Security forces disperse protest against 'enforced disappearances'

Monday 25-07-2016 05:00 PM

Mothers of those forcibly disappeared protest in front of the National Council for Human Rights in Giza on Monday, Jul 25, 2016. ASWATMASRIYA

CAIRO, Jul 24 (Aswat Masriya) - Security forces dispersed a protest on Monday organised by more than a dozen women demanding to know the whereabouts of their children who were allegedly "forcibly disappeared".

The women were protesting in front of the headquarters of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) in Giza. 

According to a source within Giza Security Directorate, the women were holding banners including pictures, names of their children and the dates of their alleged disappearance.

The protesters presented their demands to the NCHR however they are yet to receive any information about their children, said the source.

The women were also directed to lodge their complaints to the complaints office affiliated with NCHR, the source added.

The United Nations defines "enforced disappearance" as a term that applies to "persons who are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials in different branches or levels of government... followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law." 

In a press conference early July, the NCHR head tackled the enforced disappearance problem saying that it has "worsened" during the past year referring to the time period between June 30, 2015 and June 30, 2016. He described the phenomenon "as a crime against humanity".

Human rights defendants and organisations have often blamed the interior ministry for cases in which activists disappeared, with some of them later found in the interior ministry’s detention facilities. But the ministry has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Among the most prominent cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt is that of 26-year-old video editor Moustafa Massouny, whose friends say that he was staying with them in a friend's apartment in downtown Cairo before he left to shop for food in June 2015 and never returned back. His whereabouts have been unknown since. 

Social media users launched a campaign called "Where is Massouny?". An interior ministry official said previously, in a talk show on an Egyptian satellite TV channel, that he is not in custody.  

Another case is that of a member of al-Dostour party Ashraf Shehata, who according to his wife Maha Mekkawy has “forcibly disappeared” on Jan. 13, 2014.

While the NHCR initially stated that Shehata has been detained in Zagazig prison, his wife later stated that prison administrators told her he was actually in Wadi al-Natroun prison. 

The interior ministry later said that Shehata's name was confused with that of another man who had been sentenced to five years in prison. Shehata's exact whereabouts have yet to be known.

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