State Information Service (SIS) - CC
CAIRO - 14 October 2018: The State Information Service (SIS) has denounced the Human Rights Watch’s report as being biased, politicized, unprofessional and not properly documented as they conceal and distort facts.
Human Rights Watch published a report on October 11 on the alleged torture of an Egyptian-American citizen named Khalid Hassan, in which allegations of torture and enforced disappearance were made, the SIS said in response to the HRW report.
In addition to the inaccuracies in the report, it also deliberately fails to mention the facts in full, and even ignores the full presentation of the bilateral dialogue process on the case of the defendant, Khalid Hasan, between SIS and HRW, either via email or lengthy telephone calls that witnessed long and detailed discussions. Despite the fact that SIS dealt in a professional manner with previous HRW reports on allegations of torture inside Egyptian prisons, and its replies to HRW's inquiries in an effort to build confidence; HRW continued to misrepresent the facts by publishing its almost one sided reports, without fully taking into account the input the other side provides, along with the lack of documents to support their allegations, and we consider this a violation of professional basics of the preparation and publishing of reports, the SIS said.
This places our confidence in HRW in deep doubt.
The main points of the sequence of events regarding the correspondence over this topic are as follows:
1) The Correspondence
• HRW sent an e-mail to SIS on 23/9/2018 regarding the case of the defendant "Khaled Hassan" inquiring upon what allegations of enforced disappearance and torture, and added what seemed to be an ultimatum that stipulated that we should send a reply within 2 days.
• On the same day, a telephone call was made by a member of the Egypt team at HRW to SIS, to discuss some issues related to the situation.
• Based on this, HRW sent a second email on 25/9/2018 containing some details that contradict their first letter, and the same apparent warning was repeated that a reply should be sent on the same day.
• In a telephone conversation on the same day with HRW, SIS inquired about some of the content of the letters, including the circumstances of the informal questioning of the defendant, "Khalid Hassan" by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and asked the organization to obtain information available on "Hassan" in this regard, but this was ignored completely by HRW. The HRW official of the organization was informed of the Egyptian authorities’ rejection of ultimatums and short periods to answer any queries, which led to the extension of the given time frame to another week.
• Despite the fact that SIS sent a detailed written response , HRW published its report on the case of "Khalid Hassan" completely ignoring it, and even extracted some words from out of their actual context from our response , suggesting that SIS did not fully cooperate, in a clear indication of the lack of credibility and professionalism in presenting facts.
• The organization sent an e-mail hours after publishing its report which included the following: "We published our report on the situation of citizen Khalid Hassan yesterday and we have extended the space to review your response within the same report. We also posted your full response on a separate page for those who wish to see it." This is completely contrary to the truth, and even has prejudiced aims, as will be seen later.
• The report claimed that "The State Information Service, which oversees foreign correspondents in its written response to Human Rights Watch, denied Hassan was forcibly disappeared or tortured,". This is contrary to the full text of SIS's response.
2) The Text of SIS’s written response
I hope this letter finds you well.
You have brought to our attention the case of Egyptian American Citizen Khalid Ibrahim Ismail Hassan. We write you this letter to clarify some facts regarding the situation of the defendant.
1. Those who provided you with allegations that Khalid Ibrahim Ismail Hassan was detained by the National Security Agency between January 8th and May 3rd did not provide any tangible evidence to validate their claims. It’s a well-established norm that those who make such grand accusations should support them with well-founded evidence.
2. In your first letter( 23/9/2018),you stated that Khalid spent the period from 8 January to the 3rd of May between the two headquarters of the National Security Agency: in Al Mamoura in Alexandria and then in Lazoughly. In your second letter (25/9/2018), it was reported that Khaled spent eight days at the National Security headquarters in Smouha, then about a month or more at the National Security headquarters in Abbasia in Cairo and then returned to Smouha.
3. Khalid Ibrahim Ismail Hassan has been held under preventive custody under legal orders from the competent authorities namely the Military prosecution. He is being investigated for his suspected connection to Wilayet Sina’a an affiliate organization of the Islamic State terrorist group. This terrorist group has systematically targeted civilians, state officials, foreign tourists and places of worship on multiple occasions leading to the death of hundreds of civilians that’s in addition to repeated deadly terrorist attacks against Military and Security installations, members of the Armed Forces and the Police which left hundreds of Soldiers and Policemen dead and wounded and this subjects members of such an illegal organization to the military judiciary in accordance with article 204 of the Egyptian constitution..
4. The military prosecution ordered to place Khalid under preventive custody on 03/05/2018 after indicting him with terrorism related charges under case No. 137 in accordance with Egyptian laws and the Constitution.
5. Khalid was visited by Mrs. Sophia O'Donnell the US deputy Consul General and Mr. Khaled Ibrahim Darwish one of the US embassy personnel on the 3rd of September, 2018. This was one of 3 visits made by US embassy officials to the defendant.
6. Three lawyers attended investigation sessions with the defendant over the past few months, their names are Ahmed Nasr Ali Al Malah, Hanaa Abdel Latif and Engy Hassan. Three other lawyers defending Khalid attended his interrogation in accordance with the law on September 23rd and they were Sameh Al Nimr, Ahmed Hassaneen and Sayed Abul Ma’ati; during this session the military prosecution extended the preventive detention of the defendant in accordance with the law.
7. Regarding allegations of the torture of the defendant you are inquiring upon we would like to point out that Khalid was visited by a number of lawyers and US embassy officials none of whom made any such claims publicly and they have not conveyed any such information to the competent Egyptian authorities. Moreover, neither Khalid nor his lawyers have requested that he be examined by the Forensic Medicine Authority which is the natural legal measure that should be taken in such situations.
8. With regard to the status of the wife and her deportation from Egypt, the letters never clarified the reasons behind her deportation, even though her residency permit was valid until 2020. She did not address the authorities regarding her deportation even though Egyptian law guarantees individuals the right to resort to the judiciary in case of a decision that harms their interests and this applies to foreigners residing on Egyptian territory, which means Egyptians and foreigners have equal rights to appeal arbitrary administrative measures to the competent authorities within the country. It's clear that the wife did not use this right, which means she voluntarily gave it up, and did not even take into account international laws that allow foreigners to exhaust all local procedures of litigation within any given state in the event of harm.
9. According to your first letter, the wife left Egypt after the alleged disappearance of "Khalid" hours after the storming of their house, while the second letter said that she was deported on 24 January. There is an ambiguous and seemingly unexplained time difference of about 16 days between the two letters.
10. The first letter did not specify the identity of the limousine driver (who travelled to Syria) inquired upon by the FBI in December 2017 from “Khalid”, and the nature of the relationship between them, The SIS human rights unit said on Oct 1.
3) Refutation of the Allegations
HRW’s report published on Thursday Oct 11 is full of inaccuracies and violations of the universal standards on which such reports are drafted and based, foremost of which is not relying on completely unknown sources, presenting the facts as they are without modification, distortion or derogation, mentioning all details, as well as abiding by objectivity which necessitates addressing the subject by mentioning all opinions and facts from various sources, including the official version, and to avoid excessive interpretation.
These elements mentioned above hardly apply to the report published by HRW under the title "Egypt: Testimony on alleged torture in secret detention", in which it addressed the alleged disappearance of the Egyptian citizen, "Khalid Hassan," for the following considerations:
1. Depending on weak sources and presenting them in an unrealistic way. For example, Mohammed Sultan was mentioned as a human rights defender and a former prisoner in Egypt, which at first appears to shed some credibility on the report. But the truth is not so, since the other aspects of the source were ignored. Sultan belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) a terrorist organization and he happens to be the son of an MB leader (Salah Sultan), who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the case of "Raba’a operations room." He is in a state of enmity with the Egyptian state, which makes us consider relying upon him as a source a mixing of political elements with legal and human rights issues. Moreover relying on unnamed "independent forensic experts," to validate allegations of torture without specifying their identity, their professional affiliation, and their political background. We demand that the identity of these individuals be revealed, when they examined Khaled , whether they were affiliated with HRW and their nationalities.
2. With regard to the photographs and film material of the alleged torture of the defendant Khalid Hassan, which HRW said it has reviewed, several questions arise: What are the sources of the material in the report? Its validity? And how we can verify its credibility without presenting it formally to the national competent investigative bodies.
3. HRW’s report ignored to publish the full response sent by SIS to its previously mentioned letters they September 23rd and 25th, and selectively published excerpts to support of its alleged version of event in contrast to professional standards that require the full presentation of all facts. Especially that SIS’s 10 point reply responded to all the inquiries about the defendant Khalid Hassan.
4. Khalid Hassan faces legal charges of belonging to the ISIS affiliated terrorist organization Wilayet Sina’a, and terrorism constitutes a real threat not only to peace, security and development, but also to the basic pillars of human rights because it violates a number of its principles. The first of these is the right to life enshrined by article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its worth mentioning that this terrorist group has targeted civilians, state officials and foreign tourists on multiple occasions leading to the death of hundreds of civilians since 2013; among the group’s most infamous crimes were the Al Rawda mosque massacre in Northern Sinai which left 311 worshipers dead, the abduction and execution of civilian inhabitants of Northern Sinai after accusing them of collaborating with the authorities, Church bombings in Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta that left hundreds dead and wounded in 2016 and 2017, the killing and intimidation of Christian civilians and sabotage of Christian property in Northern Sinai in an attempt to forcefully displace them from the peninsula, the assassination of 3 judges in May 2015 and the downing of the Russian airliner Metrojet Flight 9268 leaving 224 mostly Russian tourists dead in October 2015. Wilayet Sina’a also routinely carries out deadly terrorist attacks against the Egyptian Armed Forces and military installations leaving hundreds of Soldiers and Policemen dead and wounded.
5. With regard to the issue of military trials of civilians, according to Article 204 of the Egyptian Constitution, the military judiciary is exclusively competent to adjudicate all crimes related to the armed forces, its officers and personnel and what falls in the military’s jurisdiction. It should be noted here that this is the exception, not the rule, and it has constitutional and legal controls. Article 204 of the Constitution specifically defines cases that allow the prosecution of civilians before military courts, and the case of Khalid Hassan falls within their scope. In Egypt, as in all other countries in the world, the people are the primary source of legitimacy. The current constitution was approved by nearly 20 million voters by a free and fair referendum in January 2014 observed by several independent international, Arab and Egyptian human rights organizations so it is futile to question the legitimacy of the constitutional article. To say that international law has categorically prohibited the trial of civilians before military courts is merely a reading of international human rights law and not a given. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) did not categorically prohibit the trail of civilian before military courts, and the 2014 report of the UN Working Group on the Protection of Human Rights while Combating Terrorism stated that the ICCPR did not prohibit the prosecution of civilians before military courts in cases of terrorism. Moreover, the Egyptian military judiciary is constitutionally bound to provide all the guarantees of justice to the accused in the same way as the civil judiciary does, including the right to appeal the sentences issued by it.
6. There is a paradox in the report on the alleged torture of the defendant Khalid Hassan, since it is the norm that when there is a suspicion of torture a defendant resorts to the specified legal procedure on the matter which entails an examination by the Egyptian Forensic Medicine Authority through a request by his lawyer to the competent prosecutor, which never happened, and the reason mentioned in the report is illogical and unconvincing. How can the defendant and his lawyers listen to the advice of other prisoners not to take legal action against an alleged torute even though it could nullify the entire charges brought against him if proven. The defendant's choice not to utilize his legal right to request an examination by forensic medicine authority is his responsibility and not the responsibility of the Egyptian authorities. Egyptian courts have witnessed similar cases, most notably the instance when MB leaders: Essam El-Erian and Mohamed El-Beltagy, made allegations of sexual abuses committed against them the court referred them to the forensic authorities which led to them retracting their false accusations.
7. The report deliberately mentions certain terms that are no longer in use in the Egyptian legal system, such as the term "(administrative) detention", which is incorrect and no longer exists in Egyptian law, as it was prohibited by the Supreme Constitutional Court since 2011. This carries multiple meanings, among them lack of knowledge of constitutional developments taking place in Egypt, , as well as a process of exaggeration in the usage of terms in order to try to create a degree of public sympathy with such cases, and unjustly condemn the Egyptian authorities.
8. The report lacked accuracy in its presentation of certain events. It claims that the Egyptian officials were the ones who asked Khalid's wife to leave the country, while the first letter sent to SIS on 23/9/2018 stated that those who stormed the house were the ones who demanded her departure. The report also did not specify the identity of the officials, if HRW knows the identity of why not publicly identify them, or was the use of term officials for the purpose of generalization and misinformation. HRW has again committed the same mistakes they did in the vast majority of its previous reports on Egypt, relying on the oral testimony of that woman without providing evidence of the validity of her accusations to Egyptian security agencies. In any case, the Egyptian authorities have the right to evict any foreigner on Egyptian territory in accordance with international law and the local laws governing this matter. Egypt is a sovereign state and regulates the affairs of foreigners residing in its territory in accordance with the requirements of its national security within the legal framework allowed by the law. This woman could have delegated a lawyer to file a petition on her behalf to the Administrative Judiciary in Egypt, which she did not do without explaining the reasons for this.
9. HRW's report alleges that it has "very strong" evidence that Khalid Hassan was forcibly disappeared for four months by publishing a picture of a handwritten paper of a supposed request from his family to the authorities on February 15 the same year inquiring upon his whereabouts. This raises the question of whether such evidence exists? why it has not been submitted to the competent authorities for investigation? How legitimate and credible is this evidence? Who determines their alleged credibility in such matters? Or are these merely claims similar to that of the alleged request referred to earlier.
10. In order to resolve this matter once and for all through the competent legal channels, SIS calls on HRW to submit an official report to the Egyptian Prosecutor General to take legal action against these allegations in accordance with the evidence provided. The Public Prosecution in accordance with Egyptian law will not act on its own without the filing of an official report containing the necessary evidence. It must be emphasized here that the Public Prosecution, in accordance with its legal mandate, conducts periodic inspections of incarceration centers and prisons. The alleged existence of detention centers under the National Security Agency’s jurisdiction is incorrect according to the official information we possess because it is simply against the law, and those who claim otherwise must submit to the public prosecution their evidence to assess the credibility of their allegations.
11. The report did not address the relationship between defendant Khalid Hassan and the driver he knew in New York who is said to have went to Syria. Khalid was unofficially questioned by the FBI regarding this driver in December 2017 before traveling to Egypt.
We ask HRW to disclose the identity of this person, how closely was he related to Khalid, the possibility that this person may have links to terrorist groups in Syria, and whether this has anything to do with the case in which Khalid Hassan is indicted in in Egypt. Obtaining this information from US security agencies might clarify the true picture of the defendant, the SIS said.