The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Britain details coup authorities' documented violations at Aqrab Prison, and urges relevant rights bodies to visit Egyptian jails to help stop atrocities committed regularly.
A number of detainees in Aqrab high security prison (in Tora compound) are on an indefinite hunger-strike in protest at inhuman squalid conditions and the authorities' frequent campaigns of extremely humiliating treatment, systematic torture and slow death, in addition to the most degrading treatment suffered by their relatives at the hands of prison administration during visits.
On February 21, 2016 more than 150 political prisoners declared a full hunger-strike. They were soon joined by others, bringing to 253 the number of hunger-strikers.
In testimonies submitted to the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Britain (AOHR), families of Aqrab Prison detainees confirmed that political prisoners are deprived of all legal rights stipulated by Egyptian law, the Prisons Act and prison regulations.
The statements also mentioned that detainees are locked inside filthy cramped cells with no vents of any kind, no beds or blankets either, and no toilets. Inmates are also denied the right to exercise, and ill ones are not allowed to take any medicines. Moreover, prison authorities deliberately refuse to treat ill prisoners in any hospitals, and do not provide adequate food fit for human consumption, according to families of detainees. Even worse, the prison administration only offers contaminated water to political prisoners to drink.
Families of detainees said they too suffered ill-treatment at the hands of prison officers and staff. The prison administration deliberately restricted visits and made them much more complicated than they legally should. The administration is not committed to even the lowest legal standards set by Egyptian law in the regulation of visits, neither in the type and quality of the place specified for visits, nor the duration of the visits allowed for each prisoner.
Adding insult to injury, Aqrab prison administration announced only 20 prisoners can receive visits in any one day (the prison has thousands of inmates). Desperate families are forced to go to Aqrab before the date of the visit, or at least ten hours before visiting times, to take a place in the queue. Families also complained of humiliating heavy-handed personal inspections, especially girls and women.
AOHR documented frequent attacks by Aqrab Prison security personnel on the families of detainees. They brutally beat them and kick them out, arbitrarily banning their visits.
In her testimony to AOHR on February 14, Yomna, the 24-year old daughter of detainee Khairy Abdel-Aziz Mohamed, 53, held at Aqrab Prison in H4 Wing 1, said: "We were on a visit to my father after an unjustified ban on visits for more than three weeks, and were surprised by the prison management refusing to allow families in, claiming that the capacity of the prison cannot afford more than 20 families visiting on any one day.
"We were among those barred. I protested the sudden and absurd ban, and so did my younger sister Rahma (13 years old), and demanded our right to visit our dad. Then, one of the prison officers attacked us, punching me in my face, and hitting my sister in the stomach with a baton, then he threw us out altogether."
AOHR has also received a complaint from the family of one of the hunger-striking detainees, called Mohamed Farid Khalifa, 22, held in Aqrab's block H-1 Wing 4, stating: "Mohamed started his hunger-strike a week ago. He suffered medical neglect in prison. He needs to attend treatment sessions for his left foot, injured in detention. He cannot walk on it at all since he was tortured, just after his arrest on August 12, 2014.
We always suffer extremely humiliating treatment during our visits to him. We come all the way from Alexandria, a long way off, to visit. However, the prison administration does not always allow us to enter. They now only allow 20 families to visit their loved ones. Even if we are allowed to enter, the visit is no more than ten minutes, and we have to suffer a most humiliating personal inspection".
In her testimony to AOHR, Ayah Alaa Hosni, the wife of a 33-year old journalist called Hassan Mahmoud Ragab Kabany, detained in Aqrab Prison' block H2 Wing 4, said: "My husband, along with other political prisoners, started a hunger-strike since February 21, to protest the poor conditions inside the prison.
"My husband has been held in a solitary cell in inhumane conditions since his arrest on January 22, 2015. He is not allowed even to exercise, nor to keep any personal belongings inside the cell. Moreover, both he and we suffer absurd restrictions during visits, like: we are separated with glass barriers and have to talk through a microphone, and visits are limited to 15 minutes."
Six political prisoners died due to deliberate medical neglect in Aqrab Prison since the beginning of the military coup in July 2013. Dozens more of ill detainees are at risk of death within the prison.
AOHR affirms that the abuses suffered by detainees and their families in Aqrab Orison are crimes of systematic torture and a form of collective punishment practiced by the Egyptian regime through state security agencies.
AOHR calls on the UN Secretary-General to take a moral stance about the serious violations committed by the Egyptian authorities against a large segment of Egyptian citizens. The world community's long silence has already emboldened the Egyptian authorities, who persist in their crimes.
AOHR urges specialized committees for prevention of torture, degrading treatment and arbitrary detention to visit Aqrab Prison and the rest of Egyptian prisons and put pressure on the Egyptian authorities to end political detention.
Arab Organization for Human Rights in Britain