Egypt’s High Administrative Court ruled on Monday that the ministry of interior must disclose the whereabouts and location of citizens reported missing.
The court made the ruling in a case dating back to the disappearance and alleged police detention of a doctor in Upper Egypt in 2014.
The court said, in the first ruling of its kind, that the interior ministry must "investigate and reveal the whereabouts of any citizen, alive or dead, in missing persons cases."
“The most important duty of the Ministry of the Interior is the preservation of citizens' lives and the protection of their persons and properties from any attack," the court said, adding that "the interior ministry and all state authorities [should perform these duties] within the law, or risk compromising the legitimacy of their actions."
In April 2014, following the disappearance of Asmaa Khalaf, a female resident doctor at Assiut University Hospital, her family accused police of detaining her without notification.
The police maintain that they have no information about the whereabouts of Khalaf, who is still missing.
Following the court's verdict, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation, issued a statement calling on the ministry to abide by the court's verdict and publically reveal the names of forcibly disappeared persons.
Despite reports by a number of Egyptian rights groups – including the semi-governmental National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) – maintaining the existence of forced disappearances, Egypt's interior ministry has repeatedly denied involvement in the practice.
Interior ministry officials have said that some people who are reported missing join terrorist organisations and are killed as a result, while others drown at sea after boarding migrant ships.