Rights organisations still search for missing and detained

Menna Taher, Monday 14 Feb 2011

Even with former president Mubarak’s resignation last Friday, there are still many protesters and political prisoners missing and detained

Tahrir Square
An opposition supporter gestures towards Egyptian military police from a road in Tahrir Square in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

There are currently 32 human rights institutions, working with the Front To Defend Egyptian Protestors, who are searching for the detainees and trying to get them released.  These include the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, where the front is located.

“Many of the detainees were released last Friday,” says Ramy Raouf, one of the front's human rights activists, “Yet there are still many more detained.”

As for the numbers, Raoof says that it is difficult to estimate. “I’m sure we don’t know all the numbers,” says Raoof “We have documented 300 cases of death so far, but there are many more that we don’t know of.”

Raoof says that the army’s role has been inconsistent; While the army has detained and tortured many, according to Raoof, some soldiers were helpful in locating the missing.

“When the parents or the friends of the missing person contact us we take the person’s full name and ID number and then we search in police stations, hospitals, State Security Intelligence, and if all fails we contact the general prosecutor,” Raoof continues “Activists are easier to release than other individuals.”

According to Essam Eshra, who has been detained from 28 January till 11 February at the military prison on the Suez road, there were around 1500 to 2000 detained, but last Friday when Mubarak stepped down from presidency there were around 750 released.

“They let us out without shoes or personal belongings. I was lucky I had my ID with me but many others didn’t,” Eshra says “I went to retrieve my belongings- a camera and a wallet with a large amount of money- but I couldn’t get them back. They were not letting anyone in.”

Eshra says that the soldier at the gate had about 7 or 8 papers with him, each including 40 names of people still detained.

“When I first got detained they said I was working for foreign elements and confiscated my camera, but after interrogations I was only charged with defying the curfew,” Eshra says, “Those who were pressed with more charges are the ones still detained. Thugs and the prisoners who were released by the Interior Ministry after 28 January are also detained there.”

Another source looking for a family member, and who chose to remain anonymous, says that in the search she encountered someone who had been released that told her that there were many detainees whose names were not included in the military's official lists.

“They detained many people and didn’t have time to document all the names,” the source says, “The person told me that there were thousands in the military prison during his detention and many slept in buses and cars.”

The source adds that they searched hospitals and morgues four times yet they didn’t find him. “We also called high ranking officials to help us find him but there was no news related to him,” she continues, “We only got a call from someone who got released from detention, who said he saw him in the prison, yet his name was not on their list.”

On the blog of the Front to Defend Egyptian Protestors there are three lists. One of those who have died, another of those who are injured and a third one for the missing and detained. The list of detainees currently has 74 names, including those who have been released. The list includes a column next to the names that states whether the person is missing, detained or found. Many of the boxes in that column are empty. “The list is updated regularly,” Raoof says, “And we are also collecting eyewitnesses to file cases against those in charge.”

There are currently 27 lawyers working for the front from Cairo, and a few more from other governorates such as Sharqeya, Qalyoubia, Qena, Beheira and Kafr El Sheikh. Their contact numbers can be found on the front's blog along with three hotlines.

Aside from the front there is also a group of youth that is helping to locate the missing and offering donations and free medical services to all the injured. They can be reached at 24750070 or 0126956822.

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