Further to the ongoing lack of transparency, conflicting statements and vagueness of Egyptian state institutions towards the public, the public prosecutor decided to close the file regarding AFTE’s requestsubmitted on the 30th of January 2013, in its capacity as an Egyptian human rights organization concerned with the right of the public to information. The request stated that the public prosecution should publish daily information regarding the numbers of people arrested during the events that began on the 25th of January until now, their charges, places of detention and any other information needed to ensure their safety and the legality of procedures taken against them, in accordance with principles of disclosure and transparency and to facilitate the role of their defense lawyers, as stated in article 78 of the constitution, which states that “the right to defense is granted”.
In view of the continued lack of such information AFTE holds the public prosecution responsible for the exposure of the detainees to several violations of their physical integrity and their being held in places other than those legally designated for detention. In addition AFTE holds the prosecution responsible for the increased number of forcedly disappeared individuals. AFTE also expresses its doubts regarding the commitment of this institution towards its supervisory role over law enforcement bodies or places of detention.
The lawyer in charge of the AFTE freedom of expression program was informed on the evening of the 5th of February 2013 of the presence of 19 detainees in case number 609/2013 Kasr El Nil misdemeanor, arrested on the 29th of January 2013 and held at the Salam Central Security Camp. The detainees should have appeared in front of the prosecution of Central Cairo in Bab El Khalq court on the 31st of January. However in view of the crowds in front of the court house, the prison trucks returned the detainees to their detention camp, while the prosecution formed a team of investigators who moved to the central security camp to interrogate them before the expiry of their initial detention order. The prosecution decided to extend their detention for 4 days and then again for 15 days pending investigations. Neither their lawyers, nor their families knew anything about them until eight days after their arrest, when one of the detainees managed to contact his family and inform them of his hereabouts as well as of being tortured. This is but one incident in a long chain of similar incidents that have been taking place since the 25th of January until now.
In its attempts to provide legal support to detainees during recent events, i.e. starting the 26th of January, the main obstacles facing our interventions included lack of legal safeguards for the detainees. The only way lawyers could know the names and locations of the different prosecutions to interrogate the detainees, and their numbers, was through their daily search, together with activists in the different probable prosecution offices to check. Then another search began for the prosecutors in charge of the interrogation. Our chances for access were best when one of the detainees managed by chance to make an unofficial phone call to his or her family informing them of his or her whereabouts. Thus the right to defense was left to pure chance in the absence of clear policies and regulations by the prosecution to disclose this information to which both the detainee and defense lawyers are entitled.
AFTE reiterates its demand that the public prosecution, under the chairmanship and supervision of the public prosecutor should daily and regularly publish all necessary information concerning all those who get arrested or detained to ensure their safety and to enable victims of forced disappearance and torture to legally prosecute their aggressors and to ensure lack of impunity for those who violate the dignity of citizens.