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NGO launches app to fight against forced disappearances in Egypt

Tue 6 Sep 2016

Egypt forced disappearance

A new Android app released in Egypt has been designed to alert contacts and a human rights group to the disappearance of activists abducted by national security forces.

The initiative is named I Protect and was launched by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) after the NGO recorded 1,411 cases of forced disappearances in Egypt in the first 10 months of 2015.

The free app sends SOS text message alerts to three chosen contacts, as well as an email to the ECRF which allows the group to plot the abductee’s location.

While similar software has been developed to alert contacts to potential forced disappearance cases, according to the ECRF these programmes have been found by authorities and put the individual in greater danger.

Unlike these models, I Protect disguises itself behind a calculator interface, only activated by a predetermined code set by the owner.

The charity hopes that the app will encourage greater action within 24 hours of the initial arrest, reducing the possibility of the individual being moved onto larger, unknown facilities, or being subjected to torture.

Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, are expressing increasing concern over forced disappearances and torture in Egypt, where authorities are abducting politicians, university students, and journalists without justification, informing relations of their location nor allowing legal representation.

The government continues to deny the practice. Interior minister, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar said in March that forced disappearances do not occur in the country, adding that the term ‘detainee’ is no longer in use in legal situations following the expiration of an emergency law in May 2012.

Ghaffar suggested that all reported cases of forced disappearance concern people who have been arrested based on charges, or have verdicts issued by a court. He also argued that the families in these situations had lied about the arrests to stir the controversy around the issue.

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