Dozens of people have apparently disappeared after being detained by Egypt's security forces, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
In a statement, the New York-based body urged Egyptian authorities to immediately disclose their whereabouts and hold those responsible to account.
“Egyptian security forces have apparently snatched up dozens of people without a word about where they are or what has happened to them,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of the organization.
“The failure of the public prosecution to seriously investigate these cases reinforces the nearly absolute impunity that security forces have enjoyed under President [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi", Stork added.
Enforced disappearances constitute a violation of international human rights law. If carried out systematically as a matter of policy, they are a crime against humanity.
The watchdog group said Egypt’s allies should not participate in any assistance to the country’s internal security forces until Egypt transparently investigates serious abuses such as alleged enforced disappearances.
Egypt has been dogged by instability since Mohammed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, was overthrown in a military coup led by al-Sisi on July 3, 2013.
In the two years since, the Egyptian regime has waged a harsh crackdown on political dissent that has left hundreds of the regime’s opponents dead and tens of thousands behind bars.
Human Rights Watch said it has documented the cases of five people forcibly disappeared and two people most likely forcibly disappeared between April 2014 and June 2015.
In three of the cases, the victims were last seen in the custody of state officials, although state authorities initially denied that the persons in question had been detained or refused to reveal their whereabouts, it said.
In three cases, relatives and others who knew the disappeared said that security forces had apprehended the victims. A doctor who was disappeared in April 2014 remains unaccounted for.
"The crime of enforced disappearance may simultaneously violate multiple non-derogable human rights protections – rights that cannot be suspended – including the right to life, freedom from torture or inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention", the group said.
"It is also an ongoing violation that continues so long as the disappeared person remains missing", it added.
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