Malaysiakini Letter

Deportation of Egyptians violates international law

SM Mohamed Idris

LETTER | We refer to the article M'sia deports six Egyptians despite concerns over torture, rights abuse.

We strongly protest the deportation of a number of Egyptians to Egypt where they will most probably be tortured and forced to make false confessions implicating them in serious crimes. Recently, nine “Islamic militants” were convicted and hanged by the Egyptian government based on confessions obtained through torture and duress.

The Cornell Center on Death Penalty Worldwide has estimated that at least 2,000 individuals are currently under the sentence of death in Egypt. In 2017 alone, 402 new death sentences were imposed and 35 executions carried out. In these circumstances, deporting them amounts to throwing them to the hungry wolves in Egypt’s security apparatus.

The deportation is in gross violation of the prohibition on refoulement under international law. The purpose of the prohibition on refoulement is to prevent human rights violations. It is embodied in the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the prohibition on refoulement is considered an absolute right. Given Egypt’s horrible human rights record it is certain that the deportees will be subjected to torture and inhuman treatment.

The Sisi military regime in Egypt is notorious for the persecution of its critics and opponents. In its 2019 World Report, Human Rights Watch states: “[…] his (Sisi’s) security forces have escalated a campaign of intimidation, violence, and arrests there against political opponents, civil society activists and many others who have simply voiced mild criticism of the government.

“The Egyptian government and state media have framed this repression under the guise of combating terrorism, and al-Sisi has increasingly invoked terrorism and the country’s state of emergency law to silence peaceful activists.”

The terrible human rights situation in Egypt is public knowledge, and our intelligence agency must know it. Therefore, why were the Egyptians deported in breach of our legal obligation to protect them? Who made the decision? Was the attorney-general consulted? The public wants answers to these questions. We are concerned about the decision-making process in deportation cases.

Who decides, the minister or some police officer? Why were they surreptitiously deported? We understand that their families and lawyers were kept in the dark about the deportation. This is a poor reflection on the new government which promised openness and transparency.

Our police chief Mohamed Fuzi Harun has alleged that the Egyptians had confessed to being members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Without disclosing any evidence, he accused them of providing shelter, transport and employment for two persons allegedly linked to Ansar al-Sharia, listed by Tunisia and the UN as a terrorist organisation.

Fuzi’s allegation raises a number of serious questions. Firstly, who provided the information about these two persons’ alleged terrorist link? If it came from the CIA, MI6, Mossad or Egyptian, Saudi and Emirati intelligence agencies, it must be viewed with great suspicion. Whom they regard as a terrorist could be our freedom fighter.

The US regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation but we regard it as a heroic national liberation movement resisting Zionist settler-colonialism. We support and honour their valiant struggle which is sanctioned by international law.

We need to review the guidelines on our cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies to ensure that we do not become sub-contractors for other countries to arrest and deport persons whom they consider “terrorists” but who are, in fact, freedom fighters or seeking refuge from persecution, oppression and violation of human rights.

Secondly, what is Malaysia’s policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood? Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have declared it a terrorist organisation. Saudi Arabia and the Emirati rulers put petro-dollar pressure on Britain to do so but failed because there was no evidence of its involvement in terrorist activities. Lobbying by the Zionist lobby together with the Emiratis also failed to convince the US administration to certify the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.

These despotic governments have killed, disappeared and imprisoned thousands of Brotherhood leaders, members and supporters. The popularly elected Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi has been languishing in prison under inhuman conditions.

A Detention Review Panel consisting of British members of Parliament and senior lawyers, after hearing testimonies on the prison conditions, called Morsi’s treatment "cruel, inhuman and degrading" and said it could "meet the threshold for torture in accordance with Egyptian and international law”. Given this fact, how could the Malaysian government deport Egyptian members of the Brotherhood to Egypt? It may be perceived as colluding with the criminals from the Egyptian security apparatus.

The US “war on terror” has been used as an excuse by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain to justify their repression of those who are fighting for freedom and justice. Therefore, there should be no deportation to these countries. We appeal to the government to formulate and implement a policy on deportation that is open, transparent and provides for compliance with the rules of natural justice.

The writer is chairperson, Citizens International.              

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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