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Report condemns harassment of Palestinian women in Egyptian prisons

February 10, 2014 at 11:42 am

A working group for Palestinians refugees in Syria has strongly condemned what it describes as the “flagrant violations of human and legal values in Egypt’s treatment of Palestinian refugee women who fled with their families from the war in Syria and have been placed in Egyptian prisons.”

In its report, released on Thursday, the group points to what it calls the “systematic sexual harassment” of Palestinian female refugees from Syria who are detained in Egyptian prisons, by both prison officers and their elements, and under the watch of those who are responsible for them.

The group considers these actions to be “a violation of the moral values of any society, including the Egyptian and Palestinian societies.” It also condemned the ignorance of the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo regarding the Egyptian authorities’ arrest of nearly 296 Palestinian refugees who had escaped from Syria but ended up in Egypt’s prisons and placed “in the worst human conditions that one can live under.”

The coordinator of the group, Tariq Hamoud, explained that the ignorance of the Palestinian officials about the conditions of Palestinian detainees in Egypt “represents the most obvious face of this leadership, in terms of favouring its self-interested relationship with the regime in Egypt over the interests of its own people and their suffering.” He demanded for the Palestinian officials to assume their responsibilities towards their own people.

Hamoud also demanded an immediate investigation into the incidents of abuse in Egypt, holding the UN High Commissioner for Refugees responsible for the silence despite the persistent reports about the Egyptian violations against Palestinians from Syria.

In the same context, the group said that 32 Palestinians prisoners from Syria are languishing in tents in the courtyard of the Odiah prison in Beheira Governorate in Egypt, amid “appalling violations of human rights”.

The group said it was able to connect with one of the Palestinian prisoners there, who confirmed that he was arrested by the Egyptian authorities for more than two months on charges of “illegal immigration” to Europe after the boat that was carrying him sank near the coast between Egypt and Libya. The Coast Guard took the Palestinian passengers to the Egyptian Odiah prison and placed them in a tent in the courtyard as there was no room for them inside the prison.

The prisoner added that 32 people, including six women, six men and 20 children, are now living inside the tents, without the basic necessities of life, as they are suffering from the cold, a lack of food, and difficult health conditions that have left the children vulnerable to diseases.

The Palestinian detainee continued: “We have started an open hunger strike six days ago in protest against our continuing detention under inhumane conditions, and to demand our release, as well as to make our voices heard by human rights organisations after Palestinian officials have abandoned us.”

He stressed that the hunger strike “aims to send a clear message to the international community and international organisations, calling upon them to intervene on behalf of humanity to help Palestinian refugees to achieve their demands of living with dignity and in safe conditions, and the ability to provide protection and care for their children and wives.

The working group for the Palestinians in Syria said that the Egyptian authorities have arrested hundreds of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the past few months after being forced to flee from the ongoing war in Syria, “while Egyptian authorities have forced more than 1,200 refugees to return to Syria in explicit violation of international law, which requires states to provide protection to refugees, especially after many of the deportees to Syria have been subject to arrest.”

About 296 Palestinians from Syria have been held in Egyptian prisons for months under serious legal and ethical violations, the latest of which was the sexual harassment of the refugee women prisoners by Egyptian prison officers and their elements.