Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights calls on the "National Council for Women" to protect the complainants and witnesses in the "Fairmont Case" and for the Public Prosecution to clarify their legal position

Press Release

2 September 2020

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) called on the Public Prosecution to urgently clarify the legal position of all victims and witnesses in the two cases of sexual violence known in the media as the "Fairmont case". EIPR also urged the National Council for Women not to abandon its role in providing protection and support to victims and witnesses in both cases, especially since their decision to report and testify came after the Council’s initiative affirming the provision of support, protection and safeguarding of privacy for complainants and witnesses. In this particular case, the victim filed a complaint with the National Council for Women and met with complaints officials and legal aid providers in the council before going with a number of witnesses to the Public Prosecution Office to submit an official report.

The Public Prosecution had said in its statements about two cases related to the same incident: the first case concerned the rape incident that took place in 2014 at the Fairmont Nile City Hotel, and the second related to the first and the Public Prosecution mentioned it in its statement issued on August 27 regarding the decision to detain one of the accused for four days pending investigation without clarifying the charges yet. On Monday evening, August 31, the Public Prosecution issued an official statement regarding 7 individuals, in what it called in its statement "incidents in which they were accused in connection with the ongoing investigations of the incident of assaulting a girl at (Fairmont Nile City) Hotel." The brief statement announced that the prosecution decided to detain three of them for a period of four days pending investigations, and to release four others, three of which on bail and one by guarantee of his place of residence

The brief statement did not name any of these defendants, nor did it explain their relationship to the original case under investigation, nor did it clarify the accusations against them. The statement also added that the defendants will be brought to the forensic department to verify their drug use and two of them will be presented for a "medical examination" without explaining the nature of this examination. Indeed, family members of some of the witnesses stated that their relatives had been detained over the past days and that they were facing formal charges.

The aforementioned prosecution statement was vague, short, and phrased in a way that suggests that the accusations directed against the seven individuals stemmed from the interrogation of the victims or witnesses in that case, as was previously the case in the case of the kidnapping and rape of Menna Abdelaziz (Aya) in May of this year when she was interrogated as a victim of rape, kidnapping, and other assaults, then Menna found herself accused and her freedom denied, as well, based on the accusations leveled by her aggressors while defending themselves, and by using her personal statements that she gave to the prosecution during interrogation as a victim.

EIPR had previously and repeatedly warned that the precedent of accusations being brought against a victim and survivor of rape and kidnapping sends a clear message to women and girls that reporting sexual assaults they are subjected to, may end up in them being charged as accused and lead them to prison, hindering any community efforts seeking to support women and girls in their quest to recover from the aftermath of sexual violence crimes that they may be exposed to.

The Public Prosecution’s recent statement added reasons to concern after the hate inciting content published at dawn the same day, by a news site that claimed that relied on investigation files of the rape case. The aforementioned website has published content that incites hatred against women, LGBT+ individuals and people living with HIV/AIDS, and places the responsibility on victims of rape as a result of their moral behavior, in addition to violating the privacy of witnesses. Also on the same day, several accounts on social media published personal photos claiming them to be photos of the witnesses and one of the victims in the case and that their source is their personal phones, which are considered evidence in the ongoing investigation and are supposed to be in the possession of the Public Prosecution at the present time.

This, and the previous facts regarding the arrest of complainants and some witnesses contradict the official declared approach regarding dealing with cases of sexual violence against women, especially after the Parliament approved the amendment of the Criminal Procedures Code on August 17 to guarantee the confidentiality of personal information of those reporting sexual violence cases to preserve what they the Ministry of Justice called the "reputation" of the victims. The publication of what was described as the details of investigations in the Fairmont case proves the extent to which the limited change in the Criminal Procedures Code fails to ensure the confidentiality of information in a context that allows for the divulging of details of investigations, and even publishing information and personal photos of the victims and witnesses, especially in what is known as cases of public morals or sexual violence against women, as we have seen in a number of investigations with some women TikTok users recently.

These unfortunate facts also support the observations of many women rights organizations that the need to provide confidentiality and protection in cases of sexual violence goes beyond the mere withholding of personal information to a comprehensive review of the law.

Finally, EIPR calls on the Public Prosecution to issue a prompt clarification on the legal position of all witnesses and victims in the sexual assault case known as the "Fairmont Case" and the other sexual assault case that the prosecution referred to in its statement on August 27, with an attestation of the number of persons arrested and clarification of the prosecution’s position regarding what was published in several newspapers and the validity of it being based on the investigation files.

If it is true that any of the victims or witnesses is facing charges that are not related to the two incidents of assault, we call on the Public Prosecution not to use the statements of the victims and witnesses as an opportunity to bring charges against them, especially since the Public Prosecution's use of information obtained during the interrogation of individuals as a victim and witnesses, under oath, to charge a witness or victim breaches an important rule in the Evidence Code; in that a person may not be compelled to present evidence against themselves.

The danger of this approach of the prosecution increases if the charges are based on vague moral precepts and are based on legal articles deemed unconstitutional.

We also call on the prosecution to use its powers not to initiate proceedings in crimes that do not expose members of society to a grave danger, in order to ensure that the resources of justice institutions are directed in favor of prosecuting those accused of crimes that pose a real danger to members of society, and to give priority to the public interest by ensuring the security of complainants and witnesses in cases of sexual violence, so that women and girls have a real opportunity to resort to the Public Prosecution Office in case they are assaulted, without fear that the Public Prosecution will charge them as accused.