Egypt: alleged enforced disappearance, torture and medical negligence of Dr. Ahmed Shawky Abdelsattar Mohamed Amasha (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to the Government of Egypt on 11 November 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received, it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

The trial of Dr. Ahmed Shawky Abdelsattar Mohamed Amasha is ongoing.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication

BACKGROUND

Topic: repeated enforced disappearance, torture and ill treatment, and medical negligence, of human rights defender Dr. Ahmed Shawky Abdelsattar Mohamed Amasha.

Dr. Ahmed Shawky Abdelsattar Mohamed Amasha is an Egyptian human rights defender, and an environment rights defender. He has campaigned for and supported families of victims of enforced disappearance in Egypt through the League for Families of the Disappeared, a non-governmental organization that he co-founded and which provides legal advice and awareness raising. He is a veterinary physician by profession and a former head of the veterinarian syndicate.

ALLEGATIONS

On 17 June 2020, Dr. Amasha was arrested for a second time from his home in the Cairo suburb of Helwan and forcibly disappeared for a second time. His lawyer and family members filed complaints with the Prosecutor General and the Minister of Interior to report his arrest and enforced disappearance but his whereabouts were not disclosed for over 25 days.

On 12 July 2020, Dr. Amasha was interrogated at the office of the Supreme State Security prosecution (SSSP) on an existing case (number 1360/2019), on charges of joining a terrorist organization. He was then held in incommunicado detention in Tora high security prison, known as Scorpion 2, where he was not allowed legal counsel or family visits.

During the interrogation, Dr. Amasha complained that he was electrocuted and badly beaten during his arrest. The SSSP ordered a forensic examination of him.

His family later learned that he had been badly beaten during his arrest and subsequent enforced disappearance, to the point where his ribs were broken, and that he had received no medical care.

On 20 July 2020, he was examined by a forensic specialist who verified that he was in stable condition, that there was no evidence of any recently inflicted injuries, but that he complained of pain in his ribs. The specialist recommended that Dr. Amasha be referred to hospital for an X-ray. His family have stated that he did not have the X-ray.

On 23 March 2021, the prison authorities wrote to the general prosecutor requesting permission for Dr. Amasha to undergo surgery for the removal of his gall bladder. This was refused, even though Dr. Amasha’s family offered to cover the costs.

On 21 August 2022, when Dr. Amasha appeared in court with his lawyer for the renewal of his detention, he was barely able to walk, had lost weight and complained of medical negligence. He was told by an examining physician that his condition was stable.

On 29 August 2022, he was referred to the terrorism circuit of the Supreme State Criminal Court (SSCC) on charges of “knowingly joining and funding a terrorist group,” and his name was added to the existing Case No 1360/2019, which includes another 37 defendants. The evidence presented by the prosecution include his admission to joining a demonstration by the Muslim Brotherhood on 3 July 2013[1], documents indicating his membership in the League for Families of Victims of Enforced Disappearance and other rights organizations focusing on torture, and his contact with foreign media and other concerned groups on enforced disappearance. The media or the groups that the prosecution referred to were not specified, and Dr. Amasha was mainly questioned during his interrogation about his allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood.

On 24 September 2022, the first hearing was to take place at the terrorism circuit of the SSCC; Dr. Amasha and others did not attend, and the hearing was adjourned to 3 October 2022 to allow for all defendants to appear in court.

On 3 October 2022 and on 22 October 2022, Dr. Amasha appeared in court for hearings, having been transported from Badr prison, a new establishment located about 65 km east of Cairo where most prisoners and detainees held in Tora have been moved. The hearing was adjourned to 26 November 2022.

Since his detention in Badr prison in September 2022, Dr. Amasha has allegedly been held in isolation in a cell with continuous electric lights on and 24-hour camera surveillance, and he is allowed little time for outdoor exercise. His physical condition has been deteriorating; he suffers from diabetes and other age-related ailments and has not received medical attention. Furthermore, he has not been allowed visits by his lawyer or family members from the start of his detention in July 2020, when he was held in Tora high security prison before being moved in September 2022 to the new Badr prison. Dr Amasha’s lawyer sees his client when he appears in court, but cannot speak to him or have no direct contact with him as the detainees are kept behind a glass screen.

On 25 October 2022, Dr. Amasha’s family learned that he had joined other detainees in Badr prison in a hunger strike to protest prison conditions, which were described as being worse than those at the Tora prison. Detainees complained that prison staff had removed cleaning material from their cell, and would awaken them by loudspeakers early in the morning, move them handcuffed out of their cell in order to transfer a number of them to court, and then return the rest to their cell.  Detainees were given a limited amount of food, and one bottle of water per week. The cell door has no window for observation, which is conducted through camera surveillance while communication is conducted through loudspeakers; in one instance, a detainee was ordered via loudspeaker to remove his clothes from a line, indicating continuous monitoring.

CONCERNS

In the communication, we expressed serious concern at the allegations of enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of Dr. Amasha, in recurrence of similar acts taken against him previously, and which appear to be related to his activities as a human rights defender.

We expressed further concerns about the physical and psychological integrity of Dr. Amasha due to the alleged torture and ill- treatment that he was subjected to during his arrest, his subsequent enforced disappearance, and his detention. We are concerned at the lack of adequate medical care provided to him over serious injuries to his ribs allegedly sustained as a result of the torture.

We are also concerned at the alleged torture of Dr. Amasha, in detention, by keeping him in solitary confinement and exposing him to continuous bright light and a 24-hour camera surveillance, and at the continued lack of medical attention paid to him despite his various ailments.


[1]      In December 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood was banned and declared a terror organisation.

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