Letter from AFTE and ECRF to President of the National Council for Human Rights Concerning the Uyghur

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August 3rd, 2017

Mr. Mohamed Fayek
President of the National Council for Human Rights

69 Giza St. next to the Saudi Arabian embassy

Re: Fears of human rights violations against the Uyghur community detained in Torah prison and the possibility of their forced deportation to China

Dear Sir,

The two undersigned organizations demand that the National Council for Human Rights immediately take action to stop the violations against individuals from the Uyghur minority, after tens were arrested last month.

Egyptian security forces embarked on a systematic campaign, arresting Uyghurs from their homes in Nasr City since early July. Police also raided restaurants and markets run by members of the Uyghur community and arrested tens of them, many of whom are students at the Al-Azhar University, without any legal backing. In addition, some were also arrested from airports in Cairo, Borg Al-Arab, and Hurghada, as well as the Nuiewba Port, as they attempted to flee the country.  

The two organizations have received various testimonies that an unconfirmed number of Uyghurs were detained in one of Torah’s prisons, without having been referred to Prosecution or any other form of investigation and without having been handed charges. According to the testimonies acquired by the two organizations, there are at least three children among the detainees.  

Another testimony indicates that an Uyghur man, Abdel Ghafar and his wife, Khier Nisaa who was three months pregnant, were both stopped and interrogated at Cairo airport  on July 4th. The two were not put under official investigation. Abdel Ghaffar was transferred to Torah prison while Khier Nisaa remained detained in the airport until August 2nd, when she was allowed to travel to Turkey.

The official security institutions in Egypt have not denied that police arrested a number of Uyghur members, but rather attributed the arrests to “normal procedures to follow up on their residential paperwork in Egypt,” as officials have told news sources. However, official data on the number of people arrested and what procedures have been, or will be, taken against them has not yet been released. This, in turn, has confused public opinion and has hindered rights lawyers from providing the detained Uyghurs with the necessary legal support.

The organizations have gained access to photocopies and identification paperwork that proves that the detained Uyghurs were legally residing in Egypt.

Uyghur sources have stated that Chinese investigators have interrogated the Uyghur detainees inside the Egyptian prison, but the organizations have yet to confirm the claims from independent sources.

Members of the Uyghur community that have not been arrested have expressed their fear of returning to their homes lest security forces detain them. They have also expressed their extreme fear of Egypt deporting them back to China, where they may be subjected to human rights violations, such as life sentences without fair trial, torture, and possibly execution. Therefore, their deportation to China is a gross violation to international agreements, to which Egypt is a signatory. Hence, this case holds importance on both a domestic and an international level.  

The National Council for Human Rights, in the role it holds in accepting complaints of human rights violations and addressing the concerned parties, must interfere immediately and visit Torah prison, primarily Istiqbal Torah, to check on the Uyghur detainees who are being illegally withheld. The council must either demand their release, or that the charges they are accused be announced, and that the detainees are guaranteed an opportunity to meet with their lawyers. Finally, the council must work to ensure that any Egyptian security plans to deport the Uyghur to China do not go through.

Sincerely,

Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)