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UN rights experts dismayed by arrest of Egyptian lawyer Ebrahim Metwally en route to meet them

GENEVA (15 September 2017) – Two United Nations human rights experts have expressed grave concern about the arrest of lawyer and human rights defender Ebrahim Metwally, who was captured at Cairo airport on 10 September while boarding a plane to Switzerland.

Mr. Metwally, co-ordinator of the Association of the Families of the Disappeared, is also the father of Amr Ebrahim Abdelmonem, who has been missing since he was arrested in July 2013.

“It is extremely preoccupying that Mr. Metwally was arrested while taking a flight to Geneva, where he was due to meet United Nations human rights experts specialized in enforced disappearances, to discuss his son’s case and other disappearances in Egypt,” said Houria Es-Slami, Chair of the UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The experts noted that Mr. Metwally’s whereabouts were not known between his deprivation of liberty on 10 September and the confirmation of his arrest on 12 September.

“The fact that Mr. Metwally was arrested while en route to meet the Working Group suggests that this is an act of reprisal for his cooperation with a United Nations human rights mechanism, as well as a deliberate obstruction of his legitimate human rights activity to seek to establish the fate and whereabouts of his son and other disappeared people in Egypt”.

“We call on the Egyptian authorities, with whom we have been in contact, to immediately provide us with all relevant information concerning his arrest and detention, to fully ensure Mr. Metwally’s right to physical and psychological integrity as well as to due process” they added, expressing serious concern at allegations of torture during the first two days of his deprivation of liberty. 

Ms. Es-Slami also noted that the Working Group is very concerned about enforced disappearances in Egypt, as highlighted in the latest annual report presented few days ago to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The Government of Egypt regularly engages with us, including by providing information which has allowed us to clarify a large number of cases. However, we continue to transmit to Egypt an unacceptably high number of new cases under the urgent procedure,” she emphasized. 

The experts’ statement has been endorsed by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada); other members are Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea), Mr. Luciano Hazan (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).

Mr. Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Mr. Forst has extensive experience on human rights issues and particularly on the situation of human rights defenders. In particular, he was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. He is a former UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Haiti.

The Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For more information and media requests, please contact Ugo Cedrangolo (+41 22 917 9286 / ucedrangolo@ohchr.org) or write to wgeid@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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