The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) issued a new report on Tuesday, asserting that the state has used extended pretrial detention as a tool for political punishment after administrative detention under Egypt’s emergency law was made unconstitutional in 2013.
The report documents the detention of 1464 people in four governorates who are still being held in pretrial detention beyond the legally mandated two-year limit. The total number of people in this situation far exceeds those EIPR was able to document, the report added.
Egypt’s Penal Code contains two seemingly contradictory articles concerning pretrial detention. Article 143 clearly states that pretrial detention should in all cases not exceed two-thirds of the mandated prison sentence, which is two years for the death penalty and life sentences.
EIPR urged the prime minister, parliamentary speaker and the president to pressure the constitutional court to settle the legal debate around pretrial detention, which has resulted in various interpretations and the selective use of the law by the courts, the organization asserted.
Deposed President Hosni Mubarak was released under this law in April 2013 after he exceeded his two-year pretrial detention period.
Other courts, however, have used Article 380 of the Penal Code to argue that they have complete liberty to extend pretrial detention indefinitely. The article gives criminal courts the right to detain defendants pending trial without specifying limitations.
EIPR argues that Article 143 was amended in 2006, and should therefore supersede Article 380, which was issued in 1950. Judges should have the power to detain defendants pending trial, as stated in Article 380, but within the limits stated in Article 143, the rights organization added.
EIPR’s report also highlights Article 280 of the Penal Code, which makes pretrial detention illegal in several cases, including if the investigative authority deems there wasn’t enough evidence to justify it.
Among the cases where detainees have exceeded the two year pre-trial detention limit is the Rabea dispersal case, in which 343 people, including photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan) has spent over 1000 days in jail on charges relating to the violent dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in Rabea al-Adaweya Square in August 2013.