Egypt's prisons are 'torture-free', says Egyptian human rights chief

Egypt's prisons are 'torture-free', says Egyptian human rights chief
2 min read
28 August, 2015
Analysis: Egypt's National Council for Human Rights announced on Wednesday that Egyptian prisons were "free of systematic torture", contrary to testimonies and reports from international human rights organisations.
NCHR President Mohamed Fayek announced Egyptian prisons "free of systematic torture" [Ahram]

The president of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), Mohamed Fayek, announced on Wednesday that all Egyptian prisons were "completely free of systematic torture".

"But the fact that systematic torture has ended does not mean that there is no torture at all," Fayek said.

"It can still happen. After all, we are human", he explained. "That is why we insist on the council's right to visit prisons."

Fayek did admit, however, that torture took place in Egyptian prisons for many years.

"We will continue to visit prisons to ensure the elimination of torture, a crime that had been endemic here for a long time," he said.

In its 2014/15 report, Amnesty International said that torture and other ill-treatment of criminal suspects were "routinely used to extract confessions and punish and humiliate suspects", reportedly leading to several deaths of detainees.

"[Torture] can still happen. After all, we are human"
- NCHR President Mohamed Fayek

"Commonly reported methods of torture included electric shocks to the genitals and other sensitive areas, beating, suspension by the limbs while handcuffed from behind, stress positions, beatings and rape," the report added.

"Deaths in detention were reported, with some apparently attributable to torture or other ill-treatment or inadequate conditions in police stations."

Yet despite denying any signs of torture in Egyptian prisons, the NCHR report documented other violations, including the cancelling or reduction of family visits, poor health care, banning the entry of blankets and personal belongings, and depriving prisoners from their right to exercise.

The press conference was held to announce the findings documented by an NCHR delegation in visits to a number of Egyptian prisons, including Egypt's most notorious prison, the Scorpion prison in Tora.

Scorpion prison is a maximum-security facility used for political prisoners, including Muslim Brotherhood and April 6 leaders, as well as political activists such as Alaa Abdel-Fattah.

Mona Seif, Alaa Abdel Fattah's sister, says prisoners are abused and tortured, and their families are routinely humiliated. Visits are allowed only from behind glass barriers.

The NCHR delegation concluded its report with a series of recommendations, including paying monthly visits to prisons as part of the council's plan to improve prison conditions across the country.

The recommendations also included replacing old and worn out bedding with new material for all prisoners within one month, as well as allowing full and regular visits by the prisoners' lawyers and families.