At the occasion of the international day of the victims of enforced disappearance, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) inaugurated a new website for “Stop Enforced Disappearance” campaign which was launched on 30 August 2015. Moreover, new tools and different events were carried out with the aim at attracting more supporters to the victims of enforced disappearance and their families.
The campaign called for participating in online blogging campaign yesterday at 6 PM till midnight to speak out about victims of enforced disappearance and the suffering that their families are enduring. The campaign launched its website entitled “Stop Enforced Disappearance “, which represents a platform for defending victims of enforced disappearance in Egypt. The website contains an interactive map to show geographical distribution of this crime in different regions in Egypt, as well as providing all the available information about victims of enforced disappearance.
ECRF also lunched a free mobile phone application called “I PROTECT”, which turn cell phones operated with Android software into a rescuer in case of arrest on the back of activism in the public domain especially for human rights and political activists and journalists. The application is designed to send messages asking for help to three friends with the location at the time of sending the message. The application also sends a message to the ECRF.
ECRF continued to operate with the “Stop Enforced Disappearance” campaign despite the arrest of Engineer Ahmed Abdallah, the Head of Board of Trustees of ECRF, on 25 April 2016 for his human rights activities and his support to the victims of enforced disappearance. Ahmed Abdallah will be brought to the court to decide on extending his preventive detention tomorrow 1 September 2016 facing charges related to the refusal of the government decision of handing over “Tiran and Sanafir” Islands to Saudi Arabia. ECRF urgently call for his immediate release as well as the release of his detained co-defendants.
On 29 August 2016, the campaign issued its first annual report on enforced disappearance, which documented 912 cases of persons who were subjected to the crime of the enforced disappearance. The documentation took place over the period from 1 August 2015 till mid of August 2016. The report was discussed in a round-table discussion at the Press Syndicate, attended by many human rights and political activists, lawyers, and public figure, as they discussed how to develop support methods for the victims of enforced disappearance.
This report is sums up and updates several previous statistic reports that had been issued since lunching the campaign. One report was published in October 2015 documented the case of enforced disappearance that happened in August and September 2015, another report published in December 2015 documented the cases of October and November 2015, and a third report was published in April 2016 documenting the cases from December 2015 till March 2016.
During the last year the campaign team worked on setting a plan to drag attention and support of the national and international community to the victims of enforced disappearance and to shed light on the violations they endure in secret places of detention, in addition to the struggle of their families in taking legal procedures – that are ineffective – and in looking for their relatives in the National Security camps, prisons, and military prisons.
During this period the campaign provided legal assistance to about 30 victims and legal consultancy to more than 100 cases. It also issued a report entitled “Victims of Enforced Disappearance Waiting for Justice” in December 2015 reviewing the historical roots of this crime and describing the main patterns of arrest that lead to enforced disappearance and the violations that come with it, such as torture and trumped-up charges. The report also recorded testimonies of survivors of enforced disappearance and reviewed the side effects caused by this crime. The campaign also issued legal paper which discussed the definition of enforced disappearance in the international law and the Egyptian constitution and laws.
During the last 12 months, the campaign took actions to limit the prevalence of the phenomenon of enforced disappearance in Egypt and to raise awareness about this crime by lunching a Facebook page and twitter account and inviting activists and victims’ families to write about their experiences. The campaign also diffused a video guide to explain the legal procedures that the families should follow when a relative disappears. The campaign also worked on networking with the other civil society organizations to conduct some events.
The campaign succeeded in gaining the trust of victims’ families and to raise the interest of other national organization and international human rights organization in the crime of enforced disappearance in Egypt, as well as attracting many young volunteers to work alongside with the campaign team.
On another side, the campaign faced many challenge as it was not able to conduct activities other than monitoring, documenting, and providing legal assistance and campaigning. Limitation was the result of the current atmosphere facing civil society in Egypt, as many human rights organizations are threatened with being closed and freezing the bank accounts of some organizations’ directors. Some human rights defenders were also arrested, such as Engineer Ahmed Abdallah. However, the main challenge that faced the campaign was the fear of some survivors of enforced disappearance of telling their stories, worrying that they might be targeted by the authorities.
The crime of enforced disappearance has significantly increased in Egypt after the events of 30 of June 2013. Since that time repressive practices were adopted by the regime to restrain freedoms and to target political activists through issuing repressive law and judicial rulings with mass death plenty sentences. All these practices have very bad psychological effects, yet the crime of enforced disappearance causes destructive psychological and physical scars to the victims and their families because they continue to ignore the