EIPR: Egregious Violations Against Moaz al-Sharqawi during the 3 Weeks of Enforced Disappearance
On June 4, 2023, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights - in its capacity as the legal representative of student leader Moaz al-Sharqawi - submitted a new report to the Prosecutor General detailing flagrant violations not only of al-Sharqawi’s constitutional rights, but that went as far as also violating the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Law.
Al-Sharqawi appeared on June 3, before the State Security Prosecution in New Cairo for the first time since his arrest from his home more than three weeks ago, during which he revealed that he had been subjected to violation of his basic rights, including torture, enforced disappearance, and being barred from communicating with his family or lawyer.
Al-Sharqawi reported during his questioning by the prosecutor that he was taken to an unknown location after his arrest on May 11 by officers of the National Security Agency (State Security). He reported that he was beaten several times during the first days of his detention, in different parts of his body, including being repeatedly slapped on his face and shoulders using hands and shoes by individuals whose identities he could not determine because of being blindfolded during the entire length of his detention.
EIPR's lawyers learned yesterday that the prosecution had issued a decision to detain al-Sharqawi under the Anti-terrorism law for a period of 14 days, which was renewed for a similar period. An amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Law in 2015 included new provisions that allow the detention of the accused for up to 28 days, on the grounds that “ there is a possibility any of the threats of the crime of terrorism could take place, and the necessity to confront such a threat.” However, the same law stipulates guarantees and conditions even when using this exceptional power that violates the constitution; foremost of which is that “[the person in custody] has the right to contact whomever they deem appropriate to inform them of what happened and seek the assistance of a lawyer,” and to “place the accused in one of the legally designated places.” In addition to the issuance of a reasoned order by a Public Prosecutor, at the very least, and allowing the person in custody to challenge the decision of detention before the court, and that his or her appeal has to be considered within three days from the issuance of the decision of detention or its extension. Otherwise the person in custody must be immediately released.
EIPR said that officials of the National Security Agency and the Supreme State Security Prosecution have violated all these guarantees and rights, and that their insistence for 23 days on denying al-Sharqawi’s detention, refusing to reveal his place of detention, and denying him the right to communicate with his family and lawyer is definitive evidence of the perpetration of the crime of enforced disappearance under the Constitution and according to Criminal Procedures Code and international law.
The Initiative added that these crimes took place despite the Public Prosecution’s being informed early on of their occurrence, as al-Sharqawi’s family had submitted a report to the Prosecutor General’s Office the day after his arrest requesting an investigation into the arrest and disclosure of his place of detention. Then, a week later, EIPR lawyers submitted a second report to the Prosecutor General’s Office requesting an investigation into the crime of enforced disappearance of Moaz and to enable him to get in touch with his lawyer.
In 2015, EIPR described the new power of detention granted to the security apparatus in amending the Anti-Terrorism Law as "a catastrophe that severely undermines personal rights and freedoms and a clear violation of Article 54 of the 2014 constitution, and a manipulation of language and terminology in order to circumvent the Constitutional Court's ruling on the unconstitutionality of arbitrary detention, as the article allows arresting people by law enforcement officers, in cases other than flagrante delicto and without the issuance of a judicial order.
The Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered al-Sharqawi’s detention for a period of 15 days pending investigation on charges of “joining a terrorist group” and “financing a terrorist group” in Case No. 540 of 2023. EIPR learned that al-Sharqawi was placed in the notorious Badr 3 prison, which witnessed over the past few months many violations of the rights of inmates that were committed without the intervention of the Public Prosecution Office. The Public Prosecution is, in turn,legally responsible for overseeing prisons and their conditions.
It is worth mentioning that Moaz al-Sharqawi had been subjected to prolonged imprisonment before, due to his previous activity as vice president of the Tanta University Student Union, where he was arrested in September 2018 and subjected to enforced disappearance for about 25 days, during which he was subjected to physical and psychological torture, before an order to release him was issued in 2020.
The United Nations had documented the violations against Moaz in a memorandum to the Egyptian government sent last August by the UN Working Group against Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights.