EIPR renews its demands to drop charges against Menna Abdel Azziz and calls for her immediate release, while continuing to provide her with all the support she needs
In a statement yesterday, the Public Prosecution announced the transfer of Menna Abdel Aziz (Aya) to a Ministry of Social Solidarity shelter hosting victims of abuse, in what is considered a first step in the way of dealing with Menna as a survivor and victim of sexual, physical and psychological violence. The statement clarified the severity of the forms of violence suffered by the victim, and that the report of the social and psychological specialists of the Ministry of Social Solidarity showed the extent of the impact of the violence to which Menna was subjected.
But this step comes short and is at odds with Menna’s case. For Menna was not referred to the center as a survivor and a victim, one where the center can help her in overcoming the bitter effects of what she went through while providing a safe place to stay, but the prosecution has referred her to the center as an accused without releasing her, as an alternative precautionary measure in lieu of pretrial detention.
Whereas the Egyptian law has adopted the principle of prosecutorial discretion, it has given the Public Prosecution the power to assess the seriousness of the crime and to proceed in the criminal case, and then the right to dismiss the case for reasons dictated by the public interest. Especially since the prosecution relies in its accusation on the statements of the offenders against Menna, which are not recognized as testimony, but rather an attempt to defend oneself by blaming the victim. The Public Prosecution has made clear that it took note of the difficulties experienced by Menna -as a result of her young age- and the harrowing nature of the attacks that she was subjected to in recent weeks, which is not consistent with the prosecution's continued accusation of moral charges that may implicitly place the blame on the victim. We call on the prosecution to use its discretion in this case and not to proceed with the criminal case against the victim.
The prosecution's role in protecting women and girls who have experienced sexual violence or domestic violence by ensuring the prosecution of offenders and protecting women and girls from any pressures or threats, must always be accompanied by the provision of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, in cooperation with the National Council for Women, for psychological support and provision of shelter, and financial support for survivors/victims, and their children if they are mothers. And that support is not punishment or coercion, but rather a basic service that the state is committed to, to help survivors overcome their violence and abuse, and give them an opportunity to decide their future based on real choice. But transforming a basic service of those services (which is in the case of Menna, residing in a shelter hosting and protecting battered women) to a place of alternative detention, breaches the basic security that any survivor should feel.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights had previously called on the National Council for Women to intervene in support of Menna, and the content of the statement issued by the council this morning was disappointing, after a complete silence that lasted for weeks. The statement does not mention any reservation to the fact that a victim and survivor of rape is placed in the position of a charged criminal based on her turning to the public and the authorities to support her against the abuse she suffered. We renew our demand for the council to intervene in favor of Menna Abdel Aziz and support her until all accusations are dropped and she is released, while continuing to support her in litigation procedures against her attackers.
We also renew our first request to the Public Prosecution to drop all charges against Menna Abdel Aziz (Aya) and release her immediately, with the Ministry of Social Affairs continuing to provide its services in hosting and supporting Menna as services provided to a survivor and a victim of violence and not as a measure of a precautionary nature, as support should never be mixed with this kind of punishment, so that there is a chance for Menna to recover from all that she was exposed to and continue her life with the minimum level of support she deserves from society and the state.