Creating new perspectives since 2009

Human Rights Watch: Rash of deaths in Egyptian police custody

January 21, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has highlighted “scores” of deaths in Egyptians in police custody during 2014, accusing authorities of taking “no serious steps either to improve detention conditions or to independently investigate detainees’ deaths.”

In addition, the international NGO describes how “some detainees appear to have died after being tortured or physically abused.”

According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, “Egypt’s prisons and police stations are bursting at the seams with opposition supporters rounded up by the authorities. People are being held in grossly overcrowded and inhumane conditions, and the mounting death toll is the wholly predictable consequence.”

HRW contextualises the deaths against the backdrop of “a broad arrest campaign targeting the Muslim Brotherhood” along with “others who oppose the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.” This has seen “tens of thousands of people” detained, and “strained Egypt’s prisons.”

In one case, the detainee appeared to have been beaten and then died in a severely overcrowded police cell. In the other cases, detainees who had heart disease, cancer, or other ailments were either denied necessary medical treatment or release on medical grounds, and in some cases were held in overcrowded conditions that exacerbated their health problems.

HRW has urged the authorities to “investigate deaths in custody and prosecute police officers and other officials suspected of negligence or abuse”, and to “release all detainees held solely for exercising their constitutionally protected rights to peaceful protest or political expression.”