'There are no forced disappearances in Egypt,' says deputy interior minister

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 17 May 2016

A senior interior ministry official insisted in a meeting with MPs Tuesday that there are no forced disappearances in Egypt

Egypt's deputy interior minister Ali Abdel-Mola (Al-Ahram)

Egypt's deputy interior minister Ali Abdel-Mola denied on Tuesday allegations that there are any cases of forced disappearances committed by authorities in Egypt.

Abdel-Mola disclosed that a report issued by the ministry on "the crime of forced disappearances in Egypt" – or citizens who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the last few years – was submitted to parliament's human rights committee on Tuesday.

The report, said Abdel-Mola, shows that "there is no such thing as the crime of forced disappearances in Egypt."

Abdel-Mola, who addressed the human rights committee on Monday, told journalists after the meeting that the report states that "the interior ministry has received a report from the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) stating that 331 citizens have been reported involuntarily disappeared in recent years."

Abdel-Mola said that "the interior ministry's report has so far revealed that 140 cases [involve individuals] still in custody pending trials, nine have fled the country, 32 were released, and eight had never disappeared and currently have a known place of residence."

He also indicated that one person was deported to Palestine, five attempted to migrate to Italy by sea, and two fled their homes after they were involved in illegitimate affairs.

He added that "the report shows that the ministry is still trying to get information about eight individuals who disappeared under mysterious circumstances."

Abdel-Mola said he hopes that "the ministry's detailed report about the so-called phenomenon of forced disappearances in Egypt will be thoroughly reviewed by parliament's human rights committee."

"We are ready to answer any questions in this respect, but all I want to emphasise is that there are no [victims of] forced disappearances in Egyptian prisons," he said.

Journalists Syndicate crisis

When asked about the ministry’s ongoing crisis with the country’s press syndicate, Abdel-Mola said "the legal dispute between the interior ministry and the press syndicate should be left for judicial authorities to settle."

The press syndicate has accused the interior ministry of committing a violation by raiding its headquarters in downtown Cairo on 1 May to arrest two journalists, though the ministry insists that it was simply implementing an order by the prosecution.

"Nobody should interfere in this crisis, as it is now left up to the judiciary to give its final say on it," said Abdel-Mola.

Abdel-Mola also indicated that new amendments to the law regulating the police will make "respect of human rights" a main cornerstone of the interior ministry's policies.

"We already respect human rights, but with the promulgation of the new amendments of the police law, this respect will be more effective," said Abdel-Mola.

He added that "a new channel was opened today between the interior ministry and parliament's human rights committee."

"The objective of this channel is to make it much easier for MPs to ask questions about security conditions and receive prompt answers," said Abdel-Mola.

The chairman of the human rights committee Anwar El-Sadat told reporters that "the meeting with Abdel-Mola saw a review of many of the complaints the committee has received about the performance of the interior ministry."

"Although this meeting should be viewed as a positive step, we will still hope that interior minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar will come to the committee to respond to complaints of citizens," said El-Sadat.

El-Sadat said minister Abdel-Ghaffar apologised for not attending today's meeting with the committee as he was accompanying President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on his visit to Assiut governorate.

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