The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights documented multiple abuses during March 2022 in which trials could be described as lacking the standards of fair trial, among which a defendant was brought before the prosecution after a period of enforced disappearance and was deprived of her right to an attorney to be present during her interrogations. Two women were also subjected to enforced disappearance by the Ministry of Interior despite their release being ordered by the Egyptian Public Prosecution.
On the other hand, during March, an extrajudicial killing took place, where the ISIS-affiliate Sinai Province group targeted a civilian claiming that he cooperated with security forces.
Details of the abuses
Egyptian law enforcement forces abuses:
Trials lacking the standards of justice
The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights monitored the trials of 3 women from Sinai, which lacked the standards of fair trial. The Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo proceeded to investigate two of them during the past months, and in March 2022, the prosecution ordered their release, however, security forces refrained from executing the release orders and subjected the women to enforced disappearance. Another woman appeared as a defendant before the Supreme State Security Prosecution after a period of enforced disappearance, but the prosecution denied her natural right to an attorney to be present during her interrogations.
The first incident
The foundation’s legal team monitored on 9 March 2022 a decision reached by the council chamber that took place at the criminal court, second terrorism chamber, to release Ibtisam Misbah Eid Hamad, 26. Ibtisam had been arbitrarily arrested at Bir al-Abd station on 1 November 2019, and she was subjected to enforced disappearance for 3 months till she was brought before the prosecution in Ismailia in February 2020 for investigation based on warrant number 271 issued in Arish for the year 2019. The prosecution ordered Ibtisam’s release on 26 February 2020, but security forces refrained from executing the release order and instead subjected her to enforced disappearance for 3 months till she reappeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo on 6 May 2020 pending case number 750 for the year 2019, under the authority of Emergency Supreme State Security.
Ibtisam’s release was ordered for a second time on 21 December 2020, and she was transported to Arish in preparation for her release, however, security forces did not execute the release order and Ibtisam was subjected to enforced disappearance for a third time for 4 months till she once again appeared before the prosecution in Ismailia on 25 April 2021. Four days later, Ibtisam’s release was again ordered by the magistrate with a thousand-pound bail on 28 April 2021. After Ibtisam’s family paid her bail, she was not released and was instead subjected to enforced disappearance for the fourth time for 6 months till she reappeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo in October 2021 pending case number 1935 for the year 2021.
Ibtisam was under preventative detention pending the new case for 5 months till the prosecution ordered her release for the fourth time on 9 March 2022, and after her transportation to the second police station in Arish in preparation for her release, her family were shocked upon trying to visit her at the police station to have the authorities deny she was there, only to be faced with the fact that their daughter’s fate has become unknown and that she was subjected to enforced disappearance for the fifth time.
The second incident
The foundation’s legal team documented the enforced disappearance of Asmaa Tarik Saadeddin Abdullah, 29, after the Ministry of Interior refrained from releasing her despite her release being ordered by the council chamber that took place at the criminal court on 27 March 2022. This was the third time the court ordered Asmaa’s release in less than 3 years during which the Ministry of Interior refrained from executing the release order and subjected Asmaa to enforced disappearance and recycled her into new cases under the same charges without ever releasing her.
In detail, a security force from the second police station in Arish arrested Asmaa on 3 March 2019 from her home in Arish. During the arrest, the chief of investigation of the second police station in Arish assured the victim’s family that she would stay at the station for three days for investigation and will return home afterwards. His promises however were empty, as Asmaa was subjected to enforced disappearance for three months till she appeared for the first time in Ismailia prosecution in June 2019 pending a case in which her release was ordered in the first session in June 2019.
The security authorities, however, refrained from executing the prosecution’s order and instead subjected her to enforced disappearance for a second time for 11 months till she appeared on 25 May 2020 before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo pending a new case numbered 800 for the year 2019. Asmaa remained in custody pending the case till her release was ordered again on 13 October 2021 and she was transferred to Arish in preparation for her release.
Asmaa’s family were once more shocked when the security forces in the second police station in Arish refused to carry out the release order and instead for the third time subjected her to one month of enforced disappearance till she reappeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo to be recycled for the third time pending a new case numbered 1935 for the year 2021. Asmaa remained in custody pending the case till her release was again ordered on 27 March 2022 and she was transferred to Arish in preparation for her release.
Asmaa’s three children’s joy did not last long as security forces at the second police station in Arish still refused to release her and subjected her to enforced disappearance for the fourth time. Neither the foundation nor the victim’s family have managed to figure out her detention location till the time the report was published.
Asmaa Tarik’s family expressed their deep concern regarding Asmaa’s fate, and what increased their fear was the torture she endured under inhumane and illegal detention circumstances. Asmaa’s family told the foundation team that Asmaa told them during visitation that she was severely beaten and electrocuted for long periods, adding that an officer at the second police station in Arish called “M. M” supervised her torture when she was returned to the station. She said that the aforementioned officer fabricated a recent false report stating that Asmaa was in possession of a weapon and leaflets when she was arrested, after her return to the station, a year and three months later, despite the fact she had not left her detention location.
Asmaa told her family that she suffers from health issues in the muscles of the heart and the brain, and that during her incarceration, she was transferred to hospital twice under a fake name. She added that under the harsh conditions of her detention, and due to the torture to which she was subjected, she was forced to sign papers confessing to things she did not do.
The third incident
The foundation’s legal team monitored on 18 March 2022 the appearance of Nevin Aiad Mohamed Kamil before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo pending case number 1935 for the year 2021. The prosecution refrained from granting the defendant her legal rights and did not allow an attorney to be present with her during interrogations despite them being present at the prosecution base. The prosecution also did not attempt to assign an attorney to be present with her.
The foundation’s legal team managed to monitor three legal violations to which three women were subjected during March 2022 where Egyptian investigation authorities proceeded to interrogate one of them after she was subjected to a period of enforced disappearance, in addition to the criminal court in Cairo’s decision to release two of the women after they were charged with joining a terrorist group “Sinai Province” and adopting takfiri thought, according to National Security investigations, however, they were once more subjected to enforced disappearance.
Looking at what the defendants stated during the interrogations, and according to statements acquired by the foundation from the victims’ families, there is no doubt that many infractions and violations considered crimes in the eyes of the Egyptian law took place, in addition to the prosecution’s violation of the simplest rules and procedural guarantees stated by the Egyptian law especially in the case of initial investigations.
First: The detainment of arrested individuals without permission from the relevant judicial authorities for longer than the legal detainment period.
Article 54 of the Egyptian constitution states that: “Personal freedom is a natural right which is safeguarded and cannot be infringed upon. Except in cases of in flagrante delicto, citizens may only be apprehended, searched, arrested, or have their freedoms restricted by a causal judicial warrant necessitated by an investigation. All those whose freedoms have been restricted shall be immediately informed of the causes therefor, notified of their rights in writing, be allowed to immediately contact their family and lawyer, and be brought before the investigating authority within twenty-four hours of their freedoms having been restricted…”.
Article 36 of the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure states that: “The criminal investigation officer shall immediately hear the statements of the arrested suspect who, if he fails to establish his innocence, shall be brought before the office of the competent public prosecutor within 24 hours. The office of the public prosecutor shall question him within 24 hours, after which it shall order either his remand in custody or his release”.
Article 40 of the same code states that: “No one shall be arrested or detained except by order of the legally competent authorities. Any person who is arrested or detained shall be treated in a manner conducive to the preservation of his human dignity and shall not be subjected to physical or mental harm”.
Second: The centers where they were detained were as they stated during public prosecution investigations inhumane, and they were subjected to emotional and physical stress there. In addition, the centers are not supervised by the public prosecution and are not specified in the Prison Regulation Law or its amendments.
Second: The detainment of arrested individuals in unofficial detention centers which fall under no judicial supervision.
Article 41 of the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure states that: “No person shall be detained except in designated prisons. No warden shall accept any person without an order signed by the designated authority which is the general prosecution, and they are not to be detained beyond the time period specified in the order.”
Article 42 of the same code states that: “Members of the Department of Public Prosecutions and presidents and vice-presidents of courts of first instance shall be empowered to inspect the public and central prisons situated within their areas of jurisdiction in order to ascertain that no one is being detained unlawfully. They shall have the right to examine prison records and arrest and detention orders, take copies thereof, contact any detainee and hear any complaint that he might wish to submit to them. The prison governors and staff shall provide them with any assistance needed to obtain the information that they request”
Article 1 bis of the Prisons Regulation Act No. 396 of 1956 states that: “Any person who is detained, arrested, taken into custody or deprived of his freedom in any other way shall be committed to one of the prisons indicated in the previous article or in one of the places specified by a decision of the Minister of Interior and in respect of which all the provisions of the law apply, provided that the right to their access as stipulated in Article 85 shall be accorded to the Public Prosecutor or the person he deputizes from among the staff of the Public Prosecution with a rank not below that of Chief Prosecutor.”
Third: The prosecution deliberately prevents the defendants’ attorneys from accessing investigation reports and the evidence the prosecution uses as a basis for detaining the defendants so the attorneys could refute or comment on them during their defense
The defendant Nevin Aiad Mohamed had no attorney present with her, and the investigative body did not allow her to contact her family and attorney, and instead only used the repetitive preamble in which it is stated that it sent a representative to the base of the Bar Association and found it closed, while the defendant interrogations take place between one and three in the evening which is a time in which a large number of lawyers are present in the Association which is considered to be a circumvention by the prosecution of the defendant’s rights to a lawyer with her during interrogations as dictated by the constitution and the law.
Article 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that: “The lawyer shall be given permission to examine the case file on the day prior to the interrogation or the confrontation unless the judge decides otherwise. In no case may the accused persons be separated from their lawyer who shall be present during the questioning.”
The investigative body violated the simplest rules regarding this issue, as it did not allow the defendant to contact her family and attorney, and instead only used the repetitive preamble in which it is stated that it sent a representative to the base of the Bar Association and found it closed, while the defendant interrogations take place between one and three in the evening which is a time in which a large number of lawyers are present in the Association which is considered to be a circumvention by the prosecution of the defendant’s rights to a lawyer with her during interrogations as dictated by the constitution and the law.
Article 124 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that: “In cases of felonies and misdemeanors which are punishable by prison, no investigator may interrogate a suspect or confront said suspect with other suspects or witnesses unless their lawyer is summoned, except in cases of flagrante delicto and urgency out of fear of loss of evidence. The suspect shall state the name of the lawyer thereof in a report written at the court registry or to the warden of the prison, or to the investigator. The lawyer may also do so himself. If the suspect has no lawyer or their lawyer does not show up after being summoned, the investigator is to assign the suspect a lawyer and the lawyer is to document in the report their objections, requests or notes.”
The Egyptian legislator guaranteed all defendants or victims’ right to an attorney, as well as a defendant’s right to choose their attorney, and no authority has the power to intervene regarding that choice, therefore, if a defendant chooses an attorney, states their name, and notifies the investigator, the investigative body must comply with the defendant’s request. The right to an attorney also is not related to a certain stage of prosecution, it rather starts at the evidence collection process, through the initial interrogations, ending with the final interrogations conducted by the prosecution, which is the interrogation on which the whole investigation and prosecution process depend.
The legislator excluded two cases from the obligation to have an attorney present with the defendant during initial interrogations, which are flagrante delicto and urgency out of fear of loss of evidence, however, those two cases cannot be used as cause in this case for multiple reasons:
1- The defendant was arrested before she was brought before the public prosecution, therefore she was not caught in flagrante delicto, she was rather arrested based on information and investigations followed by the prosecution allowing the investigators to arrest her. Hence, her arrest was in no way the case of flagrante delicto dictated by the legislator as a case where the investigation authority is to proceed with interrogations at once in the absence of an attorney.
2- The defendant was arrested based on investigations in the possession of the investigator, therefore, it is information that cannot be lost and there is no fear of it changing with time or losing its traces, requiring urgency in starting interrogations in the absence of an attorney. Consequently, the investigation authority cannot use the two cases that allow starting interrogations in the absence of an attorney with the defendant as an excuse, alternatively, the investigator should have assigned an attorney to be present with the defendant and should have allowed her to contact her family.
What was presented shows how the interrogating authorities dealt with the defendants and ignored their statements during the interrogations on their unlawful detention for varying and extended periods of time. It also shows how they dealt with what the defendants faced during these periods of abuse by violating the Egyptian Constitution, the Code of Criminal Justice, and the safeguards for initial investigations.
ISIS-affiliate group, Sinai Province, abuses
Extrajudicial murder in Bir al-Abd
The foundation team monitored the extrajudicial murder of a civilian in Bir al-Abd that took place last February, but the details of the incident became clear to the foundation in March 2022 when the foundation met with an eyewitness and spoke with one of the victim’s relatives.
The foundation documented on 13 February 2022 ISIS sharing a video on Twitter through affiliates, plus sharing a report in the group’s al-Nabaa weekly magazine, issue number 325, stating that Sinai Province group members killed Abdulaal Mohamed Said Hamouda, 40, from Badary town, Asyut, calming that he cooperated with the military, about two months after he was abducted by the group.
Hamouda admitted in the video posted by ISIS that a man came to the farm where the victim worked more than once and asked for some items which Hamouda provided. When Hamouda learned the man’s identity and that he was a Sinai Province militant, Hamouda captured him, tied him up, put him in the car, and delivered him to a military checkpoint in Takadum village.
For more details on what happened, the Sinai Foundation team met with Abdulaal’s sister, who told us:
Abdulaal was 40 years old, and he worked in judge Khaled al-Zanaty’s farm near Bir al-Abd. About 6 months ago, two men on motorbikes went to the farm and asked him for things like food, water, and clothes. Abdulaal was not suspicious of them and brought them the things they asked for, which they took and left. Abdulaal’s friend at the farm told him that those men were terrorists, so he decided to notify the authorities and went to the police station and reported what had happened. At the station, he was asked what the men looked like, whether they had a car or not, and many more such questions. The police did not end up helping him and did not send officers for example to be at the farm to deal with the terrorists when they went back, and Abdulaal did not have a weapon at the farm. The two terrorists returned to the farm around three weeks later, Abdulaal and his friend decided not to cooperate with them and to turn them in to the authorities, and they did manage to catch one of the two men while the other escaped, and they took him to the Takadum police station. We were scared for him, but some time went by, and nothing happened, and Abdulaal reassured us and went home at the end of every week to visit his sisters who lived in Sinai. About a month after the incident, Abdulaal was abducted and we did not know about it then, no one notified us. Two days later, his friend called us and told us that around 10 armed men drove to the farm and abducted Abdulaal, and we did not know anything about him for two months.
No one in the government protected or helped him. He caught the terrorist and turned him in, and everyone knows what happens to people who help the military, so why didn’t the military and the police offer him protection? How is it a judge’s farm and terrorists go there?
They did not send security guards to the farm or anything. They did not even bother to call us and tell us what happened until his friend called us, we would not have known about it otherwise. No one asked or looked for him for two months till we learned they had killed him. I could not watch the video, and we did not even receive his body.
What’s worse is, when my siblings who live in Cairo learned of what happened, they tried to travel to Sinai to console our sisters who live there, but the military refused to let them into Sinai and told them to go back because they would be in danger. When Abdulaal was abducted, we called the police and the officer told us not to worry and that he will return, but we shouldn’t talk about it or write anything on the internet. We did not talk, and we hid everything, then the officer stopped talking to us or replying to us and letting us know how things were going. Now, after he was killed and everyone has seen the video, we still cannot even get a death certificate for him. Abdulaal did not do anything wrong, my Allah have mercy on his soul. I wish I could have his body, I do not even know where they buried him.
Most notable incidents that took place in March 2022
March with which the first quarter of the year ended witnessed important incidents taking place in various parts of North Sinai. The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights’ field team documented the most notable incidents that took place during March, where 5 Egyptian military soldiers were killed, in addition to the expansion of the activity of pro-military tribal groups tracking the remainder of ISIS in the south of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed.
The team also documented the abduction of a civilian by ISIS members in Sheikh Zuwayed, the civilian being later released. Two ISIS members being killed by pro-military tribal members was also documented by the team, as well as the murder and injury of a number of armed pro-military tribal group members due to being targeted while fighting ISIS in southern Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed.
The incidents started in the first week of March when 5 military soldiers were killed in various attacks in Sheikh Zuwayed and Rafah in North Sinai; a first lieutenant, a Non-commissioned officer, and three soldiers. According to the foundation, they are:
Soldier Yussef Himdan Mulazim Ibrahim, killed on 8 March 2022.
First lieutenant Mohamed Mansour, killed on 10 March 2022.
Soldier Mohamed Hany al-Shahat Mohamed Hassan, killed on 12 March 2022.
Raqib Mohamed Abdulfattah al-Marakby, killed on 29 March 2022.
Soldier Ammar Ahmed Shahin, killed on 30 March 2022.
During the second half of the month, a group calling itself “Abnaa Mujahidy Sinaa/The Sons of Sinai Warriors”, which is among groups supported by the military, stated that its members targeted a “terrorist den” in Karam al-Qawadis area in southern Sheikh Zuwayed, which led to the death of two ISIS members. The group also announced capturing 3 women and 5 children, after interrogation, the women turned out to have been born in Alexandria and are married to ISIS members.
On the other side, on Sunday evening, 20 March, ISIS militants abducted a farmer from Sheikh Zuwayed called “Mahmoud Walid Quaidir”, while two of his brothers managed to escape. Two days after the abduction, Mahmoud was released on the morning of 22 March 2022 after being interrogated about claims of him cooperating with the military.
On the morning of Monday, 21 March, the pro-military Abnaa Mujahidy Sinaa group announced the death of one of its members, Abdulsalam Ali Salama Abu-Inqiz and the injury of another called Hassan Himdan al-Etris Abu-Inqiz due to the explosion of an explosive device.
On the morning if the next day, 22 March, multiple social media accounts announced the death of Anas Mousa al-Diesy and Hassan Adil Munir Shibl while fighting alongside the pro-military Abnaa Mujahidy Sinaa group. On the evening of the same day, Sinai armed pro-military tribal groups’ social media pages announced the death of Abdullah Azmy al-Maniy, from al-Sawarka tribe, while fighting in southern Rafah with Sinai Tribal Union members.
As part of their campaign to control the areas under ISIS’s control, the pro-military Sinai Tribal Union group announced on the evening of 24 March in a short post on the group’s social media accounts the death of five of its militants to a mine explosion, without mentioning any other details. Afterwards, it was revealed that an explosive device exploded in pro-military Sinai Tribal Union group militants near Shaibana in southern Rafah, killing five union fighters.
On Sunday, 27 March, ISIS social media accounts posted a video documenting the slaughter of a citizen from al-Sawarka tribe called Ahmed Moussa Farrag by group members, claiming that he cooperated with the military. The video came about a year after Ahmed Farrag’s abduction from his house in Tawil area in Arish.
On Monday, 28 March, the Abnaa Mujahidy Sinaa group announced on its Facebook page the surrender of an ISIS member in Mizaalif area in southern Rafah, and shared photos before turning him over to the military.
And finally, before the end of the month, the electrical engineering sector in Sheikh Zuwayed, with the help of Abnaa Mujahidy Sinaa militants, fixed the power lines in southern Sheikh Zuwayed and southwestern Rafah, for the first time in 7 years, in preparation for the return of the citizens of the area between Salah al-Din Kilo 21 village and Barth area in southern Rafah after ISIS members withdrew from those areas which were previously under its power.