On April 1, 2021, the United States Department of Justice filed a statement of interest, supporting the motion to dismiss for a former Egyptian prime minister and IMF representative, whom a U.S. national sued in June 2020 for unlawful detention and torture for 21 months in Cairo at El Beblawi’s alleged authorization.
Soltan’s Law Suit against El Beblawi
On June 1, 2020, U.S. citizen and former dual U.S.-Egyptian national Mohamed Soltan, 32 at the time of the lawsuit and a student at Georgetown University, brought a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, accusing El Beblawi of ordering his arrest, torture and attempted assassination. The Complaint alleges that El Beblawi, while Prime Minister of Egypt, was responsible for his being “almost killed, brutally wounded, imprisoned and tortured for nearly two years in Egypt because he dared to expose to the world the Egyptian military government’s brutal suppression and massacre of peaceful demonstrators.” Compl. ¶ 1.
According to his suit, the Egyptian Government targeted Soltan for abuse during his 634 days of imprisonment.
The 1991 Torture and Victim Protection Act permits civil suits in the U.S. against individuals who perpetrated torture or extrajudicial killings while acting in an official capacity for a foreign country if the defendants are in the U.S. and are no longer head of state.
DOJ’s Statement of Interest
The DOJ filing explained that, consistent with standard accreditation practice, the IMF notified the U.S. Department of State that El Beblawi assumed the position as Egypt’s Principal Resident Representative to the IMF, effective November 2, 2014. The handling of the accreditation followed the State Department’s standard practice for the accreditation of foreign representatives to international organizations. The U.S. accepted the IMF’s notification. State’s records show El Beblawi’s status as Egypt’s Principal Resident Representative to the IMF effective November 2, 2014.
On June 24, 2020, El Beblawi moved to dismiss the Complaint based, inter alia, on his diplomatic and foreign official immunity. On July 7, 2020, the State Department provided the Government of Egypt with a certification of his diplomatic status and immunity, which El Beblawi filed with the court.
The DOJ’s filing said foreign policy considerations require that the court give “conclusive weight to the Executive’s determination of an individual’s diplomatic status.”
The State Department’s records show that the IMF notified the State Department of El Beblawi’s termination as the Principal Resident Representative of Egypt to the IMF, effective October 31, 2020. El Beblawi’s change of status does not affect his immunity in this case because Soltan served him while he enjoyed diplomatic agent status. Hence, the DOJ asks the court to dismiss without prejudice claims failing with the scope of his immunity.
The DOJ statement of interest then leaves open the right of Soltan to try to reinstitute the suit, if it is dismissed, and perfect proper service.
Meanwhile, on March 30, 2021, the U.S. Department of State’s annual human rights report, condemned the Egyptian government for “unlawful or arbitrary killings…forced disappearance; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government…harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention”…
Human rights groups have criticized Egypt for its international human rights abuses. Such abuses include targeting relatives in Egypt of political opponents, human rights workers, pro-democratic activists, and journalists living abroad, arresting them, interrogating them and harassing them.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden referred to Soltan’s case. He said that torturing Egyptian activists and “threatening their families is unacceptable.”
 Spencer S. Hsu and John Hudson, Biden officials reaffirm Egyptian’s immunity from lawsuit, Wash. Post, Apr. 6, 2021, at A7, col. 1.
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