Fears for Abducted Egyptian Human Rights Defender
According to local sources, men in civilian clothes abducted Egyptian Human Rights Defender Esraa Abdel Fattah from her car in Cairo on the night of October 12. The U.S. government should publicly demand that Egyptian authorities declare what they know about the incident, and whether Abdel Fattah is being held by the authorities, said Human Rights First.
“Abdel Fattah appears to have been seized as part of the latest roundup of activists, in an action bearing all the hallmarks of an operation by the Egyptian security forces. Egyptian authorities should immediately inform her family if they are holding her, and, if so, where and why,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “In the highly likely event the authorities are detaining her, they should either charge her with an offense recognizable under international law or immediately release her.”
A longtime activist, Egyptian authorities have harassed Abdel Fattah for years because of her human rights work. She was imprisoned under the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2008, and has been prevented from leaving the country since 2015.
Thousands of people have been detained in the last few weeks following protests against President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
President Donald Trump called Sisi “a real leader” and “my favorite dictator” last month, even as the latest crackdown had begun. Congress is currently considering how much military aid to approve to Egypt next year, and what conditions to attach to that aid.
“We know what happens when human rights activists, lawyers and other peaceful dissidents are arrested. It turns people away from peaceful opposition and towards violent alternatives,” said Dooley. “And we know what happens in Egypt’s jails – the routine torture and abuse in custody is a gift to ISIS and other violent extremists busily recruiting in Egyptian prisons.”
Earlier this year Human Rights First produced a study on ISIS recruitment in Egypt’s jails, documenting how Sisi’s crushing of peaceful dissent is fueling ISIS. Based on interviews with former political prisoners, it detailed how ISIS recruits tortured detainees from within the country’s vast penal system.
“The latest mass roundup, throwing a huge number of people into detention, will be seen as fresh meat for ISIS,” said Dooley. “The United States should stop publicly praising Sisi, and stop propping up his government with massive amounts of military aid until it reforms and stops the torture in custody.”