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Egypt: Amnesty slams 'inhumane' prison conditions

January 25, 2021

Ten years after the Arab Spring uprising overthrew the former military-backed president, prisons in Egypt are just as bad as ever, Amnesty International has reported.

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In its report, Amnesty documented the detention of 67 individuals, 10 of whom had died in custodyImage: Britta Pedersen/dpa/picture alliance

The human rights organization Amnesty International published a scathing report on Monday decrying the inhumane conditions in Egyptian prisons. The report comes a decade after the Arab Spring uprising.

What does the report say

The report detailed the experiences of 67 individuals in detention, 10 of whom died in custody and two who died shortly after being released. It was carried out primarily between February 2020 and November 2020 and focused on 16 prisons. It found that:


  • Prisoners were kept in squalid conditions and received unhealthy food;
  • There was no proper access to health care, which may have resulted in death;
  • Overcrowding, poor ventilation and limited access to water and toilets led inevitably to outbreaks of coronavirus.

The report also found that some prisoners were deliberately denied access to health care due to their political affiliations. Activists, politicians and human rights defenders were denied basic treatments available to other inmates.

The Arab Spring — 10 years on

Despite the wave of protests and uprisings across the Middle East 10 years ago, which successfully ousted the former military-backed president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian authorities continue to "round up tens of thousands of actual or perceived critics and opponents," the report said.

Due to this policy of large-scale arrests and over-incarceration, prisoners were left with just 1.1 square meters of floor space each in the prisons examined by Amnesty. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recommends at least 3.4 square meters.

There was also evidence of prison authorities "targeting prisoners critical of the government and denying them adequate food or family visits," Markus Beeko, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany, asserted.

How have Egyptian authorities responded?

The Egyptian government rejected the allegations of bad conditions and torture in its prisons. The state-controlled news site Al-Ahram denounced the report as "negative rumors."

The week prior to the publication of the Amnesty report, the country's Interior Ministry released a video showing prisoners in the notorious Torah prison in Cairo receiving health care in line with the latest medical standards. The video also showed prisoners reading, painting and backing.

According to UN estimates, there are 114,000 people incarcerated in the north African country.

What does Amnesty recommend?

The human rights organization called on Egyptian authorities to release all those who had been arrested for exercising their human rights and those in pre-trial detention on "bogus charges."

The report also urged the government to work with independent international organizations such as ICRC and allow them to monitor the conditions in the prisons.

It also recommended carrying out investigations into the cases where people had died in custody and where certain prisoners had been deliberately denied access to necessary health care.

"To end the utter disregard for detainees’ health and lives, the authorities must launch independent and effective investigations into all incidents of deaths in custody and allegations of deliberate denial of health care and hold those suspected to be responsible accountable in proceedings meeting international fair trial standards," the report said.

ab/rt (dpa, AFP)