The member organizations of the Article 55 Coalition have issued a bulletin on the violations documented in prisons and detention centers in Egypt, during the period from 1 August to 31 August 2023.
The Coalition emphasized that August 2023 witnessed several developments in Egypt’s local scene, indicating a continued deterioration in the country’s human rights situation. Despite the government’s claims of wanting to resolve the crisis, various events contradicted this narrative.
The organizations highlighted that during the month, 33 detainees, including economist Omar El-Shenety, one of the latest victims of the “Hope Cell” case, were released. However, security authorities launched an aggressive campaign against journalists from the “Matsda2sh – Don’t Believe” platform, detaining its editor, Karim Asaad, following their extensive coverage of the Zambia-Egypt plane seizure.
Additionally, journalist and publisher Hisham Kassem, chairman of the board of trustees of the Free Current Coalition, was detained and subjected to a quick trial. Alaa al-Din Saad al-Adly (59 years old), father of the German-Egyptian political activist Fagr al-Adly, was detained upon his arrival at Cairo airport on August 18. Gamal Abdelhamid Ziada, father of Ahmed Gamal Ziada, was arrested and, according to his family, was interrogated at the National Security headquarters about his journalist son’s activities, who is currently residing abroad.
As the 2024 presidential elections approach, Egyptian authorities continue to target relatives and members of the campaign of potential candidate Ahmed Altantawy. There was also an attempt to assault him by security personnel while he was at the Sayyida Zeinab mosque in Cairo, where they tried to force him out of the mosque.
Internationally, a group of US Congress members urged President Joe Biden’s administration to withhold some of the military aid provided to Egypt due to human rights concerns. This comes as the final decision deadline approaches on September 30th. Last year, the US administration withheld $130 million from the $1.3 billion aid package due to Egypt’s human rights record.
The Coalition’s organizations documented 13 violations within prisons and other detention centers in Egypt during August 2023, as follows: 3 deaths, 4 cases of medical neglect, 3 cases of pleas from detainees in Minya maximum security prison, Wadi El Natrun 440, and New Valley Prison, and 3 cases related to poor detention conditions.
In light of all the above, the organizations within the Article 55 Coalition believe that the conditions within prisons and detention centers do not deviate from the general framework of how Egyptian authorities handle detainees, especially political ones. The situation is systematic, not merely isolated breaches as portrayed by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior.
The leniency shown by Egyptian authorities in dealing with human rights violators inside detention centers has encouraged and perpetuated these practices, making them a modus operandi within the Egyptian Prison Authority. We have not witnessed any leadership or official being held accountable or even reprimanded despite documented and verified violations that go beyond any acceptable boundaries.
Furthermore, the policy of impunity adopted by the Egyptian authorities towards human rights violators within detention centers has encouraged and perpetuated such practices, to the extent that they have become an institutionalized approach within the Egyptian prison system. Notably, no leadership or official has been punished or even reprimanded despite the established and documented violations, which may have even escalated.
Therefore, the organizations within the Article 55 Coalition stress that these practices occurring within Egyptian prisons and detention centers raise serious concerns about the fate of detainees. This is particularly true given the increasing number of deaths within detention centers in recent times, coupled with deteriorating living conditions within them.
As a result, the Article 55 Coalition calls for an investigation into these violations and the accountability of those responsible in accordance with both Egyptian and international law. They also emphasize the implementation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the Egyptian prison regulations, while discontinuing their violation, and ensuring humane living conditions for detainees.