In October 2008 I wrote about Gihan Ibrahim Abdelhamid, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience in Egypt. Below is an e-mail I received giving an update.
From: Augusta, GA, USA Amnesty International Member
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 11:33 PM
Subject: Our Egyptian Prisoner of Conscience
Please read the response below regarding an inquiry I made to the US Co-Group leader on Egypt. Generally these AI volunteers are experts in a particular area of the world and help the International Secretariat (and local groups) with information related to their area of expertise.
I don’t remember the year that we first started writing on behalf of our Egyptian prisoner of conscience for whom we have never had any word from anyone in authority or from her.
In our next mailing, I think we should write one more letter to her (and perhaps have the reverse side of the letter in Arabic – can you translate for us Ayman?) and then not send any more.
For YEARS neither the International Secretariat nor the Co-Group leader for Egypt has been able to give us any information including whether or not Gihan is still in prison, and even now, there is no way to find out…unless you Ayman might have some ideas.
If so, I have a file with the little information we had on her.
————— Forwarded message —————
From: Geoffrey Mock <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Subject: Egypt administrative detainees
Hi. It’s Geoffrey Mock from Amnesty. AI has released today a large new report on Egypt, focusing on administrative detainees. While your prisoner is not specifically mentioned, it does give you some valuable information
Here is a key graf:
Government officials repeatedly told Amnesty International during meetings that the total number of administrative detainees was less than 800, although no details were ever provided, such as a list of the names of those detained. National and international human rights organizations, however, estimated the number to have been between 6,000 and 10,000 at most points in recent years. In June last year, shortly after the adoption of the amendments to the Emergency Law, the authorities announced that some 400 detainees had been released. However, many others continued to be held without there being any clear indication of the grounds on which the Interior Ministry had concluded that they were a “danger to public security and order”. Following the fall of President Mubarak and calls from civil society and relatives of detainees, a newly-installed Interior Minister announced on 12 March 2011 that 1,659 administrative detainees had been released since early February.4 However, he did not disclose how many people remained held in administrative detention and for what reasons, maintaining the long-standing official policy of withholding such information about the numbers, identities, places of detention and length of time that such detainees have been locked up without charge or trial and without any effective means of obtaining remedy.
This led the families of those who continued to be detained to stage further protests outside the offices of the Public Prosecutor, the Interior Ministry, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, demanding the release of their relatives, especially as many of them had obtained court decisions ordering their release but continued to be held. More administrative detainees were subsequently released, thus reportedly closing the file of long-term recurrent administrative detention.5
Even though administrative detainees were not charged, let alone tried and convicted, they were treated like sentenced prisoners once in jail. Some were tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Some were transferred to remote prisons far from their families, including as punishment. Some were denied adequate medical care.
Following their release, many were repeatedly summoned to appear before officers of the now-dissolved SSI responsible for the district where they live, making it impossible for them to rebuild their lives. After years in detention, many have struggled to find paid work or reintegrate into their communities.
I’m sorry we’re not able to give more information, and again, I leave it up to you as to what your group wants to do. I will say it is unlikely that the AI International Secretariat will ever get official information about Gihan’s situation.
Please let me know if you have any questions