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Egypt: 8 rights groups issue proposal for transparent process to release political prisoners

Watch towers at Tora prison in the Egyptian capital Cairo. [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
Watch towers at Tora prison in the Egyptian capital Cairo 15 September 2020 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Eight Egyptian human rights organisations have issued a proposal for a fair and transparent process to release political prisoners in Egypt.

It is a "necessary, urgent and long overdue step," as Egypt is now one of the world's top jailers of political prisoners, according to the proposal signed by the Committee for Justice, El Nadeem Centre, and others.

There are roughly 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt who are systematically tortured and live in squalid conditions.

The issue of political prisoners is consistently raised by politicians and activists in Europe and the US as an example of the depths of the human rights crisis in Egypt.

However, despite a trickle of political prisoners being released, critics have said that they are just attempts by the authorities to clean up their image abroad but not implement significant change.

"This proposal, submitted by a group of independent Egyptian human rights organisations, aims to avoid past mistakes in dealing with this matter or persistence of an approach that has proven its failure in clearing the positions of thousands of political prisoners since the establishment of the presidential pardon committee in 2016," said the press released published by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), also one of the signatories.

The infamous Scorpio Prison in Cairo, Egypt - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The infamous Scorpio Prison in Cairo, Egypt – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

In 2016 the Detained Youth Committee for Presidential Pardon promised to review the cases of detainees who had been jailed for political crimes, yet little progress has been made on the crisis of prisoners of conscience since then.

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In April this year the Egyptian president announced he was reactivating the committee after the release of 41 political prisoners.

The eight human rights organisations have criticised the criteria and priorities laid out in the renewed presidential pardon committee and said it is not inclusive enough.

The proposal calls on authorities to consider the files of all political prisoners, including children, minors, elderly and those with health conditions.

Even though authorities have released limited numbers of detainees every few months, new people continue to be arrested and detained, exceeding the number released.

According to the proposal, this maintains and exacerbates the crisis and has offered no solution for years.

The eight human rights organisations have asked for the case of every political prisoner in Egypt to have their case examined objectively and transparently and that the issue of prisoner releases is treated urgently.

"There would be no real resolution of the crisis of political prisoners in Egypt if the decisions to arrest citizens on political charges continue as is the case now."

"Rather this would maintain the 'revolving door' policy by which security agencies throw new detainees into prisoners at the same time while releasing limited numbers of others."

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