Thousands of detainees suffer in Egyptian prisons without international interest

There was a significant reaction in Egypt after authorities released three employees of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, especially following an appeal by American actress Scarlett Johansson. The Hollywood actress topped the list of the most popular hashtags on Twitter in Egypt, where the tweeters thanked her for the clip in which she appealed to the al-Sisi regime to release the members of the organisation, which was achieved immediately.

Many activists have mocked the al-Sisi regime, which showed its weakness and fear of an American actress and responded to her request immediately, considering that the clip she broadcast is the reason they were released. Bloggers called on Scarlett Johansson to continue to pressure the Egyptian regime to release hundreds of thousands of detainees and forcibly disappeared persons whose conditions and suffering the international community does not know anything about.

Egyptians expressed their happiness at the release of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights members, wondering about the thousands of people who did not find anyone pressing for their release. Egyptian and international human rights organisations estimate the number of detainees in Egypt’s prisons and other detention centres at more than 60,000, of whom 4,000 were arrested in the last September demonstrations. Al-Sisi’s regime always denies any detainees’ presence in its prisons, explaining that they are imprisoned after a decision made by the prosecution and the judiciary. In contrast, an Egyptian journalist close to the regime admitted that there were thousands of detainees before that.

Cries for help

Human rights organisations and the detainees’ families have repeatedly cried out for help over the past seven years since the 2013 military coup, stressing that the regime uses pretrial detention as a tool to arrest thousands. Human rights organisations accuse the prosecution and the Egyptian judiciary of colluding with the al-Sisi regime in revenge and abuse of political opponents by arresting them and extending their detention under the name of pretrial detention.

The detainee spends two years or more in connection with a politicised case, as interim President Adly Mansour amended the precautionary detention law in 2013 and made it available for a period of two years after its maximum limit was six months. The detained dissident may be surprised after the end of the two-year period of pretrial detention, by turning him around on a new case, arresting him again, and holding him in pretrial detention for two years again in the new case, which is what happened to many people.

The exciting thing is the transformation of the hashtag entitled with American actress Scarlett Johansson into a human rights platform calling for the release of businessmen who were recently imprisoned, such as the owner of Juhayna and the owner of a clothing store El-Tawhid & El-Nour. Through the hashtag, activists spoke about Egypt’s detainees and the forcibly disappeared, whose families have not known their whereabouts or their fate for years. In August of last year, the Shehab Centre for Human Rights estimated the number of forcibly disappeared persons in Egypt, from 2013 to 2018, at more than 6,421 cases, covering all ages in society.

The statement accused the Egyptian security forces of killing 56 citizens within two years, indicating that they were among the forcibly disappeared. The International Human Rights Committee, the Community for Justice, documented some 1,989 cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt between August 2017 and August 2018. According to official data, the number of new prisons built during the reign of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi exceeded 24, and the number of political detainees exceeded those of criminal convicts.

Scarlett Johansson

Some saw that the quick response of the al-Sisi regime to Scarlett’s appeal and his release of three detainees confirm that a change will take place in Egypt after Trump’s departure and Biden’s arrival.

The Egyptian authorities arrested four officials of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, namely Jasser Abdel-Razek, Karim Ennara, Mohamed Bashir, and Patrick Zaki. This followed a meeting on 3 November hosted by the initiative with European diplomats to discuss Egypt’s human rights. The campaign against members of the initiative met with widespread condemnation from the United Nations and European and international capitals before the authorities released them later after a video clip broadcast by the American actress. During the clip, Johansson said that she is in solidarity with the people of Egypt.