Joint press release: Closing investigations of the Fairmont rape is a natural result of a year of intimidation of witnesses and prosecution of plaintiffs
The seven human rights and feminist organizations who have signed this statement regret the decision of the Public Prosecution, announced late in the evening of Tuesday the 11th of May 2021, to close investigations related to the gang rape which took place at the Fairmont Hotel in 2014, as well as the decision to release the accused who had been detained in connection with the case, based on the Public Prosecutor’s decision that there are currently no grounds for bringing charges in connection with this case.
The Prosecution’s statement provided several justifications for this decision, most significantly, the inability of the Prosecution to obtain a copy of the video footage of the rape incident, which has been confirmed to exist by many, but which the prosecution has only been able to obtain stills from. The Prosecution also based its decision on the passing of six years since the incident, despite the fact that crimes of assault against bodily integrity are not subject to a statute of limitations under the constitution.
However, what the Prosecution’s statement has ignored is the negative and obstructive role it played by the intimidation of witnesses in the case, and that of plaintiffs in sexual violence cases over the past year, as well as the role played by prosecuting these individuals using broad morality accusations unrelated to the incident. Such actions undoubtedly contributed to this unfortunate result.
In conjunction with its campaign to protect what it called in a previous statement “social national security,” the Public Prosecution filed additional charges against plaintiffs and witnesses, parallel but unrelated to the original charges against suspects. Nor did the Prosecution take action to protect witnesses and plaintiffs from smear campaigns in the press which took place in full public view. This is in addition to the delay in opening investigations into the case for more than a month after the incident was raised, allowing the remaining suspects to flee Egypt before their arrest, whereas starting the investigations early on would have encouraged witnesses to come forward with evidence and statements before the smear and intimidation campaigns began.
A number of Egyptian organizations have in the past repeatedly drawn attention to the negative impact of directing unrelated accusations to witnesses and victims, as well as that of the leniency displayed with smear campaigns against plaintiffs in some newspapers and websites. Such an approach makes victims reluctant to report incidents of sexual violence and discourages witnesses from coming forward with information that might aid in investigations. In 2020 alone, the Prosecution has directed accusations unrelated to original investigations to victims and witnesses in three separate cases. Suspects have also adopted this approach to intimidate victims, which has created a state of terror among women who report incidents of sexual assault, and has hindered the possibility of cooperative participation of all witnesses during investigations.
With the increase in the frequency of reporting crimes of sexual violence against women such as sexual assault and rape, there has been a parallel increase in the intimidation of women who report and of witnesses, and charges have even been directed at them in several cases. In the Fairmont case, for example, a number of witnesses spent weeks and months in pre-trial detention pending investigations of accusations related to their consensual sexual practices and drug use. They were all later released after the Prosecution announced that there were no grounds on which to bring charges, and after their arrest had already scared others away from assisting the investigations in any way. In the same year, the Prosecution directed accusations including that of “violating Egyptian family values” against a woman who reported a rape that happened to her. The victim, Menna Abdulaziz, ended up spending over 100 days in detention, until the prosecution again later announced that there were no grounds for filing charges against her. The Prosecution also accused one of the juvenile witnesses in the same case of the same crime of “violating the values of the Egyptian family.” The Children’s Court in Giza found him innocent after he had spent months in detention. Finally, and also during the same year, the assaulters of a young woman in Meet Ghamr and their lawyers used threats of reporting her for “violating Egyptian family values” to intimidate the victim and to discourage her from reporting, and to pressure her to change her statements so that the accusations against the suspects would be dropped at the beginning of the trial.
In this environment, how can witnesses or women who report sexual violence trust that their cooperative participation in investigations will not result in false accusations being made against them-based on which they could find themselves in pre-trial detention pending investigations until the Prosecution decides that there are no grounds for bringing charges, or releases them, or refers them to trial?
Over the past year, and since the launch of its ongoing campaign to control what it has called “social national security,” the Public Prosecution has targeted a number of individuals-particularly women and those with supposed or actual sexual identities and practices that differ from those socially accapteble . These individuals were targeted for publishing content on social media platforms that includes dancing or content that does not reflect what the Public Prosecution views as the definition of “the values and morals of the Egyptian family.”
Accordingly, the seven signatory organizations below urge the Public Prosecution to reassess the “objective conditions” which led to the failure of the investigations in the Fairmont case; and they also affirm the necessity of the announcement and implementation of a new public policy to guarantee the protection of plaintiffs and witnesses, not only against the revenge tactics, threats, and smears of accused suspects, but also against being subject to legal accusations unrelated to the subject of the original charges, in application of the Prosecution’s discretionary power to press charges. We also demand the speedy issuance of legislation to protect witnesses, plaintiffs, whistleblowers, and experts, to ensure fair trial guarantees and to achieve the desired vision of justice.
A STATEMENT FROM THE PUBLIC PROSECUTION
The Public Prosecution temporarily orders that there are no grounds on which to press criminal charges in the case of the rape of a girl at the Fairmont Nile City hotel.
The Public Prosecution issued a temporary order today Tuesday the 11th of May, stating that there are no grounds on which to press criminal charges in the case of sexual intercourse with a female without her consent at the Fairmont Nile City hotel in 2014. This is based on the insufficiency of evidence in the case against the accused. The Public Prosecution has ordered the release of those suspects who are in pre-trial detention. The investigations of the Public Prosecution into this case have lasted for…
Only in this way, can witnesses be encouraged to come forward with what information they have on this case and others without fear; and the Public Prosecution can become a real refuge for victims in cases of sexual violence. The Public Prosecution must determine its priorities in allocating its human and technical resources in order to achieve the highest level of protection for individuals from violence, rather than waste these resources on prosecuting individual behaviors and practices which do not represent any kind of direct threat to anyone.
The role of the Public Prosecution is to be the lawyer of the people, and in fulfilling this role, it must listen to the appeals of men and women citizens for protection and for confronting the violence practiced against them. This will not be achieved without implementing real changes in how reports of sexual violence are dealt with, and without putting an end to the prosecution of individuals using broad accusations such as “violating the values of the Egyptian family.”
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Elnadeem Center Against Violence and Torture
The New Woman Foundation
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
The Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance