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Egypt: Suicide attempts in prison prompt calls for international probe

March 15, 2023 at 10:50 am

A picture taken during a guided tour organised by Egypt’s State Information Service on February 11, 2020, shows an Egyptian police officer entering the Tora prison on the southern outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) has called on the UN Human Rights Council to “investigate allegations of serious abuse recently revealed at the notorious Badr Prison” in Egypt.

It noted that three leaked messages from detainees inside Badr Prison Wing 3 were verified by DAWN in an interview with a source who has friends and relatives detained in the detention centre, as well as reports of widespread abuse and suicide attempts in the complex.

In a statement issued yesterday, the international organisation urged the UN to “conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the abuse allegations inside Badr Prison, including a visit to the compound.”

“The UN Human Rights Council should organise an investigation to lead this effort, and to conduct a thorough investigation into the widespread and systematic abuses taking place inside prisons across Egypt,” it said.

Sisi Era - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sisi Era – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Jon Hoffman, the DAWN research director, said: “The leaked messages from Badr prison detailing horrific abuses highlights both the growing desperation inmates feel and the utter failure of [Egyptian President] El-Sisi’s alleged prison reforms. The revelations of gross conditions inside the complex are emblematic of wider, systemic abuses continuing in prisons across all of Egypt and deserve close examination.”

“Badr prison symbolises the failures of the El-Sisi government and its blatant disregard for the rights and lives of the Egyptian people. Prisoners suffering the worst deprivations are risking their lives, torture, and brutal retaliation to let the world know that they’re suffering; the very least we can do is demand an international investigation,” Hoffman added.

The first undated detainee letter smuggled out of Badr Prison Wing 3 appeared in late February and detailed the many abuses within the prison complex, including a prolonged ban on family visits, inadequate nutrition, deteriorating sanitary conditions and denial of medical treatment.

According to the letter, following a cell raid by security forces inside the prison, one prisoner, Hussam Abu Shorouk, hanged himself, and two others, Mohamed Turk Abu Yara and Awad Noaman, attempted suicide by slitting their wrists and were transferred to the prison hospital.

The family of Awad Noaman confirmed on social media reports of his attempted suicide. Noaman’s wife said that she visited Badr prison after news of his suicide attempt and she asked the prison administrators about his condition. She said they denied the suicide attempts but prevented her from communicating with him.

Two other leaked notes dated 1 and 2 March emerged and confirmed the continued abuses inside the prison. The second letter states that prison authorities continue to deny medical treatment for detainees, despite the deteriorating health conditions of numerous prisoners, particularly the elderly.

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The third letter notes that the prison administration started transferring some prisoners to other complexes to try to break up acts of protest.

“The prison authorities continue to refuse to provide medical care to detainees who are in dire need of medical assistance. In response, prisoners are now burning their blankets in protest of the continued abuse,” the third letter explained.

In 2021, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced the launch of a new “National Human Rights Strategy” which included plans to “modernise” prisons. As part of this plan, he announced the opening of new prisons based on the “American model” which would ensure the “protection of the health and welfare of prisoners”. Badr Prison is considered one of these new complexes.