Enforced disappearances, in which a state arrests an individual without notifying anyone as to their whereabouts, are continuing to happen frequently in Egypt. In the most recent and tragically ironic case, Abdel Moneim Metwally Hegazy, a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Association of the Families of the Disappeared, was arrested at Cairo International Airport as he attempted to travel to Geneva for a conference sponsored by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. According to a report by Mada Masr, Hegazy’s lawyer has confirmed that, since his arrest, his client’s whereabouts remain unknown. Hegazy is also investigating the disappearance and murder of the Italian PhD student, Giulio Regeni in Cairo two years ago.
Enforced disappearances in Egypt have received more attention since the July 2013 coup. Between August 2015 and 2016, there were nearly 400 reported cases of enforced disappearances. This year alone, there have been over 250 cases of enforced disappearances. 104 of those cases are of young Egyptians between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. Some children as young as fourteen-years-old have been taken by the state, according to a 2016 Amnesty International report.
These enforced disappearances are part of systemic political oppression in the country. Since last May, the Egyptian government has continually added more websites to its list of blocked Internet addresses (now a grand total of 424). A state of emergency has been in place in the country, since church bombings in Alexandria and Tanta last April. In a new report, Human Rights Watch confirmed last week that torture is commonplace and widely practiced against detainees in Egypt.
On the same day Hegazy disappeared, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council, “we are… receiving increased allegations of torture in detention, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and trials of civilians in military courts [in Egypt].” The Egyptian state is engaging in a very clear, multi-pronged effort to expand state censorship and stifle civic organizing. As it continues to act with impunity, we could see hundreds more Egyptians forcefully disappeared by the end of this year.