Rights group says Egypt 'forcibly disappeared' lawyer

iStock
iStock

An international rights group on Wednesday urged Egypt to reveal the whereabouts of a well-known human rights lawyer who went missing after being detained.

An Egyptian court ordered the release of Ezzat Ghoneim and another lawyer, Azzoz Mahgoub, on September 4, pending investigations, but the two have not been seen or heard from since September 13.

Egyptian police have "forcibly disappeared" Ghoneim, who has been held since March on charges of plotting against the government, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

The New York-based watchdog quoted Ghoneim's wife, Rasha, as saying that she last saw her husband in custody at al-Haram police station, south of Cairo, on September 13.

Ghoneim's family and friends have been unable to contact him, and the authorities have refused to provide any information on his status or whereabouts, the rights group said.

"Forcibly disappearing a lawyer in the face of a judge's order explicitly authorizing his release reflects Egyptian security forces' contempt for the rule of law," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Egyptian authorities should immediately reveal Ghoneim's whereabouts, set him free, and investigate and punish those who disappeared him."

Egypt's Interior Ministry did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Ghoneim's whereabouts.

Ghoneim heads the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, an independent group. Ahmed el-Attar, a spokesperson for the group, said last month that the families of Ghoneim and Mahgoub tried to visit them but were told they had already been released. Amnesty International said at the time that the two had been forcibly disappeared and were at great risk of torture.

Both Ghoneim and Mahgoub supported victims of alleged police torture, the disappeared and their families in Egypt.

The government has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. Thousands have been arrested, with many held for months or years without charge.

Human Rights Watch, citing figures from independent Egyptian rights campaigners, said authorities have disappeared at least 230 people since August 2017 and are increasingly targeting journalists and rights activists.

The most prominent case is that of Ibrahim Metwally, who was detained at the Cairo airport on his way to a UN conference on forced disappearances in September 2017. Authorities only acknowledged his arrest days later, accusing him of spreading fake news.

Metwally, whose own son disappeared at a protest in 2013, was providing legal assistance to the family of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student who was abducted and tortured to death in 2016. Authorities have denied any role in Regeni's abduction or death, but activists say it bore the hallmarks of police brutality.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When assisting your child with remote learning this year, did you:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Follow the school's comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) curriculum?
14% - 418 votes
Adjust the CSE curriculum to suit the family's morals?
24% - 723 votes
Ignore the schools CSE programme and do your own teaching?
63% - 1911 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.20
(-0.25)
ZAR/GBP
20.40
(-0.01)
ZAR/EUR
18.42
(-0.06)
ZAR/AUD
11.29
(-0.13)
ZAR/JPY
0.15
(+0.06)
Gold
1835.48
(-0.24)
Silver
24.14
(+0.55)
Platinum
1061.00
(+3.78)
Brent Crude
48.78
(+0.95)
Palladium
2336.01
(+1.71)
All Share
59419.37
(+0.80)
Top 40
54500.04
(+0.61)
Financial 15
11646.83
(+2.17)
Industrial 25
79758.36
(+0.10)
Resource 10
57015.33
(+0.70)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo