Egypt Watch

Lawyer Islam Salama forcibly disappeared after getting parole for the third time

The family of lawyer and human rights defender Islam Salama issued an appeal due to his enforced disappearance from the police station he was detained in. On the 25May 2020, Salama was arrested after security forces from the National Security Agency stormed his house and seized his private mobile phone. They didn’t have a prosecution order, and had not told him the reason for his arrest.

Later, he was forcibly disappeared for 10 days before appearing before the Supreme State Security Prosecution, which investigated him over a political case, which goes back to 2018. The prosecution accused Islam of joining a terrorist group in a scenario repeated with every human rights defender or politician in Egypt.

Salama remained on remand for five months until the Cairo Criminal Court decided, on the 14October 2020, to release him on parole. However, he disappeared from the police station, while he was detained waiting the conclusion of the proceedings of parole. Salama had remained in enforced disappearance for 45 days before he appeared on the 30November as a defendant in a new case on the same charges. Salama had remained on remand for 45 days before the Mahalla Criminal Court decided, on the 16 January 2021, he would be released with a EGP 2,000 bail. Indeed, the family paid the bail and worked on the proceedings of release, but again he disappeared from the police station with the police saying they didn’t know where he was being held. Salama is not an individual case, but rather his case is typical for the opposing politicians and human rights defenders in Egypt under the authoritarian regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Enforced disappearance and recurrent detention on remand in several cases with the same charges became business as usual for opposing politicians, journalists and human rights defenders.

Several local and international human rights organisations recorded hundreds of cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt in 2019. Human Rights Watch confirmed that the National Security and police were involved in systematic enforced disappearance and torture which amounted to crimes against humanity. The organisation demanded the amendment of the Egyptian laws that ease such violations, especially the absence of a clear ban on torture and enforced disappearance. Amnesty International documented 710 cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt in 2019. The period of disappearance varied reaching up to 183 days, with the widespread use of torture during these periods. According to Amnesty, children did not survive the ghost of enforced disappearance, as the Egyptian authorities tortured and forcibly hid children for periods reaching up to seven months, in a shameful violation of children’s rights.

Along with the enforced disappearance, the Egyptian authorities committed another no less heinous crime, when they ignored the court decisions of release and parole. The authorities re-hide the person then present him to the Supreme State Security Prosecution, which acts as a judiciary organ of the security forces. The SSSP orders the re-detention of the person over a new case with the same charges in a procedure known as tadweer (revolving) the detainees. In 2020, six Egyptian human rights organisations accused al-Sisi’s regime of using tadweer in order to keep the opposing activists in prison so that they wouldn’t talk. These organisations called on the Public Prosecution and the Supreme State Security Prosecution to play their role in checking and revising the National Security investigations before ordering the defendants to be incarcerated under pretrial detention.