Rights groups demand release of Ibrahim Metwally and applaud international solidarity

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The undersigned rights organizations renew their demand for the immediate release of rights lawyer Ibrahim Metwally, the founder and chair of the League for the Families of the Disappeared. Metwally appeared before the prosecution – for the fifth time – on Monday December 4. His detention was renewed for a period of 15 days, pending investigation in Case No. 900 of 2017 to restrict the investigation of state security. For a second time, Metwally attested to his poor detention conditions at Aqrab Prison, where he is deprived proper nutrition and prevented from exercising.  He recorded his request for referral to a hospital for tests not available in the prison, as he is anemic.

Metwally is facing the same kind of charges leveled at most rights advocates in Egypt, starting with the charge of establishing an illegal organization in violation of the law regulating civic associations. Both local and international rights groups have repeatedly protested this law, which nationalizes civil society and virtually prevents the establishment of any rights group aiming to monitor the regime’s respect for civil liberties and human rights. Metwally is also charged with maintaining contact with foreign entities, a charge also faced by rights advocate Mohamed Zaree and others because of their cooperation with UN instruments.

 Such cooperation would be impossible were it not for Egypt’s membership in this very same international entity and its approval of the charter, which grants human rights organizations the right to submit reports and engage with these instruments in order to improve the status of human rights in each member state. The prosecutor further charged Metwally with publishing false news regarding the enforced disappearance and unlawful detention of Egyptian citizens. Mewally’s advocacy for enforced disappearance victims is personal: his own son, Amr Ibrahim Metwally, was forcibly disappeared five years ago in 2013, which provided the impetus for Metwally to establish the League for the Families of the Disappeared. The security apparatus has yet to disclose his location, in defiance of an order from the Administrative Court to do so.

We further condemn the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s shameful position on international demands for Metwally’s release issued by Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada in a joint statement in early November. The undersigned groups appreciate these international efforts and urge the international community to further pressure the Egyptian government to release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Egypt. We remind the Egyptian Foreign Ministry that the unprecedented erosion of human rights is not solely a domestic matter; it encroaches upon international treaties and obligations ratified by Egypt.

In a statement issued on November 3, the five states expressed their concern about the continued detention of Ibrahim Metwally in connection with his alleged dissemination of false news and contact with foreign entities (e.g., the UN). A member of the Egyptian Parliament and media figures close to the regime called the statement “incriminating evidence” against Metwally that merits additional punitive action against him, claiming that this international solidarity is proof of Metwally’s contact and cooperation with these states to harm Egypt’s reputation. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned the statement from the five nations and summoned their ambassadors to express its objections to what it called interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs and an assault on the Egyptian judicial process.

Defending victims of enforced disappearance and human rights violations does not harm Egypt’s reputation. On the contrary, it is the arbitrary practices against rights advocates that tarnishes Egypt’s name.These practices include violent repression such as torture and enforced disappearance; the elimination of fundamental liberties and rights; the closure of the public sphere and nationalization of civil society; and the nationalization of the media and blocking of websites.

The Egyptian authorities arrested Ibrahim Metwally on September 10 at Cairo International Airport as he was on his way to Geneva to attend a meeting of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearance. After disappearing for two days, he was brought before the prosecution on September 12. The prosecution remanded him to the notorious high-security Aqrab Prison, where he was tortured, as corroborated –for the first time- by his remand hearing on September 20.

Signatures:

Cairo institute for human rights studies

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms

Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence

Assciation of Freedom of thought and expression

Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance

Andalus Institute for Tolerance & Anti-violence Studies

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

Land Center For Human Rights