The member organizations of the Article 55 Coalition have issued their monthly bulletin for September 2023, in which they documented 14 violations inside detention centers and prisons in Egypt.
The organizations mentioned that at the beginning of September 2023, videos allegedly attributed to leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood group inside Egyptian prisons, specifically within the Badr Prisons Complex, surfaced from leaked surveillance cameras footage. These videos documented inhumane conditions for political prisoners. The Ministry of Interior issued a brief statement denying any connection between these videos and the mentioned individuals. The statement did not address the identity of the individuals appearing in the videos or the actual situation of the prisoners in Badr Prisons.
At the end of the month, the official Facebook page of the Public Prosecution issued a statement, indicating that they conducted a “surprise inspection” on Tuesday, September 26, 2023, at the Community Rehabilitation Centers in Wadi El Natrun. The purpose was to assess the living conditions of the inmates, verify the suitability of detention facilities and rehabilitation areas, as well as the readiness of the hospital and its outpatient clinics and pharmacy, based on decisions made by the new Prosecutor General, Mohamed Shoukry. This happened in complete disregard of the hunger strike by 30 detainees in Wadi El Natrun 2 prison.
Regarding the presidential elections, which have been decided to be held in December 2023 instead of April 2024, the security apparatus continued its efforts to hinder and undermine opposition candidates, especially Ahmed Tantawi. Citizen Lab published a report about the targeting of Tantawi’s personal phone with a series of spyware attacks referred to as Predator, between May and at least September 2023. Additionally, there were security actions involving the detention of his relatives and several members of his campaign. The Ministry of Interior issued a brief statement in response, denying the validity of the claims that one of the citizens had propagated, alleging the arrest of several individuals for their participation in his upcoming election campaign.
Furthermore, an economic misdemeanor court sentenced Hisham Kassem, the chairman of the Free Current party’s board of trustees, to 6 months in prison – 3 months for insulting the former Minister of Labor, Kamal Abu Aita, and 3 months for verbal abuse of a public servant. He was also fined 20,000 pounds and ordered to pay civil compensation of ten thousand pounds. The case took just one month, as opposed to the case of the Egyptians who were detained after the Zambia plane incident upon their release from Zambia and their presumed return to Cairo- a case which remains static.
On the international front, particularly concerning Egyptian-American relations, tensions escalated when the New York City District Attorney filed charges against Democratic Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, his wife, and three businessmen, accusing them of involvement in a bribery scheme that lasted for years, allowing Egyptian officials
to gain improper direct access to some of the most important U.S. foreign policy makers. The indictment included evidence of communications between the five defendants, in addition to financial sums, gold bars, and other assets. As a result, several members of Congress called on the U.S. government to suspend $235 million in U.S. military aid to Egypt, which had recently been approved by the Biden administration.
The organizations have documented 14 violations within prisons and other detention centers in Egypt during September 2023, as follows: 5 cases of death, 3 cases of medical neglect, and 5 cases of poor detention conditions, in addition to a mass strike by 30 detainees in Wadi Natrun 2 prison.
Article 55 Coalition believes that the conditions inside prisons and detention centers are not surprising, and they do not deviate from the general framework of how the Egyptian authorities handle the issue of detainees, especially political ones. It is a systematic approach rather than isolated individual violations, as promoted by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior.
The policy of impunity with which Egyptian authorities deal with human rights violators inside detention centers has encouraged and perpetuated these practices, making them part of the working method of the Egyptian Prisons Authority. There has been no evidence of any leadership or official being punished or even reprimanded despite documented violations that may have crossed the line.
The coalition stresses that these practices within Egyptian prisons and detention centers raise serious concerns about the fate of detainees, especially with the recent increase in the number of deaths within detention facilities and the deteriorating living conditions inside them.
The coalition calls for an investigation into these violations and the prosecution of those responsible in accordance with Egyptian and international law, the application of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and the Egyptian Prison Regulations, and to cease their violations. The coalition also urges the provision of living conditions that are consistent with the human dignity of detainees.