Egypt: enforced disappearance and use of repeated charges against HRDs Hoda Abdel-Moneim and Moaaz Al-Sharqawy (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Egypt on 22 January 2024. 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 timeframe. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

At the time of publication, Moaaz Al-Sharqawy is facing new charges in a new case 1330/2023, which includes the same charge for which he is serving a sentence – “joining a terrorism group” – in addition to two new charges: “publishing false news” and “misusing WhatsApp for terrorism acts”.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

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  • the enforced disappearance and the use of repeated charges against human rights defenders Hoda Abdel-Moneim and Moaaz Al-Sharqawy, in a practice commonly known as “rotation”
  • the lack of medical treatment for Ms. Abdel-Moneim’s increasingly poor health
  • the absence of due process in the arrest without a warrant of Mr. Al-Sharqawy in May 2023, his alleged ill-treatment and second enforced disappearance in five years, his first having occurred in 2018, and the ratification of a ten-year sentence against him by the Emergency Court following a trial lacking in due process guarantees.

Ms. Hoda Abdel-Moneim is a lawyer, a woman human rights defender and a former member of the National Council for Human Rights. She was arrested on 1 November 2018 and reportedly forcibly disappeared until 21 November 2018, when she was brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) on charges of joining an unspecified terrorist organization and receiving foreign funds in order to carry out its aims in case No. 1552/2018. In prison, her health deteriorated significantly, and she reportedly did not receive full medical attention for a condition of kidney failure and a suspected heart attack.

On 5 March 2023, the Terrorism Circuit at the Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) sentenced Ms. Abdel-Moneim to five years in prison, backdated to her arrest in October 2018, on the charge of joining an unspecified terrorist organization. She was acquitted on the charge of receiving foreign funds.

On 2 September 2021, the Criminal Court at the Cairo Court of Appeal decided to include Ms. Abdel-Moneim on a list of terrorists for five years after the end of her sentence, based on a request by the Public Prosecutor. This would ban her from travel and freeze her assets. She is also to be placed under police monitoring as a precautionary measure to be applied for five years after the end of her prison term. Ms. Abdel-Moneim was held in Al-Qanater women’s prison to serve her sentence and was allowed only a single family visit in the presence of security agents more than three years after her detention.

Mr. Moaaz Al-Sharqawy is a student rights’ defender and a former member of Tanta University’s student union. He focused on defending student rights to freedom of expression and assembly on campus, supporting students detained in relation to political cases, and he campaigned for fair university regulations. He resigned from the student union in 2017 after the government decided to cancel student elections and disregarded the students’ proposals.

In February 2018, the Attorney General included Mr. Al-Sharqawy’s name in a list of 16 people accused of allegiance to a political party headed by a former Muslim Brotherhood member, and of recruiting students to engage them in armed terrorist activity. The Muslim Brotherhood is listed as a terrorist entity based on Law No. 8 of 2015.

On 19 September 2018, Mr. Al-Sharqawy was arrested at a checkpoint, blindfolded and taken to the National Security Agency premises of his hometown, Tanta. He was reportedly beaten and had electric shocks administered to him, was forced to stand naked in front of an air conditioner and was threatened with death. He was moved 20 days later to the Central Security Camp in Tanta where he remained for four days with no communication with the outside world.

On 13 October 2018, the SSSP charged him with joining a terrorist group under case No. 440/2018, after an eight-hour interrogation in the absence of his lawyer during which he complained about the torture to which he had been subjected. The terrorist group referred to is the Muslim Brotherhood. As cited above, Mr. Al-Sharqawy was accused in February 2018 of allegiance to a political party headed by a former Muslim Brotherhood member.

On 4 March 2020, the criminal court of Cairo ordered the release of Mr. Al-Sharqawy under precautionary measures and pending investigation. He was released four days later and returned to his home. He sought medical treatment and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

On 21 January 2021, the Criminal Court at the Cairo Court of Appeal decided to include Mr. Al-Sharqawy on the list of terrorists.

On 25 August 2021, Mr. Al-Sharqawy was referred to the ESSC under the same case, which was re-registered as Case No. 1059/2021. The charge was that of joining the Muslim Brotherhood with knowledge of its aims, and alleged that he was recruited to the group as a young student.

On 26 February 2022, the Court of Cassation upheld the decision made by the Criminal Court on 13 January 2021 to keep Mr. Al-Sharqawy on the terrorist list for five years from the date of the decision.

On 28 May 2022, the ESSC, without his presence but in the presence of his lawyer, sentenced Mr. Al-Sharqawy to 10 years’ imprisonment and five more years under police surveillance post-conviction. Mr. Al-Sharqawy did not attend voluntarily, but as his lawyer was present in court, the verdict was enforceable, and upon ratification by the President of the Republic, Mr. Al-Sharqawy was to be arrested. Although the state of emergency in Egypt was lifted on 26 October 2021, the ESSC remains in place for cases referred to it beforehand. Emergency Court verdicts are not subject to appeal and can only be commuted or overturned by the President of the Republic.

Both Ms. Abdel-Moneim and Mr. Al-Sharqawy have been the subjects of previous communications sent by Special Procedures mandate holders to the Egyptian Government.


Regarding Ms. Abdel-Moneim’s renewed charges

In early June 2023, Ms. Abdel-Moneim was transferred from Al-Qanater prison to the 10th Ramadan Prison.

On 31 October 2023, Ms. Abdel-Moneim had completed her five-year sentence in Case No. 1552/2018 for joining an unspecified terrorist group and was due to be freed on 1 November 2023 as she had been in detention since 1 November 2018.

That same day, Ms. Abdel-Moneim was summoned by the SSSP, in the presence of her lawyer. She was informed of two new charges against her and that her name had also been added to an earlier SSSP case, No. 730/2020. This case involves a number of political activists who are currently being held in pre-trial detention, and which was opened while Ms. Abdel-Moneim was in prison.

One of the charges against Ms. Abdel-Moneim, that of joining an unspecified terrorist organization, is identical to the charge for which she had just completed the sentence in her previous case, No. 1552/2018. The second charge, that of receiving foreign funds in order to carry out its aims, is identical to the charge she had been acquitted of in her previous case. If convicted, Ms. Abdel-Moneim could face up to life in prison. No evidence regarding the new charges was provided.

Ms. Abdel-Moneim was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention on the new charges for 15 days, renewable. According to new regulations, all pre-trial detention renewal hearings are conducted by remote communication, thereby not allowing for any direct contact between defendants and their lawyers.

Regarding Ms. Abdel-Moneim’s conditions of detention

The prison conditions of Ms. Abdel-Moneim during and after her pre-trial detention in Case No. 1522/2018, and since her renewed detention in October 2023 did and do not reportedly meet international minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, as she was denied adequate medical care and family visits. Ms. Abdel-Moneim was allowed one family visit in the presence of security agents three years after her initial detention, and intermittent visits since then.

In June 2023, Ms. Abdel-Moneim was transferred from Al-Qanater prison to the 10th Ramadan Prison, a new establishment built on the outskirts of Cairo, without the knowledge of her family or lawyer.

On 26 June 2023, Ms. Abdel-Moneim’s husband and daughter visited her for the first time in almost one year. She told them that prison conditions were better than in Al-Qanater jail but that her health had deteriorated further. In addition to her kidney problem and high blood pressure, she had acute pain and numbness in parts of her body due to nerve damage in a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Prison authorities have allegedly not provided her with adequate medical treatment or transfer to a hospital when needed. They have also allegedly denied her family access to her medical records for possible independent consultation.

Regarding Mr. Al-Sharqawy’s arrest, enforced disappearance and torture

On 12 May 2023, Mr. Al-Sharqawy was arrested at his home in Al-Mokattam district, Cairo governorate by National Security Agents (NSA) who allegedly did not produce an arrest warrant, and who took him to an unidentified location. His family and lawyer contacted the Ministry of Interior and the public prosecutor for information on his whereabouts but received no response.

On 3 June 2023, Mr. Al-Sharqawy appeared before the SSSP, in the presence of his lawyer. He complained that he had been blindfolded during interrogation by the NSA and handcuffed and beaten during his 23 days of enforced disappearance; the prosecutor did not investigate the allegations made by Mr. Al-Sharqawy.

Regarding Mr. Al-Sharqawy’s renewed charges

On 3 June 2023, SSSP charged Mr. Al-Sharqawy with two charges: that of joining a terrorist group, a charge for which he was already convicted and sentenced on 28 May 2022 in Case No. 1059/2021, and a new charge, that of funding a terrorist group. He was ordered to be held in pre-trial detention.

Regarding Mr. Al-Sharqawy’s long-term detention

On 22 October 2023, Mr. Al-Sharqawy’s lawyers learned that his ten-year sentence in Case No. 1059/2021, handed down by the ESSC in May 2022, was ratified by the President of the Republic on 13 June 2023. Mr. Al-Sharqawy’s lawyers had not been informed of the ratification.

Mr. Al-Sharqawy is, therefore, currently serving a ratified sentence in Case No. 1059/2021 while awaiting trial by a terrorism circuit of the Cairo Criminal Court on the same charge, in addition to a new charge.

Regarding Mr. Al-Sharqawy’s conditions of detention

Mr. Al-Sharqawy is currently held in the new Badr 3 Prison. He has been allowed family visits but not visits by his lawyer. According to new regulations, all pre-trial detention renewal hearings are conducted by remote communication, thereby not allowing for any direct contact between defendants and their lawyers.

Human rights defenders held in Badr Prison 3 have reportedly been subjected to conditions that may amount to torture, including continuous camera surveillance under bright electric lights, limited amounts of food and water and limited visits by family and lawyers, conditions that are proscribed by the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules).


In the communication, we express serious concern that on the last day of her five-year prison sentence, Ms. Abdel-Moneim was presented with new charges, one of which she had previously been acquitted of, and the other one of which she had already completed the sentence of. We are equally concerned at the new charges against Mr. Al-Sharqawy, which include a charge for which he has been convicted and is currently serving a sentence. Both cases involve apparent violations of the principle of non bis in idem under article 14(7) of the ICCPR, ratified by Egypt on 14 January 1982, which guarantees that individuals may not be tried or punished twice for the same act in respect of which they have already been finally convicted or acquitted.

It is worth noting that the practice of using old charges in new cases by combining them with new accusations has been previously used against human rights defenders. This method was the subject of a previous communication sent by Special Procedures mandate holders to the Egyptian Government, EGY 5/2021, which addressed the extremely lengthy periods of arbitrary pre-trial detention through the attachment of the human rights defenders to new cases wherein they face similar accusations as initially brought against them.

We are further concerned at the apparent lack of proper medical care provided to Ms. Abdel-Moneim and the restricted family visits. We emphasise that those charged with terrorism related offences are entitled to the same standard of care in prison as all other inmates (EGY 12/2021). We are seriously troubled by the information received that the abovementioned individual has intermittently been denied family visits and access to necessary medical care, which may amount to a violation of the absolute and non-derogable prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under article 7 of the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture. In this connection, we would like to reiterate that the State has a duty of care to individuals in their custody, as established by article 10 of the ICCPR, to ensure humane conditions of detention and respect for the dignity of individuals deprived of their liberty.

We further express our concern about the intended inclusion of Ms. Hoda Abdel-Moneim on the terrorist watchlist at the end of her sentence, which would impose a travel ban and freeze her assets. We recall, in line with our concerns highlighted in EGY 8/2021 and EGY 5/2023, that the inclusion of individuals on a terrorist watch list must be strictly necessary and proportionate and, therefore, only in response to an actual, distinct and measurable act of terrorism or a demonstrated threat of an act of terrorism. The order to place her on the terrorist watchlist, and to subject her to police monitoring, after she completed her five-year sentence was made at the time of her sentencing. As such, it could not be known that these measures would be necessary in five years’ time since they were not based on any contemporaneous assessment of any risk she may actually pose upon the expiry of her sentence. It also contradicts the assumption of the criminal law that the completion of a criminal sentence signifies that the punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation of an offender is fulfilled and that the person can be readmitted to society with full rights. In addition, we have previously expressed concern about the lack of transparency, due process and judicial safeguards in listing and delisting procedures. Targeted sanctions in the form of asset freeze, travel bans, and other restrictions can also have severe consequences for the enjoyment of the civil and political and economic and social rights of the individuals concerned and their families. Any restrictions on rights must be strictly necessary and proportionate, factually substantiated and subject to rigorous and continuous review.

We express serious concern regarding the allegations that Mr. Al-Sharqawy was subjected to, for a second time since 2018, enforced disappearance for a period of 23 days, during which he was subjected to ill treatment and to what may amount to torture. We wish to recall that, under international law, a deprivation of liberty (including in the form of incommunicado detention), followed by the failure or refusal to acknowledge a deprivation of liberty by State agents or the concealment of the fate and whereabouts of the person, are constitutive elements of an enforced disappearance, regardless of the duration of the deprivation of liberty or concealment concerned.

Regarding the allegations of torture, we respectfully remind the Egyptian Government that under the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), to which Egypt acceded in 1986, State parties are required to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation whenever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction, and on the basis of any claim lodged by an individual who alleges they have been subjected to torture. We further recall that steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against ill-treatment or intimidation, which could result from filing a complaint or submitting evidence.

In line with our previous communications (EGY 4/2020, EGY 1/2022) we also reiterate our concerns about the vagueness of the counter-terrorism and national security legislation in Egypt. We note with concern that this legislation is reportedly being misused to target, inter alia, human rights defenders critical of the government. We underscore to the Government of Egypt that counter-terrorism legislation should be sufficiently precise to comply with the principle of legality recognized under article 15 of the ICCPR so as to prevent that it is used to unjustifiably target human rights defenders, civil society, journalists, or other persons on political, religious or other grounds. The use of highly general and broad emergency or counter-terrorism measures to limit the freedom of association has a profound and detrimental effect on rights of association, assembly and expression (A/HRC/40/52). Counter-terrorism should not be used unjustifiably or arbitrarily to restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to negatively affect civil society.

Furthermore, we reiterate our concerns expressed in EGY 4/2020 and EGY 3/2023 regarding the continued trial of civilians in emergency courts despite the state of emergency having been lifted since October 2021, as well as the exceptionality of the ESSC, which does not allow for any judicial appeal process of their decisions. In this regard, we recall that the Human Rights Committee, in its General Comment No. 32, has stressed that although the ICCPR does not prohibit the trial of civilians in special courts, it requires that such trials must fully comply with the requirements of article 14 and that their guarantees may not be limited or modified because of the military or special character of the court concerned (CCPR/C/GC/32, para. 22).


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