disappeared with an official letter containing the result of the search and investigation into the disappearance of their relatives.
  • Issue a law prohibiting the detention of civilians in military zones or prisons.
  • Hold accountable those responsible for enforced disappearance, including the leaders of the National Security Agency and Military Intelligence, and those responsible for detaining people in secret or illegal places of detention.
  • Criminalize forced disappearance in Egypt’s penal code as a crime with no statute of limitations.
  • Adopting the definition of torture recognized by the 1984 Convention against Torture in the Egyptian Penal Code.
  • Accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from forced disappearance of 2006.
  • Accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture of 2002.
  • Accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998.

To the Ministry of Interior

  • Foremost the National Security Agency’s cessation of the practice of forced disappearance of Egyptian citizens and their detention in unofficial detention facilities.
  • Upholding the decisions of the judicial authority to desist from forced disappearance against persons who have been released or must be released by judicial decisions or rulings.
  • The need to cooperate with families of the forcibly disappeared in the search for their families, and to immediately stop the intransigence in helping them to take the necessary and possible measures.
  • Immediate disclosure and guidance on places of detention of persons reported forced disappearance by their relatives

To the Public Prosecution

  • Consider the measures taken by the families of the missing in terms of reports and complaints proving the disappearance of their relatives by security, decide on them promptly, and respond to the families of the forcibly disappeared with an official letter containing the result of the search and investigation into the disappearance of their relatives.
  • Activating the role of the Public Prosecution in monitoring and supervising prisons, police stations, national security headquarters, central security camps and military prisons.
  • Investigate statements by defendants who appear before the Public Prosecution pending cases and claim that they have been subjected to forced disappearance or torture.
  • Investigate the forced disappearance of persons who have been released, acquitted or must be released by judicial decisions or rulings.

[1] الفريق العامل المعني بحالات الاختفاء القسري، التقرير السنوي 2015، الوثيقة A/HRC/30/38، فقرة 67

[2] الفريق العامل، التقرير السنوي 2016، الوثيقة A/HRC/33/51، فقرة 89

[3] التقرير السنوي الخامس لحملة اوقفوا الاختفاء القسري 2020، ص 14

[4] التقرير السنوي الرابع، حملة اوقفوا الاختفاء القسري 2019، ص 17

[5] تعديلبعضأحكامقانونهيئةالشرطةبالقانون 175 لسنة 2020، المادة (3) 

[6][1] دستور جمهورية مصر العربية ،2014،المادة 54

[7]Amnesty International, The Permanent State of Exception, report, available at:https://www.amnesty.org/ar/documents/mde12/1399/2019/ar/

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