Egyptian authorities must conduct prompt, effective and independent investigations into the enforced disappearance for almost two years of a young mother, and her toddler, as well as the ongoing enforced disappearance of her husband, the child’s father, said Amnesty International today.
The organization also urges the authorities to immediately release the mother from abusive pre-trial detention and ensure the family’s right to adequate remedy and reparation proportional to the severity of violations and harm suffered.
“The Egyptian authorities have a long, grim record of forcibly disappearing and torturing people they consider government opponents or critics. However, seizing a young mother with her one-year-old baby and confining them in a room for 23 months outside the protection of the law and with no contact with the outside world show that their ongoing campaign to stamp out dissent and instil fear has reached a new level of brutality,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Seizing a young mother with her one-year-old baby and confining them in a room for 23 months outside the protection of the law and with no contact with the outside world show that Egyptian authorities' ongoing campaign to stamp out dissent and instil fear has reached a new level of brutalityPhilip Luther, Amnesty International
“These unconscionable acts of cruelty violate Egypt’s human rights obligations, including the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearances, and constitute crimes under international law. There must be urgent, independent and effective investigations into these crimes with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in a fair trial and ensuring full reparation for the victims.”
National Security Agency (NSA) officers seized university teacher Manar Adel Abu el-Naga, 27, her husband, Omar Abdelhamid Abu el-Naga, 27, and their one-year-old baby boy, al-Baraa, from their home in Alexandria on 9 March 2019. Their distressed relatives and lawyers have spent the last two years trying in vain to locate them. Despite a July 2019 administrative court ruling ordering the Ministry of Interior to reveal their whereabouts, the ministry repeatedly denied having them in its custody.
On 20 February 2021, Manar Adel Abu el-Naga appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), a special branch of the public prosecution responsible for investigating national security offences, and was questioned about “membership in a terrorist group” and “funding a terrorist group”, which she denies.
In line with NSA practice in other enforced disappearance cases documented by Amnesty International, security forces falsified her arrest date and pressured her to say that she was arrested two days before her appearance in front of the SSSP. She was taken from her place of captivity and accompanied by policemen directly to the prosecutor. A lawyer present at the SSSP premises attended her questioning but was not permitted to consult with her or examine her case file. A prosecutor ordered that she be detained for 15 days pending further investigations. According to lawyers and other informed sources, the case against her relies on secret NSA investigations and two handwritten notes that she has denies authoring.
Manar Adel Abu el-Naga was transferred to al-Qanater women’s prison and has not be allowed contact with her family thus far.
Her son, al-Baraa, now nearly three, was handed over to her relatives, whom he has not seen in nearly two years. People who met the child said that he is experiencing severe mental anguish, separation anxiety and is in urgent need of mental and physical rehabilitation. The child did not seem to have bathed for a long time and repeatedly said, “I want to go back to the room,” referring to the room where he had been held captive.
On his Facebook page, the toddler’s uncle described the devastating impact of his enforced disappearance on his mental health: “A child who does not know his relatives and is afraid of them… he is only used to seeing people in uniform.”
“The Egyptian authorities are adding to the catalogue of violations inflicted on Manar Adel Abu el-Naga and her family by separating her from her traumatized child and denying her basic due process rights,” said Philip Luther.
Given the Egyptian authorities’ abuse of pre-trial detention to keep thousands of men and women in jail on unfounded terrorism charges for months or even years, and the horrific circumstances surrounding the family’s enforced disappearance, Amnesty International is calling for Mana Adel Abu el-Naga’s immediate release. Any statements that she has made during her enforced disappearance must be excluded from legal proceedings against her.
The child’s father, Omar Abdelhamid Abu el-Naga, continues to be subjected to enforced disappearance, adding to fears for his life and safety. The Egyptian authorities must immediately reveal the truth about his fate and whereabouts.
These egregious violations by security forces yet again illustrate the devastating effects of the prevailing climate of impunity in EgyptPhilip Luther, Amnesty International
Amnesty International’s research over the past eight years has shown that security forces, particularly the NSA, regularly subject real or perceived opponents and critics to enforced disappearance for days, months, and sometimes years. During that time, NSA officers subject them to torture and other ill-treatment, and then routinely coerce them into supporting claims by the NSA in front of SSSP prosecutors, who systematically fail to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances or torture against NSA officers.
“These egregious violations by security forces yet again illustrate the devastating effects of the prevailing climate of impunity in Egypt. They throw into sharp relief the urgent need for the international community to act in a coordinated manner, including by supporting the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism on Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council,” said Philip Luther.
“In the absence of international action, security forces will feel empowered to continue committing grave violations of human rights and crimes under international law, destroying entire families in their wake.”