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Summary of the Initiative’s Report on Physical Safety, Health Care and Prisoner Treatment in Egyptian Prisons

Sharqiya and Canal Region Prisons- Zaqaziq General Prison, Al-Mustaqbal Prison, Port-Said General Prison

Life Foundation 2012-04-13-712-300x168 Summary of the Initiative’s Report on Physical Safety, Health Care and Prisoner Treatment in Egyptian Prisons

This report was prepared by the Start Initiative for Social Justice and Human Rights addresses the physical safety of convicts and those under precautionary detention, as well as the right to health care, prisoner treatment and their living conditions in the prisons of the Canal governorates subject to our scope of work in rehabilitating released prisoners. The main objective of the study is to learn the impact of all such dangers on the morale of prisoners after their release, and how to study how to help them restructure their lives, how to instill confidence and social security in them in order to have a better life in harmony with the societies they live in.
The report affirms the presence of many problems that annually undermine the physical safety of prisoners. Each problem requires detailed research, submitting relevant recommendations to the Interior Ministry in order to contribute to safeguarding prisoners without any detriment to their minimum needs, namely safeguarding their health and safety during their period of imprisonment.
– Despite reference on part on the Egyptian Constitution in Article 56 that prisons are places of reform and rehabilitation, and that prisons and detention places are subject to judicial supervision/oversight where any act that contradicts with human dignity or that jeopardizes human health is prohibited. The law regulates the provisions of prisoner/convict reform and rehabilitation, and facilitating a dignified life after their release.
However, the main question is whether the concepts of reform and rehabilitation are available in prison, whether the Judiciary performs its real role of overseeing prisons. These are important questions in the world of prisons.

The Initiative’s report has monitored a number of violations in the Canal prisons, the most significant of which are as follows:
I: Food and Water:
• All sorts of discrimination are clearly committed in Egyptian prisons. Prison food is available for some prisoners, while the rest buy their food or some prisoners work as cooks and offer food to those prisoners capable of spending money on their food.
• Most Egyptian prisons, particularly governorate prisons, suffer from the lack of various types of food for prisoners. This gives rise to malnutrition, poor immunity and gastrointestinal diseases.
o There are repeated complaints about the lack of balanced food inside Egyptian prisons, thus threatening prisoners with chronic disease. The Initiative has monitored some cases that it is following up outside prisons.
o Repeated complaints about water were received from most of those who have served time in Egyptian prisons. This problem must be subject of scientific research with relation to restructuring the internal system and health and safety principles in Egyptian prisons. Prisoners capable of buying their needs purchase bottled water.
o Prisoners in Al-Mustaqbal Prison suffer from the poor taste of water. Water in Zaqaziq General Prison is available in the bathrooms located outside prison cells. There are continuous complaints about the water’s color, impurities and strange taste. The impurities are believed to be old pipe rust particles.

II: The Right to Health Care:
• Prisoners are among the groups most vulnerable to health problems as they don’t have the opportunity to choose among various treatment alternatives due to imprisonment. In the absence of an effective oversight system this situation may result in the spread of disease. Detention authorities are the ones authorized to provide health conditions for detainees. It is responsible for providing suitable health services.

The Initiative has monitored a poor health situation in the Canal prisons as follows:
• Lately in the Port-Said prison, and due to the presence of a number of doctors and many patients cases in the women’s prison, patients and those suffering from inability to breathe are allowed out in the open air in the prison yard for fear that they would suffocate. However, this only takes place after hours of continuous knocking on the doors.
• There are many undeclared deaths among elderly prisoners. The reasons mentioned include a drop in circulation rather than the real reason for death.
• Prisoner complaints about health conditions lead to another of the physical safety aspects represented in regular doctor visits, the quality of medicine provided to patients, both a disaster in small prisons in governorates (rural areas) which lack specialized hospitals equipped for the treatment of chronic cases.

III: Torture and Inhumane Treatment:
• There are two cells in the Al-Mustaqbal Prison in Ismailiya, one is called Punishment and the other Solitary Confinement.
• In the Punishment cell, the place is filled with water and the prisoner is subjected to beating and means of torture known to human rights personnel and those working on researching violations, including beating with sticks, the back of rifles, hanging by the feet, etc.
• In the Solitary Confinement room, prisoners are deprived of food. They are left for days in their underwear subject to the discretion of the investigations officer, the extent to which a prisoner cooperates and the reason for imprisonment or detention.
• The common treatment in the Port-Said prison is beating prisoners in sensitive areas of the body and the use of the washer (falaka), raising the feet above and beating them hard, then placing prisoners on the floor and ordering them to continuously jump up until their feet can’t carry them, then repeating the beating.
IV: Separating those who are in Precautionary Detention from Other Prisoners:
• The principle of separating those under precautionary detention and other prisoners is not observed. In the Port-Said prison homosexuals and lesbians are transferred constantly from the Damanhour, Qanater and Burg al-Arab prisons for punishment, although there is a large number of those under precautionary detention and those imprisoned for not being able to repay loans or installments.
• Those under precautionary detention, who were acquitted, and who had been harshly treated, testified to the Initiative that their precautionary detention status was not taken into consideration. They were imprisoned with extremely dangerous cases and sick prisoners. The Prisons Sector most likely explains this by saying that the separation takes place in cells but not in prisons.
• The systematic continuation of the policy of precautionary detention results in crowding prisons with the under precautionary detention!! There are many cases of sexual harassment, beating and assault with knives against some of those under precautionary detention, particularly in the Al-Mustaqbal Prison due to its small size where the cells are close to each other with a large number of prisoners, including some dangerous ones. The Zaqaziq General Prison also suffers the same situation due to the large number of convicts and those under precautionary detention held together.

In conclusion, the report offers a number of recommendations addressed to the coming Parliament, as well as to concerned government authorities and the Interior Ministry.

Initiative Recommendations
The solution
1. A law to protect prisoners
2. A specific, effective Ministry of Justice entity for complaints that doesn’t include any of the Prisons Sector or Interior Ministry personnel
3. A committee to list and investigate prison deaths
4. Pass a law to compensate people for any intentional or unintentional negligence that harms prisoners’ physical or psychological safety
5. Pass a law to provide compensation for every day of precautionary detention in cases where detainees later obtain an acquittal
6. Call upon the Ministry of Interior and the Prisons Sector to renew and regulate prisons, prepare laws that protect the safety of prisoners, form a committee to list and investigate deaths, as well as committees to study the needs of prisons and secure them internally rather than externally.
7. Amend the Penal Code, particularly with relation to the crime of torture, to correspond with the International Convention against Torture
8. Activate the role of public prosecution in prison oversight
9. Allow human rights organizations to visit prisons and meet prisoners.

By : Nada Elnagar &Ahmad Abdelazem Edito : sherif Elhelaly Start research unit

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