Challenge to Mubarak-Era Abuse Continues at African Commission

CAIRO—The Open Society Justice Initiative and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) have urged Africa’s top human rights body to respond to the torture and prolonged detention of a critic of the Mubarak government in Egypt.

Mohammed Abderrahim El-Sharkawi, now aged 61, spent almost 16 years in detention without charge or trial in Egypt. He was released in March, as the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces freed hundreds of political prisoners after the resignation of former president Mubarak.

The two groups have filed an application for admissibility for El-Sharkawi's claim for redress for his treatment at the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. They filed an original complaint at the commission late last year.

El-Sharkawi, who was repeatedly tortured during his time in prison, has not received any form of restitution or apology for his treatment from the Egyptian government.

He was initially detained under a prosecutor’s order in 1995. The prosecutor ordered his release in 1996, but the Egyptian Ministry of Interior ignored the order and instead placed him in administrative detention under the Emergency Law. El Sharkawi obtained at least 15 court orders mandating his release. Each time, the Ministry of Interior issued a new detention order.

Amrit Singh, senior legal officer with the Justice Initiative, said: “The African Commission must hold Egypt accountable for the flagrant violation of his rights. It must ensure that the inhumane and lawless system of administrative detention associated with Egypt’s Emergency Law does not continue.”

Egypt’s State of Emergency was used to justify the imprisonment of thousands of people without due process since coming into force in 1981 following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. It remains on the statutes, although the military government has pledged to rescind it without specifying a timeline.

The complaint brought to the Commission alleges violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Egypt ratified in 1984.

Established by the African Charter, the African Commission is charged with ensuring the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights throughout the African continent.