Egypt: Flagrant human rights abuses documented in Badr Prison Complex
Inmates at the new Badr Prison Complex in Egypt are living in abusive conditions reminiscent of the notorious Scorpion Prison, despite a government campaign to promote a positive image for the new facility, the Committee for Justice has said, based on the testimony of families of political prisoners.
The Badr Prison Complex was opened at the end of 2021, in the Badr region in the Eastern Desert (about 60 km east of Cairo). It was named Badr Correction and Rehabilitation Center, as part of the government’s bid to rebrand its prisons claiming that there was a new strategy to provide proper conditions for prisoners.
The Badr complex was established on an area of 85 acres. It was designed to receive inmates sentenced to short terms. Once operational, the plan was to close three other public prisons. The prison complex includes three sub-centers and a special center for women. It is managed through the central command building located in the center. It includes a main control room linked to sub-control rooms in each center. The prison also includes a court complex that contains four administratively separate courtrooms with a capacity of 100 persons per room.
Egyptian authorities have promoted the facility, through a propaganda clip broadcast on official and private TV channels, entitled “A New Beginning”. The promotional material claims that this complex provides a solution to poor conditions of detention in Egypt, but the reality is that the project was the beginning of a new chapter of horrific violations against prisoners in Badr complex.
The authorities violated the basic rights of the detainees in Badr even before it was inaugurated. They established halls within the prison in which trial sessions for detainees are held, in a clear violation of the independence of the judiciary and fair trial standards, as detainees cannot defend themselves within the walls of the prison.
Although the complex includes three rehabilitation centers in addition to a medical center equipped with a capacity of 175 beds, two operating rooms, a catheterization room, 18 intensive care rooms, 11 outpatient clinics, and four dialysis units, CFJ has documented numerous medical negligence complaints by detainees in the complex.
The conditions of detention inside the complex are dire. The detainees’ families have described it as “the new Scorpion”, in reference to the notorious maximum-security Scorpion prison (Aqrab).
The abuses documented within Badr include the prevention of the entry of blankets and clothes for detainees in Badr 3 prison in the cold winter and preventing the entry of food. The prison administration has banned the entry of beed, chicken, eggs, fish, natural herbs, and baked goods. The restrictions are applied although the allocated meals provided to inmates have become less than usual due to economic conditions, as well as the insanely high prices inside the prison’s kiosk.
CFJ has also documented restrictions on visits, which are limited to only one visit per month- contrary to the Prison Service Law. The inmates have also been prevented from exposure to the sun in any way, and lights are kept on inside the rooms 24/7, which disrupts the prisoners’ sleep. Additionally, surveillance cameras work throughout the day inside the rooms.
As a result of all these violations, the detainees in October 2022 announced a hunger strike and refused to receive the food provided by the prison administration because of the restrictions on visits and receiving communications from their families, as well as the banning of regular exercise, access to books and other publications.
The abuses led to a steady increase in the number of deaths inside Badr. CFJ has documented the death of the following five detainees there due to medical negligence and poor conditions of detention:
1- Al-Sayed Muhammad Abdul Hamid Al-Saifi (61 years old), who died on October 5, 2022, as his health deteriorated.
2- Alaa Muhammad Al-Salami (47 years old), who died on November 1, 2022 as a result of his hunger strike to protest the violations he is exposed to inside Badr 3 prison.
3- Magdi Abdo Al-Shabrawi, who died on November 15, 2022, after his health deteriorated due to the poor conditions of detention. He developed chronic kidney infection following his arrest.
4- Hassan Diab Hassan Attia (47 years old), who died on November 29, 2022, in Badr Prison 3.
5- Gihad Abd al-Ghani Muhammad Salim (32 years old), who died on December 21, 2022, as he was suffering from jaw and throat cancer. He was detained in the Badr Prisons Medical Center for only four days before his death.
The above cases are evidence that Egypt’s prison reform policy has failed to achieve its objectives. The buildings have changed, but the mentality is the same. There is no political will by the Egyptian government to change the culture of mistreating prisoners. Egypt should release the tens of thousands of political prisoners and ensure humane conditions for those detained irrespective of their political or religious backgrounds.
CFJ calls on the Egyptian authorities to allow civil society organizations – both Egyptian and international – to carry out regular visits to monitor conditions inside detention centers. We also call for serious and transparent investigations to hold accountable those responsible for gross violations against detainees in Badr Prison Complex, and other detention facilities in Egypt.