Egyptian human rights defender Ebrahim Metwally detained since September 2017

Egyptian human rights defender Ebrahim Metwally detained since September 2017

On September 10, 2017, human rights defender Ebrahim Metwally was on his way to Geneva to attend a meeting with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances when he was arrested at Cairo International Airport. He is currently being held incommunicado and in solitary confinement in Tora prison. He has not yet been brought to trial.

Ebrahim Metwally is the co-founder and coordinator of the Association of the Families of the Disappeared, which provides the relatives of victims of enforced disappearance in Egypt with legal counselling, including through the submission of cases to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID). Metwally is the father of Amr Ibrahim Abdel Metwally Hegazy, who remains missing since his arrest on August 7, 2013, and whose case was submitted by his father to the WGEID.

On September 10, 2017, Metwally was on his way to Geneva to attend a meeting with the WGEID when he was arrested by members of the Egyptian security forces and airport police at Cairo International Airport, and taken to an unknown place of detention.

He reappeared on September 12, 2017 before the State Security Court, which extended his detention for 15 days pending investigation by the Egyptian State Prosecution on charges of “establishing an illegal organisation”, “conspiracy with foreign entities to harm the security of the state” and “spreading false information”. A letter from the WGEID inviting Metwally for a meeting in Geneva was used by the prosecutor as inculpatory evidence. He was detained in Al Aqrab maximum security section of Tora prison.

On September 15, 2017, two UN human rights experts expressed grave concern about Metwally’s arrest, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights highlighted the case while presenting the annual report on reprisals to the Human Rights Council in Geneva later the same month.

On July 31, 2018, Egypt provided a further update on the case, confirming that Metwally had been charged with “leading a terrorist group” and “spreading false news”, and that he was still being investigated. For at least two of the proceedings, Metwally’s lawyers were notified with adjournment dates that differed from the days in which Metwally was physically present in the courtroom, affecting both his right to prepare his defence and the possibility for the lawyers to enquire into the treatment he was receiving in detention.

Metwally is currently being held incommunicado and in solitary confinement in Tora prison. His conditions of detention are extremely poor, and he has been subjected to systematic physical and psychological abuse amounting to torture and ill-treatment. Despite suffering from acute prostatitis and serious vision problems – a result of the lack of lighting in the solitary confinement cell – he has not been allowed to be examined by medical specialists.

On August 14, 2019, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted an Opinion confirming that Metwally’s ongoing detention is arbitrary under categories I, II, III and V. In addition, the WGAD expressed its grave concern at Metwally’s state of health and has referred his case to the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered his release on 14 October 2019, however, he was not released by the authorities. On 5 November 2019, a new case was brought against Metwally (State Security Case 1470/2019) and he was charged with “joining a terrorist group” and “funding terrorism”. 

Between February 2019 and February 2020, the prison administration did not allow Metwally’s family to visit him, despite permission being granted by the prosecution to allow such visits. During this period, the abuses against Metwally intensified.

On August 26, 2020, the Criminal Court of Cairo renewed the order to release Hegazy under precautionary measures in Case No. 1470 of 2019 (in which he was charged with “joining a terrorist group” and “funding terrorism”). The nature of the precautionary measures are unknown. Despite the August 26 release decision, Hegazy was kept in detention until new charges were brought against him. On September 6 2020, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) reported that Metwally was investigated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) in Case No. 786 of 2020 and charged with “leading a terror group”, which the Egyptian authorities have accused him of having formed during his transfers to and from the prosecution for pre-trial renewals.

Timeline

April 15, 2021: MENA Rights Group refers case to the Secretary-General on intimidation and reprisals for cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights.
September 6, 2020: The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) reports that Metwally is investigated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) in Case No. 786 of 2020 and charged with “leading a terror group.”
August 26, 2020: The Criminal Court of Cairo renews the order to release Hegazy under precautionary measures.
May 1, 2020: MENA Rights Group refers case to the Secretary-General on intimidation and reprisals for cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights.
November 5, 2019: A new case is brought against Metwally (State Security Case 1470/2019).
October 14, 2019: The Supreme State Security Prosecution orders his release but Metwally remains in detention.
September 9, 2019: Mentioned in the Secretary-General’s 2019 report on reprisals.
August 14, 2019: The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopts an Opinion (41/2019) finding Metwally’s detention to be arbitrary and calling for his release.
May 1, 2019: MENA Rights Group raises case with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights ahead of the preparation of the Secretary-General’s 2019 report on reprisals.
February 2019: Tora prison’s administration begins preventing Metwally from receiving family visits.
September 15, 2017: United Nations human rights experts express their grave concern about Metwally arrest and request his immediate release.
September 12, 2017: Reappears before State Security Court, which extends his detention for 15 days.
September 10, 2017: Arrested at Cairo International Airport, disappeared.

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