Investigative judge Abdel Shafy Othman summoned rights lawyer Negad al-Borai, head of the United Group, for interrogation on Tuesday May 17.
This will be the fifth time Borai has been interrogated by authorities in relation to accusations including broadcasting false information, disturbing public security, establishing an illegal group and receiving unauthorized foreign funding.
Shortly before charges were brought against him in March 2015, the United Group submitted a draft bill criminalizing torture in police stations and detention facilities to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Borai also recently resubmitted the draft to the Court of Cassation and Parliament.
Borai spoke with Mada Masr last month about the case and the anti-torture bill.
Mada Masr: What are the most important features of your anti-torture draft bill?
Negad al-Borai: There are two very important articles: one holds the heads of prisons or detention centers responsible for torture practices, as many inmates cannot identify those who tortured them. So instead, we say, ‘you are the head of the prison, you are responsible for the safety and security of everyone in the prison. If something like torture happens, then you are responsible for it.’ We think this article is the reason why the state is against us, because it will push prison heads to give us the names of people who have been tortured.
The second important article is about compensation. We are advising a minimum of LE200,000-250,000 for torture survivors. They currently get LE10,000 or 20,000, which we don’t think is enough. Even if we know who tortured them, the state is responsible and they should not pay less than LE200,000.
MM: Do you think these articles could affect systemic issues of torture within Egypt’s security services?
NB: It might help. It would make an officer think differently before torturing someone, because, in the end, the head of the station must give his name to the prosecutor, or be held responsible themselves.
MM: Why did you resubmit the draft?
NB: We insist on fighting to the end. The most important thing is that our draft is discussed — in parliament, in civil society groups, in the media. Unfortunately, we don’t think the state will discuss it. We sent it to 14 members of parliament individually, who represent many parliamentary groups, like Support Egypt and the Free Egyptians Party. If we stay out of jail, we will invite parliamentarians and media representatives to discuss it.
MM: Do you think re-submitting the draft law will provoke more discussion?
NB: No, I have no hope that it will be discussed. But, I want to say to myself, ‘Ok Negad, we did everything. We sent it to the president, to the Court of Cassation, to the Justice Ministry, to the justice minister at the time, and now to the parliament, not only to the chair and his deputies, but also to members individually. I sent it in the past to the media. This is what I can do.
MM: Are you concerned about the charges against you?
NB: I have nothing to fear. In the end they will send us to court. Whether we send it to parliament or stop working, they have decided to refer any voice of difference to court, or even to jail directly. At the end of the day, we know what the end result will be. They have a plan they are trying to implement step by step. This plan is not just against the United Group or Negad al-Borai, but against human rights activists and any voices of dissent. I know this, so it’s better for me to continue until the last moment, and if they put me behind bars I will say, ‘Ok, I did everything I can.’
MM: What do your lawyers say about the case?
NB: I was interrogated previously, now I have been charged. I have six charges against me and am waiting until they send me to court. In Egypt, in these cases, you don’t really need a lawyer. You need to pray that God can protect you or believe that you did a good thing and know that you must pay a price because you decided to work on human rights in this type of country under this type of regime. You must accept your destiny. Lawyers, laws and courts do not affect these types of cases. Let’s be realistic, I am a lawyer and I know about these cases. If they send me to the court, I will accept my colleagues’ defense, I will be thankful for their support. But I know how this ends.
MM: Do you think that public pressure could affect the outcome of the case?
NB: I don’t know, everything in this country changes. All of a sudden we have Sisi as president, all of a sudden [former President Mohamed] Morsi is behind bars. I believe the most important thing is that Egyptian and international public opinion is focused on human rights. People in Egypt and elsewhere, especially in democratic nations, must keep their eyes open to human rights in this country. My message, not only to Egyptians, but to everyone, is please support human rights. Please continue giving advice to the Egyptian government, urging them to respect human rights and the constitution in order to bring about stability.
As President Sisi said before, we are a country of 80 million people and it would be a disaster if we all tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. If these policies continue, this could happen.
MM: What is your plan going forward?
NB: I will continue, this is part of my life. I am now 61, which means I have nothing to lose. I will continue to discuss and try to change the laws. The next step is to invite people to discuss the law, to send it to people again and again and to write articles about it.