Amnesty slams Egypt's 'forced disappearance' of family with toddler

Amnesty slams Egypt's 'forced disappearance' of family with toddler
3 min read
05 March, 2021
Amnesty International has called for the release of an Egyptian couple who were detained with their infant son on terrorism charges and have not been seen for two years.
Al-Baraa Abu el-Naga was one year old when he was forcibly disappeared [Amnesty]
Amnesty International on Thursday demanded that Egyptian authorities conduct “prompt, effective and independent investigations” into the forced disappearance of a couple and their infant child.

On 9 March 2019, Egyptian National Security Agency (NSA) officers seized university teacher Manar Adel Abu el-Naga, 27, her husband, Omar Abdelhamid Abu el-Naga, 27, and their one-year-old baby boy, al-Baraa, from their home.

Since then, their distraught relatives and lawyers have been trying desperately to find them. Their whereabouts have not been disclosed, despite a July 2019 administrative court ruling ordering the Interior Ministry to reveal their location.

The ministry has repeatedly denied having them in its custody.

The couple’s son, al-Baraa, now nearly three, was handed over to Manar’s relatives soon after his parents were detained. He has now not seen them in nearly two years. 

Individuals who has met the child said that he is experiencing stark mental agony and separation anxiety and is in urgent need of mental and physical rehabilitation.

He had not been bathed for a long time and repeatedly said, “I want to go back to the room,” referring to the room where he had been held captive. 

On his Facebook page, the toddler’s uncle described the devastating impact of his enforced disappearance on al-Baraa’s mental health: "A child who does not know his relatives and is afraid of them… he is only used to seeing people in uniform."

On 20 February 2021, Manar stood before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), a special branch of the public prosecution responsible for investigating national security offences, and was questioned about her “membership in a terrorist group” and "funding a terrorist group.”

She vehemently denied the accusations.

"The Egyptian authorities have a long, grim record of forcibly disappearing and torturing people they consider government opponents or critics," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"However, seizing a young mother with her one-year-old baby and confining them in a room for 23 months outside the protection of the law and with no contact with the outside world show that their ongoing campaign to stamp out dissent and instil fear has reached a new level of brutality,” he added.

Luther stated that Egypt was in gross violation of human rights conventions it had agreed to.

“These unconscionable acts of cruelty violate Egypt’s human rights obligations, including the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearances, and constitute crimes under international law,” he said.

Luther urged for a “urgent, independent and effective investigations into these crimes with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in a fair trial and ensuring full reparation for the victims.”

Amnesty accused Egyptian security forces of falsifying Manar's arrest date and pressuring her to falsely confess that she was arrested two days before her latest appearance in front of the SSSP.

It said that it had documented previous cases where this had happened.

Manar was taken from her place of captivity and accompanied by policemen directly to the prosecutor, according to Amnesty. A lawyer present at the SSSP premises attended her questioning but was not permitted to consult with her or examine her case file, meaning she had no fair legal representation.

A prosecutor ordered that she be detained for 15 days for further investigations. According to lawyers and other informed sources, the case against her relies exclusively on secret NSA investigations and two handwritten notes that she has denies writing.

Manar was transferred to al-Qanater women’s prison and has not had any contact with her family or the outside world since then.

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