Amnesty International Condemns Egypt’s System of Perpetual Imprisonment
“The Egyptian authorities are reviving Mubarak-era tactics of repression including prolonged pretrial detention to silence peaceful activists.”
In a recent report Amnesty International (A.I.) condemned Egypt for its practice of re-imprisoning people who have been arbitrarily detained by ignoring court release orders and instead drumming up new fabricated charges.
In the report, A.I. detailed the cases of five individuals detained by Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution (S.S.S.P.). However, the S.S.S.P. did not comply with court orders to release the people, instead charging them in new cases. The new cases are fabricated charges, A.I. maintains, to keep them behind bars indefinitely.
Amnesty International criticized Egyptian government authorities for detaining the prisoners instead of applying court orders to release them and claimed that such actions indicate how decayed Egypt’s justice system has become, as Najia Bonaim, Director of North Africa Campaigns at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
“This is an illegal practice against detainees, who have been already detained on spurious grounds, constitutes a deliberate ploy to prolong the detention within revolving doors of Egypt’s arbitrary detention system,” Bonaim added.
According to the report, the authorities initially subjected each individual to a forced disappearance or were held incommunicado and only later were brought before the S.S.S.P., which ordered their detention for an investigation into charges of being a member of a terrorist organization.
Bonaim further noted that re-imprisoning detainees goes beyond cruelty for both victims and their families, as the authorities immediately sent the detainees back to prison upon their first release.
Amnesty International argued that such a practice harks back to the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, when state security services used to re-detain detainees under the Emergency Law. Egypt’s Emergency Law allows people to be administratively detained indefinitely without charges or trial.
Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court created an article in the Emergency Law allowing such detention. The Supreme Constitutional Court struck down the article that allowed administrative detention under the Emergency Law in June 2013.
“The Egyptian authorities are reviving Mubarak-era tactics of repression including prolonged pretrial detention to silence peaceful activists, journalists and punish people for their political affiliations by detaining them indefinitely as part of their bid to crush dissent under the guise of combating ‘terrorism,’” said Najia Bounaim.
Amnesty’s report cited the cases of Ola al-Qaradawi, daughter of the Egyptian cleric, Youssef al-Qaradawi, who was re-detained on July 4, 2019, and that of the Aljazeera producer, Mahmoud Hussein, who has been arbitrarily detained since Dec. 23, 2016, in connection with his journalistic work.
The S.S.S.P. charged Hussein with being a member of a terrorist organization, receiving foreign funding and publishing false information in a hearing without a lawyer and ordered his pretrial detention, pending further investigation. Hussein was questioned only upon his arrest, which has lasted two and a half years.
A judge finally ordered Hussein’s release May 21, 2019, but on May 28, 2019, the S.S.S.P. decided instead to charge him with membership of a banned organization, receiving foreign funding and working for international organizations for a second time. Hussein has already surpassed the two-year maximum term for pretrial detention under Egyptian law.
“Pending their release, the authorities should ensure that they are detained in lawful conditions including being released from solitary confinement and granted access to their family, lawyers and any necessary medical care,” Najia Bonaim said.
In the meantime, the Egyptian parliament agreed this week to extend the Emergency Law for one more period of three months. The law was last enforced in April 2017, in light of terrorist attacks in northern Egypt against Christian churches.
In 2013, Egypt’s military deposed the late Islamist President, Mohammad Morsi, who was the first democratically elected president of Egypt, following the three-decade-long regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. Morsi belonged to the Islamic Brotherhood group, which has been outlawed since then.
The military government in Egypt is indeed repressive, and it tends to comply with what U.S. foreign policy wants. So, one dictatorial government succeeds the former one (Mubarak, who held the reins for 30 years), with a brief interlude of “democratic” rule of the Brotherhood of Muslims, undone by a military coup.
But, what about the Brotherhood? Their foundational principle was Sharia law, which in practice makes no allowance for other religions, atheism, or agosticism. How have non-Sunni minorities in Egypt been treated by the members of the Brotherhood of Islam, we might ask. The organization’s logo features crossed swords and the motto “Prepare!” What’s the implication? And what’s the track record?