Egypt: Investigate alleged violations of detainees’ human rights in Badr Prison

by | Apr 19, 2023 | News

The Egyptian authorities must open an independent and impartial investigation into allegations of serious human rights violations perpetrated against detainees at the Badr prison complex and ensure that those responsible be held accountable, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today.

يمكنكم قراءة وتحميل البيان باللغة العربية عبر هذ الرابط

On April 10, human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, blogger Mohamed (Oxygen) Ibrahim and writer Ahmed Douma intervened to defend their elderly cellmate, Hamed Sedeek, who had been assaulted for refusing to attend a detention renewal session. Reports indicate that the three of them were then, in turn, beaten and placed in solitary confinement as punishment for intervening on Sedeek’s behalf. El-Baqer sustained injuries to his mouth, ribs and one of his wrists.  On 14 April, El- Baqer’s defence team submitted a complaint to the Public Prosecutor, requesting the opening of an investigation into the assault on their client. After posting about the incident on social media, Neama Hesham, El- Baqer’s wife, was arrested by security services on 17 April and then released 13 hours later. She was detained in a location unknown to parents or her lawyer, and it appears that, while she was detained, her posts on social media detailing what had happened to her husband were deleted.

“Instead of arresting Neama Hesham, the Egyptian authorities should conduct a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations that El-Baqer and his cellmates were beaten and placed in solitary confinement to punish them for helping their elderly cellmate.” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA director.

El-Baqer, Ibrahim and Douma were beaten in Badr 1 Prison, a part of the larger Badr Correctional and Rehabilitation Center prison complex, located some 40 miles northeast of Cairo, which opened in late 2021. Since the transfer of prisoners to the Badr complex, several Egyptian and international human rights organizations, on a number of occasions, have reported on credible allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, arbitrary denial of visitation or contact with family members, lack of sufficient food, water and medical care. Reported methods of torture or other ill-treatment include: chaining prisoners to walls without food or water for days at a time; and subjecting them to harsh lights in their cells for 24 hours a day. In addition, detainees have gone on hunger strike to protest their inhuman detention conditions. On 2 October 2022, after being transferred to Badr prison, prisoner Omar Mohamed Ali was reportedly sexually assaulted by prison security personnel.

“Sixteen months after its opening, Badr prison has made a reputation for itself as a torture prison, in which inmates’ human rights are systematically violated,” added Benarbia.

Since November 2022, at least four prisoners have died in Badr prison, and in at least three of these cases, the authorities ignored calls to provide adequate medical assistance. A series of leaked detainees’ letters detailed their cruel and inhuman detention conditions and revealed that many prisoners have attempted to commit suicide, in part, at least, as a result of their appalling detention conditions.

The Egyptian authorities have failed so far to open investigations into the deaths of detainees and the allegations of ill-treatment and torture, including the cruel detention conditions that have led to suicide attempts by prisoners.

The ICJ reiterates its call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Mohamed El-Baqer, Mohamed Ibrahim, Ahmed Douma and all those arbitrarily detained.

Background

El-Baqer, a prominent human rights lawyer and executive director of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, was arrested on 29 September 2019 while attending activist Alaa Abdel Fattah’s interrogation in his capacity as his lawyer. Both El-Baqer and Oxygen were held in pre-trial detention for more than two years in connection with case No. 1356 of 2019 and the misdemeanour charges from this case were used in a new criminal case against them, case No. 1228 of 2021, in order to circumvent the pre-trial detention limits, and prolong their detention. El-Baqer and Oxygen are serving a four-year prison sentence after being convicted by the Emergency State Security Court in case No. 1228, alongside prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, on charges of “spreading false news undermining national security” related to statements published on their social media accounts denouncing human rights violations. Ahmed Douma has been arbitrarily detained for over a decade over his political activism and role in the 2011 uprising. In February 2015, Douma was convicted and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment following a grossly unfair trial arising from his participation in government protests and his political activism.

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