How are things in…? is the question everyone living elsewhere is asked regularly. As habituation goes, initially lots seems worth reporting in response, but after a while, it all seems so much more of the same. One way of dealing with it is to share the occasional titbit that manages to crash the mental firewall. The Arabist is my favourite source of those. Anyone interested in what goes on in the Arab world and especially Egypt should subscribe! This recent post by Ursula Lindsey, pretty much sums it up for me:
From the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies:
EGYPT SECURITY FORCES RAID LEADING HUMAN RIGHT ORGANIZATION, HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS ARRESTED AND HELD INCOMMUNICADO
More than 60 security and police officers stormed the office of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) at approximately midnight on 18 December, 2013. According to eye witnesses some of the officers belonged to Azbakeya and Abdin police stations and some belonged to the Homeland Security Agency (formerly known as the National Security Agency).
The officers were heavily armed and held non-armed human rights defenders working at the ECESR at gunpoint using automatic machine guns. When the ECESR’s lawyer asked the police officers to provide them with a search/arrest warrant one of the officers, believed to belong to homeland security slapped him. Another police officer tried to stop the homeland security officer from beating the ECESR employee at which point the homeland security officer also beat the police officer and tore his clothes.
The police confiscated three laptops and a computer monitor within the office. They then arrested and blindfolded the ECESR lawyer, another ECESR employee and four volunteers. They were then put into a car and taken to an unidentified location. They were forced to stay blindfolded for the duration of their detention. While being dragged to the car all six defenders were beaten and slapped despite not resisting.
Lawyers from Egyptian human rights NGOs requested information on the whereabouts of the six defenders throughout the night, including at the Azbakeya and Abdin police stations, as well as at the Cairo Security Directorate. The whereabouts of the detainees were not revealed. Informal channels of information confirmed that the arrested human rights defenders were detained in an unknown Homeland Security detention facility.
The next morning (19 December) at approximately 10am, five of the six detainees were driven blindfolded again to the Abdeen police station. The police returned the laptops and the monitor back to the arrested defenders and they were released at approximately 11 am.
Mohamed Adel, a well known member of the April 6th youth movement and a volunteer with the ESCER, remains detained in an unknown location.
When the five other detainees were released they were told that they were arrested by mistake and that the main purpose of the raid was the arrest of Mohamed Adel. Adel is standing trial along with Ahmed Maher, another prominent leader of the April 6thmovement and well-known activist Ahmed Douma.
However, CIHRS believes that the intent of the government was to intimidate independent rights groups in Egypt. Moreover, the ECESR also believes the attack may be in response to the recent engagement of the ECESR on the review of Egypt at the United Nations (UN) treaty body on economic, social and cultural rights, as well as its ongoing engagement on the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of Egypt, and as such constitutes a reprisal for engagement with the UN.
It is important to note that Adel surrendered himself to the court on the day that Maher and Douma’s detention was being renewed, and the court at this time ordered his release on grounds that he did not have a standing in the case.