The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) launched an application for Android users through which they can send an SOS message with their location to up to three people, and to the ECRF, in case they are arrested and face potential forced disappearance.
The “I Protect” application is specifically designed for political activists and journalists who are deeply invested in the political arena. However, people who are not politically active can use it as well. The application was designed to help thousands of politicians and university students who are arbitrarily arrested.
The application will assist those who are arrested within the first 24 hours of the arrest—the legal period of time that the detainee can be kept in custody, after which time he or she must be referred to the prosecution. In cases of forced disappearance, the detained people are kept in unknown places which make them harder to find.
After the user has entered their details, the true nature of this application is hidden by a calculator interface and can only be opened by the owner of the mobile phone. A similar application was created in 2013 to assist protestors in reporting their arrest as well. However, it was dangerous for those who were found to have installed this application on their phones by the police.
Lawyer Halim Heneish, member of ECRF, told Daily News Egypt that this application will help lawyers identify the last location of the arrested person and provide them with information about the detainee’s whereabouts. He said that the application was activated and is available for download since 30 August.
Amnesty International released a report in July entitled “Officially, you do not exist”, documenting hundreds of cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt and accusing the Egyptian authorities of torturing those who disappeared. However, the Egyptian authorities refused to comment on the report as it usually denies any cases of enforced disappearance.
Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar said earlier this year that enforced disappearance does not happen in Egypt. He also stated that all the reported cases concern people who were arrested based on charges and who have verdicts issued by a court. He added that the families of those detainees claim that they forcibly disappeared just to cause controversy and altercations.
Although the number of forcibly disappeared people in Egypt is unknown, rights groups, such as Freedom for the Brave, document hundreds of cases each year. Numbers are documented and have been on the rise since 2015, according to the reports they receive.