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MRG condemns the detention of Nubians in Aswan, Egypt

5 October 2017

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) strongly criticises the continued detention of 25 Nubian activists in Aswan, Egypt, for demanding the implementation of a constitutional provision regarding the Nubian community’s return to their ancestral land. They have been in custody pending investigations since then. MRG also denounces the attack of security forces on the court attendees that took place on 3 October 2017 and the further detention of at least seven Nubians.

On 3 September 2017, 24 protesters, listed below, who are members of the Nubian indigenous people were attacked and arrested by security force, in Aswan, Egypt. The protest that was meant to walk Corniche street in Aswan, demanded the implementation of Article 263 of Egyptian Constitution which stipulates that the state should return the residents of Nubia to their original territories located around Lake Nasser.

This constitutional provision represents a right that Nubians have long demanded. However, subsequent presidential decree 444/2014 has substantially undermined this right, as it designated 16 areas belonging to Nubian villages as border-military zones effectively banning civilian residence in these areas.

On 9 September, the security forces arrested a 25th person, as he was visiting the other detainees in prison. These detainees are facing charges including protesting without a license, road-blocking, chanting anti-government slogans and receiving funding. Under these charges, the detainees, if convicted, can face sentences of several years in prison.

The 25 detainees remain in custody pending investigation in the case. The procedures of the pretrial detention have involved numerous irregularities. On 13 September, 19 September and 3 October the investigative judge moved from the Aswan Court to the Shalal central security camp, where the detainees are being held. Lawyers in the case were not informed beforehand, nor were reasons given for the change of location – which should require a decision from the Minster of Justice as per Egyptian law. If such a decision has not been issued, this poses serious questions on the autonomy of the investigative judge.

Furthermore, MRG understands that the detainees have not yet been recalled for investigation. This further raises the question of whether it is necessary for the authorities to continue holding the detainees pending investigation if no interviews or other investigations have been conducted after a month of detention. This leads MRG to believe that the pre-trial detention itself has become a form of punishment. The detainees have expressed their dismay in a letter released from their place of detention, that they are facing ‘persecution on an ethnic basis.’

On 3 October, security forces used tear gas in front of Aswan Court in order to disperse family members and colleagues of the detainees who expressed their anger and dismay at the decision of the court to extend the pre-trial detention by 15 more days. At least a further seven Nubians were detained.

MRG expresses its deep concern about the crackdown on Nubian activists in Egypt and the serious undermining of indigenous and minority rights.  It demands that the Egyptian authorities immediately release all of the Nubian detainees and end all forms of discrimination and violence against indigenous and minority communities.

List of detainees:

1 – Mohammed Saleh Sorour

2 – Mohammed Azmi Mohammed Ahmed

3- Munir Bashir Mohammed

4- Mohammed Mohammed Khaled Abdel-Moneim

5 – Tamer Sulaiman Taha

6 – Safwat Suleiman Hassan

7- Hamdi Awad Mahmoud

8 – Miyasra Abdul Aziz Mohammed Ali

9 – Walid Fouad Abdeen

10 – Mohammed Bahloul Mohammed

11 – Zakaria Rabee Mohammed

12 – Tarek Jamal al-Din Khalil

13 – Abdul Qader Harbi Mohiuddin Mohammed

14 – Bakri Mohammed Abdul Latif Karrar

15 – Yahia Mohammed Abdul Khalek Solomon

16 – Magdy Farouk Ahmed Mohammed

17 – Ahmed Mohamed Abdel Malik

18 – Hamza Mohammed Ahmed

19 – Hisham Mohammed Abdul-Warith

20 – Saleh Abdul-Latif Saleh

21- Mohsen Rabee Saad Eddin

22 – Ammar Mohamed Refaat

23 – Mohammed Yousef Mohammed

24 – Mostafa Kamel Mohamed Taha

25 – Fahd Hasan Awad

Detainees since 3 October 2017:

1- Ismael Abdel Qader

2- Alaa Mohammed Abass

3- Gaber Awad Tod

4 – Umar Saleh

5- Mohammed Fathi Gamal

6 – Hajaj Fathi Gamal

7- Nuri Abdel Raoof Bahr Ibrahim