- Summary of violations in the context of counter-terrorism operations by the military in North Sinai
Human Rights Watch stated that the counterterrorism policy of the army in Sinai, some of which amount to war crimes, relied on ignoring and violating civilians’ rights. Human Rights Watch found that both the hostile acts committed in North Sinai and the sustained fighting among organized forces rose to the level of non-international armed conflict, and that the warring sides violated the international laws of war as well as the local and international human rights laws. The targeting and ill-treatment of civilians, and both parties’ failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants, led to trampling civilians’ fundamental rights and demolishing peaceful dissident and political space. The violations also contributed to an escalation of the militarization of the dispute and the displacement of the inhabitants. The military committed other crimes including mass arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and possibly unlawful air-and-ground attacks against civilians.
In addition to the above, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) reported that the military committed widespread violations of the social and economic rights of Sinai residents. Since its launch in February 2018, the Comprehensive Operation Sinai (COS) 2018 caused food shortages, outages and shortages of water, internet and communication networks cut-down, power outage, the shutdown of schools and universities, deterioration of healthcare services, lack of transport facilities, burning and demolition of families’ homes, in addition to the obstacles imposed by the curfew resulting in constraining people’s freedom of movement, banning entry and egress to and from Sinai as well as the entailed threat to children’s physical and psychological health.
- Extrajudicial killings and summary executions
The military forces in Sinai conduct extrajudicial killings against both armed groups and civilians. The killing operations are carried out during the exchanges of shooting or the proactive strikes against what the military calls “armed groups”. Since the launch of the COS 2018 in February 2018 and until the end of December 2018, the Egyptian Front collected information about the killing of 463 people by military forces. According to the official statements of the military Spokesman, some of them were killed during the exchange of gunfire with the regime forces or during qualitative missions by the military and police forces targeting terrorist groups. Those operations are executed by air forces, the Second and Third Field Armies, National Security agents, and officials from the Ministry of Interior.
With reference to the Egyptian Front’s report, those individuals are always killed in large mass shootings which reached ending the lives of 52 people altogether as mentioned in the official military’s statements issued on the 5th of August, 2018, and on the 8th of October, 2018. While some of the killing operations are executed during shooting exchanges with members of terrorist groups, according to the military Spokesman’s account, other qualitative missions in the form of “proactive strikes” are conducted by the army during which gunfire exchanges take place.
Mass killing is in the form of indiscriminate attacks that do not distinguish between the armed and the unarmed. The proactive operations are considered as one type of extrajudicial killings. Those killings of individuals with alleged affiliation to terrorist groups are conducted despite the absence of a direct threat to the lives of the security forces. This entails the lack of military necessity for the killings, which could be substituted with the logical alternative: detaining and prosecuting them. The mass killings and the proactive strikes leapfrogged the phases of litigation and jumps to punishment by death without verifying the conviction.
As for the extrajudicial killings among the civilians, the military Spokesman has not announced any deaths since the launch of the COS 2018 except for two individuals who were killed as a result of an explosive device on July 3rd, 2018.
Human Rights Watch documented 14 cases of extrajudicial executions of detainees in North Sinai in the period from 2016 until 2018. According to the accounts of 6 Sinai residents to Human Rights Watch, security forces detained and hid the victims by force then executed them before falsely declaring that they were killed in “clashes” with or “raids” by security forces. In April 2017, Human Rights Watch stated that the Egyptian Military forces in Sinai executed no less than 2 and no more than 8 detainees in solitary confinement, according to what appeared in a filmed video, and then covered up the killings to make the casualties look like armed “terrorists” who were shot during a raid.
The security forces in Sinai commit extrajudicial killings at security checkpoints. Human Rights Watch stated the soldiers at the checkpoints sometimes open fire on individuals or civilian vehicles approaching them without clear evidence that those individuals represent a security threat. Human Rights Watch documented 3 cases of probable extrajudicial killings at checkpoints.
- Arbitrary detention
The total number of detainees since the launch of the COS in Sinai in February 2018 until the end of December 2018 mounted to 5309 of suspects and criminally convicted individuals that were captured in mass arrest campaigns of hundreds of people. With the arrest of a number that exceeds 5000 individuals in one year, as well as hundreds of “wanted and suspected individuals” in a few days period, detaining such huge number of individuals based on mere suspicions exposes those citizens to the danger of arbitrary detention and unlawful deprivation of liberty especially in the absence of an official arrest warrant.
Security forces arrest large numbers of inhabitants particularly after bombing incidents. During the period from April 2014 to 2018, Human Rights Watch documented 50 arbitrary detentions in North Sinai. Police forces arrested most of them at their homes or during mass arrest raids.
During the period from April 2014 to 2018, Human Rights Watch documented 39 arbitrary detentions in North Sinai, at least two of whom were children. In some cases, relatives were unable to identify the unacknowledged location where the disappeared person is held until two years later when the Higher State Security Prosecution finally pressed charges and ordered their transfer to official prisons outside Sinai. Most of the families expressed intense fear of authorities and banning them from filing a complaint to the Department of Public Prosecutions about the arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances of their relatives. Some of them said that they offered bribes to militants, to pro-army militia in Sinai or to other mediators to obtain information on the sites where their relatives are held. Based on their accounts to Human Rights Watch, the ones who filed complaints to the Department of Public Prosecutions have not received any response from the authorities.
The army keeps the majority of North Sinai detainees in three main sites: Battalion 101 in Arish; Camp al-Zohor in Sheikh Zuwayed; or at Al-Azoly prison inside Al-Galaa Military Base. As for those arrested by police forces, they are usually kept in the headquarters of the National Security Sector in Arish city.
Human Rights Watch documented 10 cases of North Sinai individuals who were tortured and ill-treated during their enforced disappearance leading to the death of some of them. The torture included whipping and electric shocks. Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that most of those who tortured the detainees were army officers wearing military uniforms.
A large number of detainees in prisons and detention facilities in North Sinai face death as a result of torture or poor detention conditions. A former detainee reported to Human Rights Watch that he eye-witnessed three detainees dying in custody in 2015 due to torture, negligence or lack of healthcare. In 2017, the Committee against Torture concluded that torture in Egypt is widespread and systematic.
- Right to information and expression
Sinai has been out of independent media coverage since the beginning of the continuing state of emergency in 2013. With the imposition of the curfew and the closure of the entry and egress to and from the city, the authorities also banned the entry of journalists and media reporters. Currently there is no source of information on what is taking place in Sinai except for the state’s official account, which makes it not only extremely difficult but also life-threatening for journalists, media reporters and human rights activists to play their role of monitoring the violations committed by the security forces given the fact that journalists who attempt to adopt a professional approach are considered as criminals posing a threat to Egypt’s national security.
Attempting to gather information on the current affairs in Sinai, especially about the war against terrorism, has become a crime in itself after Egypt’s treatment of such information as “military secrets”.
Any attempt to reach this information is a violation of state secrets as mentioned in the prosecution investigation of the journalist Ismail El-Iskandarani. The national security officer’s investigation of Iskandarani relied primarily on accusing him of administering Facebook pages covering what takes place in Sinai and criticizing military operations conducted by the army and police forces. The police report also included accusing Iskandarani of publishing some photos of jihadists’ houses that had already been destroyed and claiming they belonged to Sinai inhabitants who rejected the policies of the armed forces, which the Prosecution Department considered as “publication of false information”.
This accusation reveals the current government’s growing interest in controlling press and media platforms through striving to be the single source of information and considering any different account that does not match the state’s statement a crime and an attempt to “stir up dissention and incite sedition against the government” as described in the proceedings. This subjects a large number of journalists and media reporters, especially those interested in Sinai’s case file, to appearing before the court and at military courts in particular, which deprives them of their professional right of covering what is going on in Sinai and presenting facts from different perspectives.
- Right to education
Abdel Fattah Harhour, North Sinai Governor, announced on the 9th of February, 2018, around the time of the launch of the COS 2018, that all schools and universities in North Sinai are closed until further notice.
Study got postponed at Sinai University and at all other educational levels across the city. Furthermore, the Minister of Education announced that the armed forces are the authority responsible for deciding the return date of study. On the 18 February, the Ministry of Education decided moving the examinations of Thanaweya Amma (General Secondary Certificate) and other general certificates students to Canal cities. School students suffered from the inadequate study atmosphere in particular given the risk of attacks on schools and the precarious security conditions; some schools were attacked and bombed, which made them insecure places of education.
The Ministry of Higher Education decided to transfer some students of higher institutes in Sinai to the governorates of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said. What exacerbated the difficulty of transferring students to other governorates was the infeasibility of means of transportation in addition to their congestion and noticeable raised prices. With the constrained freedom of movement, means of transportation decreased and disappeared at times, which left no choice for citizens but to commute on foot.
Moreover, transport difficulties represented an obstacle especially for students whose education was disrupted for long periods of time. Vehicles’ quota increased to take 18 passengers instead of 14. The transport fee on a 7-passenger vehicle rose to 2500 EGP, which exceeds 350 pounds per person. People are also obliged to wait for long hours, sometimes reaching 8 hours, to find a ride, and they return home at other times when they don’t find any means of transport.
- Restrictions on movement
With the start of the COS in February 2018, the Rafah crossing was closed abruptly and indefinitely. All fixed security ambushes on Arish-Qantara International Road were closed and citizens were banned from entering or leaving North Sinai Governorate. All cities were closed and inhabitants were forced to stay inside while preventing movement between cities.
Moreover, Human Rights Watch’s analysis of post-COS 2018 satellite imagery captured between the 22nd of February and the 14th of April 2018 reveals a considerable decline in the traffic flow on local civilian roads due to the military operations in the region, which complies with eyewitnesses’ statements. Sheikh Zuwayed city, in particular, is completely surrounded by military bases and checkpoints, and the actual reach of the city is severely restricted; all the main roads leading into, and outside of, the city are either closed or controlled by military checkpoints.
In North Sinai, the army constructed tens of military bases, observation posts, and checkpoints on the roads, and established large-calibre artillery systems, ammunition depots, hundreds kilometres long earth mounds and security trenches. Those security establishments are located along primary and secondary roads surrounding the cities and main towns in the governorate with due amount of focus on the east between Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed. The latter is completely surrounded by military checkpoints.
Since the imposition of the restrictions, individuals who were outside Sinai were unable to return to their homes through usual roads as the army controls Al-Salam Bridge and the close ferry, which serve as the main transportation routes connecting North Sinai and the Egypt’s mainland. Families were scattered for over two months. Only a few people were allowed to return on a bus provided by the nearby city of Ismailia. On March 9th, which is one month after imposing the restrictions, the administration of North Sinai Governorate published a link on its Facebook page inviting residents who were “stuck” outside the governorate to fill in a form and wait for the administration to contact them.
Healthcare deteriorated in Sinai in particular after the COS 2018 began, and so did the means of transportation. The fuel price increased immediately in a way that prevented citizens from reaching hospitals and healthcare units. Due to the decrease in means of transportation, healthcare observers provided by Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population in Arish were obliged to use “pulled wagons” during polio vaccination campaigns, which increased the risk of infections in some cases. One of North Sinai residents was a cancer patient who got stuck in Cairo governorate and was unable to return home to her family due to preventing citizens from entering Sinai.
- Forced evictions, home demolitions, destruction of livelihood
Between October 2014 and August 2015, Egypt’s military demolished 2,715 buildings and evicted thousands of families on the border with Gaza in North Sinai, violating human rights law and possibly the laws of war. In the first quarter of 2018, it escalated its campaign and destroyed at least 3,600 additional buildings, evicting the whole city of Rafah near-entirely while offering no compensations or alternative housing for hundreds of families.
The state dealt with Sinai residents’ loss of their homes in an announcement by North Sinai governorate on February 6, 2020, that “procedures are being taken to provide those citizens in Rafah and Zuwayed districts with alternative housing”. Families who were adversely affected will be provided with a place
in accordance with the social housing project. This announcement is at least two years late. Moreover, the state has not announced a specific date for housing, and has not specified the alternative place which families were not informed whether they are for rent or ownership.
The military campaign left up to 420,000 residents in four north-eastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid for months in 2018. The campaign has also included severe government restrictions on the movement of people and many essential goods in much of the North Sinai governorate. People had to commute on foot after the army imposed severe restrictions on car fuel. Several towns witnessed severe shortages of food, cooking gas and drinking water and had to rely on alternative inefficient methods such as rainwater and fire.
Under this situation, the armed forces monopolized the provision of food supplies, and became the only source of feeding families and children.
Evidence, including satellite imagery and residents’ accounts, shows that security forces have been involved in burning and destroying the property of Sinai residents, allegedly in the context of counterterrorism operations, but without providing any judicial orders or a remedy.
The Egyptian authorities razed about 685 hectares of cultivated farmland, which deprived families of food and source of livelihood. They authorities also stripped the border region of the traditional olive trees, palm trees, and citrus orchards.
In the period from October 2014 until the end of 2018, Egyptian Front has monitored the official statements of the military Spokesman, according to which the military and police forces have destroyed 1431 houses, 216 warehouses, 790 trenches, 486 tunnels, and 1139 shacks and huts, and burned 2649 motorbikes, 1572 cars, 519 four-wheel-drive vehicles. The military and police forces never provided details of where such vehicles were captured or to whom it belonged while claiming that the owners of the property were wanted for security reasons or cooperated with terrorist groups.
In February 2018, at least 3 incidents of destruction took place. In a random shelling of Dwar Al-Tank region in West Rafah on February 14, 4 families had their two-story house – which belonged to a tribe from Rumailat – destroyed. On February 20, a war aircraft fired a rocket at an apartment building in Al-Zohour neighbourhood located in south Arish, which resulted in injuries among the residents and were taken to a hospital.
Human Rights Watch found that the destruction of houses and other buildings in Rafah did not comply with the condition under the laws of war stipulating that the Egyptian Military should only aim at the specified military targets. The demolition operations did not distinguish between tunnels and houses of civilians. More less destructive means could have worked on limiting tunnel trafficking.
- Violations affecting specific groups
- Women and girls
Between April 2014 and 2018, Human Rights Watch monitored 3 arbitrary detentions against women from North Sinai residents. Security forces sometimes arbitrarily arrest women who are relatives of suspects to pressurize the latter to surrender, especially after the beginning of COS 2018. In one of the incidents that took place in April 2018, the National Security Sector arrested a woman in the company of her mother and two daughters to force her husband to turn himself in.
According to the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, arbitrary detention campaigns expanded to include women, one of which detained more than 30 women and girls in March 2018. In this campaign, the security forces detained three of the women with their babies, and another woman with her three daughters. Security forces also arrested two elderly sisters in Arish, one of whom was 57 and the other was 54, a few days after demolishing their houses. In addition, a woman from Al-Suwarka tribe in Sanai was detained and deported to Al-Qanater prison in Cairo. She gave birth inside the prison hospital in the presence of none of her family members or husband, given that the latter is also detained.
It is noteworthy that most of the detained women are at Al-Qanater Prison for women where they suffer from low standards of living as well as different forms of torture such as sexual harassment during inspection, poor health conditions, intransigence in giving the prisoners their minimum rights of attaining what the law permits them to have in terms of food and clothes, as well as stifling the duration of their family visits.
North Sinai families’ loss of fathers, sons, and husbands resulted in economic difficulties because men are the ones who work outdoors. Since the authorities have not issued any official acknowledgment of any of the 50 detention cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the families have not been able to prove to employers that their relatives are imprisoned, which led to depriving them of their financial claims. As a case in point, no woman was able to receive the pension of her husband who had been forcibly disappeared.
According to the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, the killing of civilians in Sinai from February 2018 to December 2018 included the death of at least 5 children who were killed by the military forces. From April 2014 to 2018, Human Rights Watch took note of 4 arbitrary detention operations against children of North Sinai. At another level, children in particular suffered due to the food crisis, especially because of the shortage in dairy products. For example, a child patient from Sheikh Zuwayed city who was ill and had a special diet that depends on milk and yogurt only passed away as a result of the absence of those products.
At least 6 children were tortured during their detention period, and 12 others forcibly have disappeared since 2015. The Egyptian authorities also detained children in the same place with adults, which violates the international human rights law. In some cases, children were imprisoned in overly-congested cells, and were not given sufficient food. In at least two incidents, children were placed in prolonged solitary confinement. As a case in point, the child – whose initials are A. B. and who was the 12 years old at the time of his arrest by the Egyptian Military forces in Arish in December 2017 – was exposed to enforced disappearance, torture and detention away from the outside world for seven months before being accused of “terrorist group membership”. He was placed in prolonged solitary confinement where his health severely deteriorated. After receiving parole, he forcibly disappeared for the second time. His presence was denied by the police station of Arish and he has not appeared until now.
- Amendments to the Penal code (Law 58/1937
In April 2014, the government amended 22 articles of the Penal Code for Counterterrorism, and added to new 7 articles. The danger caused by the amendments stems from the broad definition of a “terrorist act” which contradicts secured rights in the Egyptian Constitution and International Law such as peaceful strikes and demonstrations, and is now applicable to a wide range of acts due to the amendment of Article 86.
Article 86 of the penal code, as amended, would criminalize any “intimidation” that could “harm national unity,” prevent the application of the country’s constitution or laws, or “damage the economy.
In addition, stricter punishments of actions were introduced with an increased use of the death penalty and life imprisonment. Article 86 bis of the penal code stipulates five-to-ten year imprisonment to any person proven guilty of joining a terrorist group without providing a clear definition of what a terrorist group is. Article 29 of the Law No. 94 of 2015 for counterterrorism adds the rigorous imprisonment punishment of no less than 5 years for any person who creates a website that propagates thoughts that advocate committing terrorist acts, which enables the possibility of implementing this law to punish journalists and human rights defenders.
- Expanding the use of military trials for civilian
Law No. 136 for the year 2014 for the securing and protection of public and vital facilities enables the armed forces, in coordination with the police, to secure and protect public and vital facilities. Those facilitates are in the rule of military installations throughout the insurance protection period for two years from the effective date. Cases involving trespassing those facilities are referred to military courts, which results in major expansion of military court jurisdiction, which threatens violating several safeguards of fair trial for the convicted civilians in these cases due to the fact that all the judges and members of the military prosecution are under the authority of the Minister of Defence who appoints them; they all have military ranks and they abide by all the regulations stipulated in the military service laws.
In April 2019, 12 articles were amended in, and 8 new articles were added to, the constitution. One of them was Article 204, which states that “No civilian shall face trial before the Military Court, except for crimes that constitute a direct assault against military facilities or camps of the Armed Forces, or their equivalents, against military zones or border zones determined as military zones, against the Armed Forces’ equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, documents, military secrets, or its public funds, or against military factories; crimes pertaining to military service; or crimes that constitute a direct assault against the officers or personnel of the Armed Forces by reason of performing their duties.” The amendment added: “facilities that are protected by the Armed Forces” as part of the legal bases for civilians’ military trials. This amendment constitutes a grave danger as it codifies civilian trials before military courts for committing offences that represent attacking public (not military) facilities, and do not necessitate prosecuting offenders at military courts that do not abide by the general principles of a fair trial.
- Terrorist Entities Law No. 8 of 2015 enabling the arbitrary designation of individuals or groups to
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ratified Law No. 8 for the year 2015 on Organizing the Lists of Terrorists and Terrorist Entities. In Article 1, the Law defines terrorist entities in overly-broad terms that consider any group that “endangers public security” as well as other acts that are not clearly-defined. Article 2 of Law No. 8 states that the Public Prosecution sets forth “a list of terrorist entities” and “a list of terrorists”; both lists codify large detention campaigns against individuals who oppose the government by claiming their affiliation to a terrorist entity.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ratified Law No. 94 for the year 2015 known as Anti-Terror Law, which is considered in its current form codified enforcement of the emergency state. This Law broadened the definitions of what terrorist crimes, terrorist acts and terrorist individuals are. It facilitated applying the definition of a terrorist to anyone who expressed an opinion that opposes the government on social media sites and others. This law also expanded the use of death penalty; the numbers of crimes that are punishable by the death penalty are 12 as stated in 11 articles. Furthermore, the law implies the use of enforced detention by keeping the detainee “in custody” as stipulated in Article 40 which allows law enforcement officers to arrest an individual and keep them in custody if necessary. This means that the matter is subjective, and so is the prosecution’s right to detain individuals for 7 days without stipulating the suspect’s rights.
The Special Rapporteur defines a “terrorist act” in war against terrorism as “any action, in addition to actions already specified by the existing conventions on aspects of terrorism, the Geneva Conventions and Security Council resolution 1566 (2004), that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, when the purpose of such an act, by its nature and context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act”.
According to Article 2 of Law No. 94 of 2015 for counterterrorism, a terrorist act is defined as follows:
“A terrorist act shall refer to any use of force, violence, threat, or intimidation domestically or abroad for the purpose of disturbing public order, or endangering the safety, interests, or security of the community; harming individuals and terrorizing them; jeopardizing their lives, freedoms, public or private rights, or security, or other freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the law; harms national unity, social peace, or national security or damages the environment, natural resources, antiquities, money, buildings, or public or private properties or occupies or seizes them; prevents or impedes public authorities, agencies or judicial bodies, government offices or local units, houses of worship, hospitals, institutions, institutes, diplomatic and consular missions, or regional and international organizations and bodies in Egypt from carrying out their work or exercising all or some of their activities, or resists them or disables the enforcement of any of the provisions of the Constitution, laws, or regulations. A terrorist act shall likewise refer to any conduct committed with the intent to achieve, prepare, or instigate one of the purposes set out in the first paragraph of this article, if it is as such to harm communications, information, financial or banking systems, national economy, energy reserves, security stock of goods, food and water, or their integrity, or medical services in disasters and crises.”
The Special Rapporteur’s definition of terrorism is confined to the actions that target murder or physical abuse provided that the committed killing or hurt aimed to incite fear in citizens or force a government or an international organization to take certain action. This definition seems clear-cut and to the point, and clarifies what a terrorist act is truly about. In contrast, the Egyptian Law’s definition of terrorism is too broad, and endorses a wide range of actions that can count as terrorist attacks, except that those actions do not conform to Special Rapporteur’s. For example, the definitions of “disturbing public order” and “harming national security” are too general, and they entail an array of actions that are not listed or specified in this law.
The counter-terrorism law adopted in 2015 has also legalized the criminalization of independent journalism. Article 35 of the counter-terrorism law (no. 94/2015) prohibits the dissemination of information that is contrary to the official statements of the State.
- Amendment of Article 78 of Egypt’s penal code on foreign fundin
On September 21, 2014 was amended to penalize the receipt of foreign funding in certain cases with life in prison. Independent Egyptian groups viewed the amendment as a serious threat to their work. The amended law states that anyone who receives funds from a foreign country, individual, or organization with the aim of pursuing acts harmful to the nation’s unity, interests, or territorial integrity, or destabilizing its general peace and safety, shall be penalized with a life sentence and a fine of no less than 500,000 pounds ($64,000) and up to the amount the person planned to receive. Under the amended law, anyone who receives foreign funding for the prohibited purposes described in the amendment in a time of war or for the purpose of terrorism could face the death penalty, as could any government employee.
Beyond Sinai: Patterns of violations as a result of ‘counter-terrorism’ measures
In December 2013, Cairo Court of Appeal decided to establish 6 counterterrorism circuits from the assize courts of Greater Cairo – 4 in Cairo and 2 in Giza – to adjudicate cases related to terrorist crimes. Before then, terrorist crimes were referred to normal criminal courts or to military courts.
In terrorism cases, the suspects are usually accused of joining terrorist groups or aiding one to achieve its goals. The prosecution does not inform the accused of their charges nor does it allow their lawyers to have access to the case file.
Before trial, the accused persons in terrorism-related cases face arbitrary detention after being forcibly arrested without a warrant and without informing their lawyers of their charges. They are also subject to enforced disappearance and severe physical and psychological torture. The prosecution tends to
refrain from allowing suspects in terrorist crimes to have their lawyers in the first few interrogation sessions, which violates their right to lawful defence and affects the path of the case in terms of dismissing torture claims. Detention conditions are inhumane to an extent that leads, in many cases, to prisoners’ health deterioration and to death.
At another level, the military jurisdiction expanded when it comes to trying civilians of terrorism-related cases, which led to an expansion in the execution of death penalties against civilians, especially after the Presidential Decree of Law No. 136 for the year 2014, claiming their assault on vital facilities of the military court. With a total of 10 court cases of political backgrounds, the accused were sentenced to death. Between July 2013 and September 2018, 8 cases had their penalties issued by military courts, which resulted in the death of 33 individuals.
Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) is playing an expanding, central role in the Egyptian judiciary system; it is the competent prosecutor in the public prosecution that is responsible for investigating the crimes relation to the “national security”. The authorities justify the fast-growing expansion that it is within the framework of resisting attacks that are launched by armed groups in the country. Amnesty International’s research shows how the SSSP utilizes its authority as a repressive tool through the abusive implementation of the recently-enacted counterterrorism law. Amnesty International discloses the SSSP’s practice of arbitrary detention on a large scale; suspects are systematically deprived of their right to effective legal representation. It also shows how 60 suspects were exposed to coercive techniques by the state security prosecution, which included blindfolding them until they stood before the prosecutor. They were also cursed, verbally abused and humiliated, which falls under ill-treatment.
Those who get arrested for joining terrorist groups face enforced disappearances in a systematic way. In 7 national security cases in the first half of 2018, 27 individuals who were accused of “joining a terrorist group” forcibly disappeared for durations that reached 31 days. It is worth-noting that the team responsible for investigating arbitrary or enforced disappearance expressed their worry about the increasing number of disappearing individuals in Egypt. During the period from May 2017 to May 2018, a total of 173 cases of new enforced disappearances were reported under urgent action procedures. The team pointed out that enforced disappearance is a systematic problem in Egypt, and they urged the government to take prompt action in this regard.
Amnesty International found that SSSP prosecutors were complicit in enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment by systematically neglecting to investigate allegations of such practices by Egyptian police, particularly the NSA, and admitting confessions extracted under torture as evidence in trials. In some cases, such evidence led to defendants being sentenced to death and executed.
In a report issued by 6 human rights organizations that analysed 8 cases before military courts, the accused were sentenced to death. In the period from July 2013 until December 2018, it was found that military courts lacked the most basic fair trial standards stipulated by international agreements: sending accused civilians to face military trials; detaining suspects and keeping them in custody; conducting arbitrary practices that include enforced disappearances, and exposing detainees to physical and psychological coercion; issuing provisions that lack evidence by investigative bodies; and violating defence rights by ignoring the defendants’ petitions and claims related to torture and prevention from viewing the cassation court rulings.
Amid the counterterrorism war, human rights defenders are also detained and accused of joining terrorist groups, such as Ezzat Ghoneim (an Egyptian lawyer and the Executive Director of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms), Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy (a human rights lawyer and the co-founder and coordinator of the Association of the Families of the Disappeared), and Amr Magdy (a researcher) who were all targeted because of their connections with the United Nations. Mahinour al-Massry and Esraa Abdelfattah are among the detained under-counterterrorism charges.