Saturday, January 31, 2015

Court upholds 3 year jail sentences against 3 liberal activists for peacefully protesting

Associated Press
Egypt court upholds verdict against 3 prominent activists

January 27, 2015

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's highest appeal court on Tuesday upheld convictions and three-year prison sentences for three prominent activists for violating the country's draconian law on protests, their lawyer said.

The three — Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel — have already spent over a year in jail, following their arrest on charges of breaking a 2013 law that criminalizes political gatherings of more than 10 people without government permission and imposes tough penalties on violators.

The decision by Cairo's Cassation Court left the three without any other legal options, said Tarek al-Awadi, their lawyer. The court also ordered the three to be on probation for three years after serving their sentences.

The decision is likely to fuel more criticism of the protest law, even among allies of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and the police's heavy-handedness in implementing it.

The criticism was reignited after Saturday's killing of a female protester who died as police dispersed a small rally on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 protests that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. On Sunday, at least 20 people were killed, including 3 policemen, in violent protests.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday that at least 11 cases of journalists being detained, a reporter beaten by protesters and two photographers injured by birdshot, were documented by local groups on the anniversary.

Images of Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, with blood running down her face as she was lifted off the ground by a colleague amid a security chase, struck a nerve with Egyptians who have grown accustomed to violent clashes with police.

The protest she took part in was peaceful and small, organized by a leftist political party that had been allied with el-Sissi and the military in the 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Her killing also raised calls for abolishing or amending the protest law, which also gives police the right to use force to disperse protesters.

Thousands have been arrested according to the law, mostly Islamists.

*Photo by Mohamed Omar, Courtesy of Daily News Egypt

Police arrest 518 protesters on 4th anniversary of January 25 Uprising

Agence France-Presse 

516 'Brotherhood elements' arrested on Egypt anniversary

More than 500 backers of Egypt's blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood were arrested as clashes erupted on the anniversary of its 2011 uprising, a minister said Monday, in the biggest police sweep for months.

Twenty people, mostly demonstrators, were killed Sunday when protesters clashed with security forces after Islamists called for rallies against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government as Egypt marked the fourth anniversary of the toppling of ex-strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Supporters of Mubarak's successor, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, have regularly clashed with security forces since he was ousted by then army chief Sisi in July 2013.

Rights groups have repeatedly denounced the use of "excessive force" by the authorities to crush opposition rallies.

"We arrested 516 elements from the Muslim Brotherhood group who were involved in firing ammunition, planting explosives and bombing some facilities" on Sunday, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said.

The arrests were the biggest police sweep targeting Morsi supporters in a single day since Sisi came to power after a landslide election victory last May.

Ibrahim said 20 people were killed Sunday in clashes, most of them in Cairo's northern district of Matareya, adding two policemen were among the dead.

A health ministry official said among the dead was a protester killed in the northern city of Alexandria in similar clashes.

Late on Monday the interior ministry said it had deployed more police forces to Cairo's Matareya district where fresh skirmishes were reported.

Sunday's death toll from clashes was the biggest in a single day since Sisi came to office.

Three suspected militants also died when they mistakenly blew themselves up while planting explosives in the Nile Delta region.


The authorities have blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence that has rocked Egypt since Morsi's ouster, including bombings and shootings targeting security forces.

However, more than 1,400 people have been killed in a government crackdown against Morsi's supporters, while over 15,000 have been imprisoned since he was toppled.

Dozens have also been sentenced to death in trials which the United Nations says are "unprecedented in recent history".

The Brotherhood has denied government accusations of involvement in attacks on security forces, mostly claimed by jihadist groups.

Egypt's deadliest militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, said in a video issued Monday that it executed a policeman kidnapped in Rafah bordering the Gaza Strip earlier this month.

The United States, Britain and Human Rights Watch condemned Egypt's deadly use of force against protesters.

"Four years after Egypt's revolution, police are still killing protesters on a regular basis," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of HRW.

The New York-based HRW called for "an independent investigation into the authorities' excessive use of force" to quell "apparently peaceful protests."
Ibrahim dismissed the criticism.

"This organisation has never been objective in its reports," he said, blaming the Brotherhood for Sunday's violence.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki urged the "security forces to show restraint and to provide a safe environment in which Egyptians can peacefully express their views."

The British Foreign Office said it was "deeply concerned by the use of deadly force by the police against demonstrators".

Tensions had surged on the eve of the January 25 anniversary, when a female demonstrator was killed in clashes with police during a rare leftwing protest in Cairo.

Shaima al-Sabbagh died of birdshot wounds when police opened fire to disperse a march, fellow protesters and HRW said.

An 18-year-old female protester was also killed on Friday in clashes in Alexandria.


Sisi has been regularly accused by activists and rights groups of installing a regime that is more repressive than Mubarak's.

His supporters deny the allegations, pointing to his popularity among a large section of Egypt's population weary of four years of turmoil and economic crisis.

Ibrahim also said that Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal -- symbols of corruption during their father's rule -- had been released from jail pending a retrial in a graft case, four years after their arrest.

When asked by a reporter when they were actually released, Ibrahim said: "How does it concern you when they were released?"

Their release so close to the anniversary of the 2011 revolt presents a dilemma for Sisi, who is accused by opponents of reviving Mubarak-era practices.

Sisi's police kill at least 20 protesters commemorating January 25 Uprising

Prosecutors Should Investigate Excessive Use of Force
January 26, 2015

(New York) – The death of at least 20 people in Egypt during clashes with security forces surrounding the commemoration of the 2011 uprising underscores the need for an independent investigation into the authorities’ excessive use of force.A woman and 17-year-old girl were killed ahead of the January 25 anniversary while participating in apparently peaceful protests, and at least 18 died on the anniversary.

Sondos Reda Abu Bakr, 17, and Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 32, were killed on January 23 and 24 when security forces broke up protests in which they were participating, according to eyewitnesses, media reports, videos, and photographs reviewed by Human Rights Watch. 

In al-Sabbagh’s case, clear evidence – including videos of the gathering before, during and after its dispersal – shows that police responded to a small, peaceful protest with excessive force, leading to al-Sabbagh’s death.

“Four years after Egypt’s revolution, police are still killing protesters on a regular basis,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “While President Sisi was at Davos burnishing his international image, his security forces were routinely using violence against Egyptians participating in peaceful demonstrations.”

Since former Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power following a July 2013 military coup that removed former President Mohamed Morsy, Egyptian security forces have carried out widespread killings of more than 1,000 Egyptian protesters. 

Most of those killed were supporters of Morsy or opponents of the coup who died in Rabaa and Nahda squares in the capital on August 14, 2013 – the worst mass killings in Egypt’s modern history. In November 2013, the government put in place an anti-protest law that forbids impromptu demonstrations and gives the Interior Ministry wide authority to forcefully disperse unauthorized gatherings. 

On January 25, 2014, the third anniversary of the uprising, at least 64 people died across Egypt in clashes between protesters and security forces.

On January 23, in the buildup to the fourth anniversary of the uprising, police violently dispersed an anti-coup march in Alexandria, according to the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political wing. 

Abu Bakr, a student, was participating in the march when she was shot and killed, the party said in a Facebook post. A Health Ministry official in Alexandria told the Reuters news agency that Abu Bakr was one of two people taken to hospital for gunshot wounds.

On January 24, police similarly dispersed a peaceful protest led by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party in Cairo’s downtown Talaat Harb Square, firing tear gas and birdshot, arresting at least six people and leaving al-Sabbagh dead, according to eyewitnesses and other evidence. The party had organized the march to commemorate the January 25 revolution and remember its “martyrs.”

Human Rights Watch reviewed numerous publicly available media documenting the protest, including four videos – one of which appears to show al-Sabbagh seconds after being shot – and 21 still photographs, 15 of which show the protest as it is being dispersed.

Though none of the videos or photographs show when and how she was shot, they do show that at least some of the security forces present in the square were carrying shotguns and automatic rifles. Two photos, which seem to have been taken at or around the moment al-Sabbagh fell, show armed police chasing her and others.

Hisham Abd al-Hamid, spokesman for the Justice Ministry’s Forensic Medical Authority, told the television channel Al-Hayat in a live interview that al-Sabbagh had been shot in the back and neck by birdshot from around 8 meters. 

Abd al-Hamid said the type of “light” birdshot that killed al-Sabbagh could have been used by police or civilians. He also said that Qasr al-Nil district prosecutors had asked him not to publish the autopsy report because the prosecutor general was issuing a publication ban on the case, according to the Aswat Masriya news service.

Osama Hammam, a photojournalist documenting the protest, wrote on Facebook that the marchers, about 30 people, carried a wreath and stood on a sidewalk after reaching the square, chanting, “bread, freedom, social justice” – a popular protest slogan. 

Video posted to YouTube by the quasi-official Middle East News Agency shows the protesters, also holding a large banner, marching through the street and standing and chanting peacefully near the square. 

Another video, which also appears to show al-Sabbagh moments after being shot, shows the crowd chanting peacefully. Police stationed in the square – where they had dispersed protesters who fired fireworks at them on January 22 – suddenly fired tear gas at the group, Hammam wrote, and the protesters began to walk away.

“Suddenly I received birdshot and began to run, not understanding anything that was happening,” Hammam wrote. “I took some pictures as I ran and when I felt the firing stop I looked and saw Shaima al-Sabbagh fall to the ground.”

Graphic videos posted to YouTube show a colleague of al-Sabbagh and another man carrying her away from the square and seeking help. Al-Sabbagh appears to be unconscious, and blood can be seen flowing from her mouth and nose.

A forensic medical report documenting al-Sabbagh’s death, a photo of which former member of parliament Ziad al-Alimi posted on Twitter, states that al-Sabbagh died after being shot in the back, causing lacerations to her lungs and heart and massive bleeding in her chest.

Security officials denied that police had shot al-Sabbagh. Assistant Interior Minister Abd al-Fattah Othman told the Agence France-Presse news agency that security forces had only used tear gas to disperse the protest. “It was a small protest that did not require the use of such weapons, only two tear gas canisters were fired,” he said.

Another Interior Ministry statement claimed that the protesters had used fireworks against security forces, Ahram Online reported.

Maj. Gen. Hany Abd al-Latif, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said security forces were working to speedily bring al-Sabbagh’s killers to justice and told a privately owned television channel that a group of protesters caught on tape carrying rifles had fired the gunshots, according to Aswat Masriya. Abd al-Latif “warned” that Muslim Brotherhood members were using such gatherings to “drive a wedge between the police and the people,” the newspaper Al-Watan reported.

None of the publicly available media reviewed by Human Rights Watch showed any protester with a weapon or fireworks.

On January 25, Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat announced the opening of an “immediate and extensive” investigation into al-Sabbagh’s death and ordered members of the security forces who participated in the incident to be questioned. 

Barakat said he had also ordered the unit’s logbooks, which detail what kinds of weapons and ammunition they used, to be preserved, and that a team of criminal forensic experts had viewed the scene of al-Sabbagh’s death and her autopsy report. 

Prosecutors seized footage from three security cameras in the area and questioned five other eyewitnesses as well, according to a report in Al-Youm Al-Sabaa newspaper. They released all six of those arrested during the dispersal.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said whoever was responsible for al-Sabbagh’s death would be punished and that “the state after [the] January 25 [, 2011 uprising] respects the law and applies it to everyone.”

International human rights treaties ratified by Egypt oblige the government to safeguard the right of peaceful assembly and to restrict it only when required by law and when necessary to achieve a greater public good. When dispersing a demonstration or responding to acts of violence, security forces should abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officers.

Governments and law enforcement agencies must ensure that there is an effective review process and independent administrative or prosecutorial authorities to exercise jurisdiction in such cases. Those affected by the use force should have access to a judicial process.

Such provisions apply to all demonstrations, and Egyptian prosecutors should ensure that the other deaths that occurred before and during the January 25 anniversary are investigated fairly and impartially.

Egypt’s successive prosecutors general have failed to hold government and law enforcement officials accountable for mass, unlawful killings since the 2011 revolution. Only three low-level officers have served prison sentences for killings in 2011. 

No police officer or security official has been prosecuted for the mass killings of July and August 2013. A judge convicted four police officers for the August 18, 2013 fatal tear-gassing of 37 detainees at Abu Zaabal Prison, but an appeals court has ordered them retried. The official June 30 Fact-Finding Committee, established to investigate the violence surrounding Morsy’s removal, did not recommend any prosecutions.

Human Rights Watch has called for the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate widespread killings of protesters since July 2013.

*Photo courtesy of REUTERS

Female protesters lead march against police brutality & murders

Al-Bawaba News 

Egypt women rally against police killings

January 29, 2015

Jihad Abaza

Protesters held signs commemorating Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh and Sondos Abu-Bakr, both of whom were killed by police forces during demonstrations before the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.

Police forces stood alongside pro-ministry interior protesters who were also standing in Talaat Harb Square, according to a Daily News Egypt reporter who was present at the scene.

The commemoration was initially held to be a “women’s stand in the site of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh’s killing,” but men had also joined which lasted approximately 45 minutes.

The initiative for the stand began through a small group of women, who did not belong to any political movements or parties, the event page for the stand said.

Police forces shot Al-Sabbagh as she stood in a small “protest of flowers” in Talaat Harb square commemorating the 25 January Revolution on 24 January, while police forces shot Abu-Bakr as she marched in a protest in Alexandria the day before.

*Photo by Mohamed El-Shahed, courtesy of AFP

Violence against women remains pervasive across Egypt

Egypt: Token reforms fail to end scourge of pervasive violence against women 

21 January 2015

More than 99 per cent of women in Egypt interviewed for a survey by UN Women in 2013 said that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Women and girls in Egypt face violence on a disturbing scale both at home and in public, including sexual mob attacks as well as torture in state custody, according to a new briefing by Amnesty International.

‘Circles of hell’: Domestic, public and state violence against women in Egypt documents how despite some recent piecemeal reforms, shortfalls in Egyptian laws and entrenched impunity continue to foster a culture of routine sexual and gender-based violence in the country.

“The reality is that women and girls in Egypt face the ever-present, lurking spectre of physical and sexual violence in all facets of life. At home many are subjected to vicious beatings, aggression and abuse from spouses and relatives. In public they face incessant sexual harassment and the risk of mob attacks, when not falling prey to state officials’ violence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

The Egyptian authorities have announced some token initiatives in recent months, including the introduction of a law criminalizing sexual harassment, however President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s public commitments to tackle the issue have not yet translated into a cohesive and sustained strategy.

The authorities are still refusing to acknowledge the scale of the problem and dodging key reforms needed to effectively start tackling violence and engrained discriminatory attitudes towards women.

“For years, successive Egyptian governments have either trumpeted women’s rights as a PR-exercise or else used violence against women to score cheap political points against their opponents. The authorities have blamed their opponents for endemic sexual violence and promised reforms, but never delivered,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“Violence and discrimination affects all women, across Egypt’s political divide. Token gestures and unfulfilled promises will not suffice. The Egyptian authorities must seize the opportunity of upcoming parliamentary elections in March to place this issue at the heart of the political agenda. There must be no ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’ about ending abuses and ensuring women can take part in public life.”

More than 99 per cent of women and girls in Egypt interviewed for a survey published by UN Women in 2013 reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

There have been a handful of convictions since a new law making sexual harassment a crime punishable by a minimum of one year in prison was introduced last year. However, the vast majority of women are still waiting for justice. Even when they seek help many have found themselves ignored or treated with contempt by police and the justice system.

Amnesty International is calling for the authorities to deliver a long-promised, long-delayed strategy on addressing violence against women.

“The authorities have made big promises, but actually delivered very little of the root and branch reform that’s sorely needed,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“Women are a fundamental part of the solution to the problems that Egypt faces. It’s now time for the authorities to come up with a plan to end the long years of violence and discrimination.”


Sexual assaults in public, particularly in the context of demonstrations around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, have soared in recent years. Sexual assaults and rapes have been carried out repeatedly in which women have been groped, stripped naked and dragged through the streets or beaten with sticks, knives and belts by violent mobs. The authorities have not shown due diligence to prevent the attacks, or to protect women from violence.

Egyptian legislation criminalizing rape and other sexual assault continues to fall short of international human rights standards. While courts have jailed a small number of men in connection with the attacks in Tahrir Square, many survivors are still waiting for justice.


The briefing also documents the deplorable treatment of female prisoners while in state custody or upon arrest. Several women and girls said they were tortured or ill-treated by security forces on arrest, including being subjected to sexual violence.

In prison, female detainees are subjected to torture and ill-treatment with impunity. One prisoner was forced to lie in front of other prisoners before being whipped on her feet. Even pregnant women were found to have been treated in a degrading or inhuman manner, including being handcuffed during labour.

“While a lot of the attention is on the situation of prominent male detainees, true horror stories have emerged from Egypt’s prisons about the inhuman and cruel treatment female prisoners have endured. All women in police custody or in prison must be protected from violence, torture and ill-treatment, including rape, and corporal punishment,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.


Nearly half of all women surveyed for the Ministry of Health said that they had experienced some form of domestic violence, in the last official figures on the issue. Survivors interviewed by Amnesty International described brutal physical and psychological abuse, saying that their spouses had beaten, whipped and burned them and in some cases locked them up inside the house against their will. They also spoke about how the legal system is failing them.

Many problems stem from prejudiced attitudes and are exacerbated by the discriminatory Egyptian personal status law and other provisions which put up unsurmountable obstacles for women to prove that their spouses have harmed them.

Support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence is quasi-inexistent. Women who choose to report it are confronted with several obstacles, including a lack of interest by the security forces or prosecution, as well as inadequate criminal laws, with domestic violence and marital rape not explicitly criminalized. This leads many women subjected to domestic violence to suffer in silence.

A deeply discriminatory divorce system also often leaves women trapped in abusive relationships. While men may unilaterally divorce their wives without providing any justification, women must either forfeit their financial rights by accepting a “no-fault” khol’ divorce, or be prepared to fight a long and costly court battle to prove that their husband “harmed” them.

“Recent measures to protect women taken have been largely symbolic. The authorities must prove that these are more than cosmetic changes by making sustained efforts to implement changes and challenge deeply entrenched attitudes prevalent in Egyptian society,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.


At a glance - Violence against women in numbers

Sexual harassment

99%: Women and girls interviewed for UN Women survey in 2013 who reported some form of sexual harassment

Domestic violence

47.4%: Married, divorced, separated or widowed women who reported some form of physical domestic violence in the last official survey on the issue

39% of women interviewed in the last official survey on domestic violence who agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

91%: Women (ages 15-49) subjected to FGM in the last official survey
1: Known prosecutions for female genital mutilation since the 2011 uprising

Public life

30-42: Approximate number of women judges, many directly appointed by Hosni Mubarak

2%: Women holding seats in the last People’s Assembly (lower house of parliament)

10%: Women appointed to the 50-member committee that drafted Egypt’s 2014 constitution


24.2 % / 9.8%: Unemployed women versus men


37.3%: Egyptian women and girls over the age of 10 who are illiterate

Judiciary orders Mubarak's sons released, while 1,000s of innocent detainees languish in prisons

Mubarak brothers released in Egypt

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, sons of ex-president, leave jail pending retrial in their corruption case, state media reports.

23 Jan 2015
The two sons of Egypt's overthrown leader Hosni Mubarak have been freed from prison pending a fraud retrial, according to Egypt’s state media.

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak left jail early on Friday after a court ordered their release a day ago because they had served the maximum pretrial detention, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website

Hosni Mubarak, who was removed after Egypt's 2011 uprising, was convicted by a lower court on corruption charges with his two sons last year, with Alaa and Gamal receiving four-year sentences.
Their charges included embezzling at least $16m earmarked for the maintenance of presidential palaces.

The retrial of the former leader and his two sons was ordered this month and their lawyer Farid al-Deeb said at the time that the elder Mubarak, who is in a military hospital, would also be a free man.

However, state media reported there had been no orders yet for his release and there have been no signs of the 86-year-old leaving the hospital

Ahram reported that Alaa, 54, and Gamal, 51, were transported from jail to a police station in northern Cairo before being freed. They are both facing a separate trial for stock market manipulation.

In the last decade of Mubarak's 30-year rule, Gamal in particular was seen as the likely successor of his father and headed the powerful policies committee of the now dissolved National Democratic Party.

The release of the Mubaraks presents a dilemma for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former army chief whom opponents accuse of reviving Mubarak-era practices.

His prime minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, was a senior member of the National Democratic Party.
Sisi took power after overthrowing Egypt's first post-revolution leader – the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi – in 2013 and won an election with massive support last year.

However, he has faced accusations of being even more authoritarian than Mubarak, unleashing a crackdown on Morsi supporters that has killed at least 1,400 people.
*Photo courtesy of REUTERS

Egypt: Rash of deaths in police custody

Holding Police Accountable Key to Saving Lives
January 21, 2015
(New York) – Scores of Egyptians died in government custody in 2014, many of them packed into police stations in life-threatening conditions. Yet the authorities have taken no serious steps either to improve detention conditions or to independently investigate detainees’ deaths.

Some detainees appear to have died after being tortured or physically abused, Human Rights Watch found. But many appear to have died because they were held in severely overcrowded cells or did not receive adequate medical care for serious ailments.

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

Human Rights Watch independently documented nine deaths in custody since mid-2013 based on evidence from the victims’ relatives and lawyers, as well as medical documents. 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.

A broad arrest campaign targeting the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government has labeled a terrorist organization, and others who oppose the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has strained Egypt’s prisons. The influx of tens of thousands of people has led authorities to house many suspects in temporary detention sites.

According to an investigation published in December by Al Watan newspaper that drew on statistics of the Justice Ministry’s Forensic Medical Authority (FMA), at least 90 detainees held in police facilities in just the governorates of Cairo and Giza died in custody in the first ten and a half months of 2014.

A report by the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, an Egyptian NGO that examined the first 100 days of al-Sisi’s administration, found that at least 35 people had died in custody – most in police stations – between early June and early September. In the 15 cases for which the center identified a cause of death, 13 involved overcrowding or failure to provide medical care, and two involved physical abuse.

The government has not disclosed the number of deaths in custody countrywide, but those recorded by the FMA in Cairo and Giza were a nearly 40 percent increase over the 65 deaths recorded by the same authority in 2013, Al Watan reported. The newspaper quoted FMA spokesman Hisham Abd al-Hamid as saying that overcrowding from the wave of new detainees was the primary reason for the rise in deaths. News organizations have regularly reported deaths in detention facilities in other governorates, suggesting that the total number nationally could be significantly higher.

Egyptian authorities are obliged under international law to provide detainees with the same health care available to people who are at liberty and, under international standards, pretrial detention should only be used as a last resort.

Article 55 of Egypt’s constitution, passed in 2014, forbids torturing or physically harming detainees, and requires authorities to treat all detainees “in a manner that maintains their dignity” and hold them in facilities that are “adequate on human and health levels.” It states that violating those provisions is a crime. Article 56 states that prisons and places of detention should be subject to judicial supervision and that “actions inconsistent with human dignity or that endanger human health shall be prohibited.”

Despite the rising number of deaths and widespread reports of mistreatment, lack of medical care, and severe overcrowding, prosecutors have filed only one case against police linked to detainees’ deaths since mid-2013. 
This stemmed from an August 18, 2013 incident in which 37 detainees died after police fired a tear gas canister into a prison van in which they were confined at Abu Zaabal Prison. A judge convicted four officers but, in July, an appeals court ordered them retried. The next hearing will be held on January 22.

In a message to Human Rights Watch smuggled out of Tora Prison in March 2014, one prisoner said teams of prosecutors regularly visited prisons but refused to listen to prisoners’ complaints. “All they did was enter each cell, take a quick glance, count beds, and note names in each cell,” this prisoner said.

The authorities should investigate deaths in custody and prosecute police officers and other officials suspected of negligence or abuse, Human Rights Watch said. Egypt’s prosecutor general should release all detainees held solely for exercising their constitutionally protected rights to peaceful protest or political expression. 
The prosecutor should create a process to review pretrial detention practices, with a presumption against pretrial detention in all cases, and ensure the immediate release of all those who need medical care unavailable in detention.

“The Egyptian authorities have appeared shockingly complacent in the face of so many detainee deaths,” Whitson said. “They need to ensure that all such deaths, as well as abuse allegations, are independently investigated, and rapidly put in place and enforce effective safeguards to protect everyone in state custody.”


Though Egyptian authorities do not publish prison population statistics, it is likely that the number of prisoners has risen significantly since the military overthrew Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s first freely elected president, in July 2013 and began a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The authorities have detained at least 41,000 people, according to a count based on media reports by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, an independent group. The Brotherhood estimates that 29,000 members or suspected supporters of its movement have been arrested.

In December, an Interior Ministry official announced that in 2014, authorities had arrested 10,000 people accused of rioting, attacking police stations, belonging to terrorist groups or sabotaging rail lines, and suggested that all were tied to the Brotherhood. In July, the Interior Ministry told a presidential fact-finding commission investigating the events surrounding Morsy’s removal that more than 7,000 people arrested during those events remained in pretrial detention.

Al-Watan reported that Hisham Abd al-Hamid, the spokesman for the Forensic Medical Authority, said a team from his agency had surveyed Cairo and Giza police stations and found that overcrowding was the main cause of the increase in deaths. Abd al-Hamid said that prisons lacked capacity to hold an influx of short-term prisoners and so the authorities had to hold the prisoners in cramped police stations and other facilities where, on average, each was allocated only half a square meter of space.

Abd al-Hamid was quoted as saying that rising summer temperatures and the spread of disease in the winter led to a “natural” increase in detainees’ deaths, and that they resulted from “medical conditions” and did not give rise to “criminal suspicion.” Al Watan said an anonymous source within the Cairo Security Directorate had told the newspaper that authorities had installed air conditioners to alleviate conditions in some Cairo and Giza police facilities.

Abd al-Hamid, reached by telephone in December, declined to respond to requests from Human Rights Watch for information about detainees’ deaths in custody and abuse of detainees. The office of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat did not respond to a July 8 letter from Human Rights Watch requesting information about any existing investigations into deaths in custody or the abuse of detainees over the past year. On July 1, an Interior Ministry spokesperson, General Abd al-Fattah Othman, said on a TV talk show that accounts of police rape and other torture of prisoners circulating on social media had “no basis in truth” and described Egyptian prisons as “like hotels.”

Compensation for detainees who have been abused or mistreated is seldom reported. On January 14, in a rare ruling, an Alexandria administrative court ordered the Interior Ministry to pay a former prisoner 75,000 Egyptian pounds (US$10,341) for lost wages as a result of having his arm amputated after it became infected from receiving an injection from a contaminated syringe. In past years, the Arab Organization for Penal Reform has won similar rulings, but the Interior Ministry has, in some of those cases, failed to pay, according to Al-Ahram newspaper.

Despite the Abu Zaabal incident and some accounts of death in custody that involved torture or physical abuse, a large number of the deaths reviewed by Human Rights Watch in media and reports from nongovernmental groups – in addition to the majority of the nine cases independently verified – appear to be the result of inadequate medical care, exacerbated by overcrowded conditions.

The United Nations Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the General Assembly in 1990, provide that prisoners “shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.” 
The universal right to “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health,” as recognized and described in various international treaties, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both ratified by Egypt, also applies to prisoners.

Furthermore, under international standards, pretrial detention should only be used when it is absolutely necessary to ensure the integrity of the criminal proceedings and should take into consideration the likelihood that the detainee will flee. A suspect’s health, and the ability of the prison system to provide adequate care, should be a basic consideration for pretrial detention.

Egypt’s Prisons Act of 1956 and Interior Ministry Decree 79 of 1961 mandate adequate care by prison doctors and a bed for each inmate, including pre-trial detainees, to avoid overcrowding. But in the nine cases verified by Human Rights Watch, the authorities routinely ignored and violated these prescriptions. 
Prison authorities also routinely ignored the requirement to notify relatives immediately if a prisoner dies, and they flouted the requirement that they inform prosecutors whenever a prisoner dies “suddenly” or as a result of an accident or criminal act.

A 2014 report on health care in prisons and detention facilities by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) found that conditions generally did not meet the minimum requirements of the right to health guaranteed by international law – although the quality of care varied by location – and that speedy emergency services were “typically very limited.”

Former detainees EIPR interviewed said that they rarely, if ever, received medical attention from the overburdened and inexperienced general practitioners who serve as prison doctors. The detainees said they treated themselves with medicine brought by family members or recommended by fellow inmates. Wardens also often interfered with prison doctors’ advice and recommendations when they were available, the prisoners said.

Overcrowding, combined with poor ventilation, left cells and prison wards cold in the winter and unbearably hot in summer, prisoners told the EIPR.

In September, the Interior Ministry amended its 1961 decree, but the amendments fell short of Egyptian and international standards, the EIPR said. They did not require the number of doctors in each prison to be proportionate to the number of inmates or specify the maximum number of prisoners who can be held in each cell. 
They also did not remedy other flaws the EIPR has identified in prison regulations, such as the fact that prison wardens and other administrators hold approval power over doctors’ recommendations for treatment or release.


Ahmed Ibrahim: Signs of a Beating

Ahmed Ibrahim, 23, died early in the morning of June 15, 2014, at a police station in Cairo’s Matariya district. Ibrahim had been learning how to install heating and air conditioning systems before he was given a three-year prison sentence for theft in 2012. Prison authorities had transferred him to the Matariya police station on June 14 to finalize his early release. His father, Mohamed Ibrahim, told Human Rights Watch that he last saw Ahmed alive when he took some food to the police station for him that evening. His son, he said, was held in an uncomfortably hot cell of about 4 by 4 meters that was so packed that prisoners were forced to remain standing.

Mohamed Ibrahim told Human Rights Watch that he complained to the police captain in charge of the station that the conditions were inhumane but that the officer punched him and told him to find a doctor if he thought so. Ibrahim spoke briefly to his son, who assured him that he would survive until his expected release. At around 1 a.m., however, Ibrahim received a mobile phone call from Ahmed, who said, “Dad, I’m dying,” the father told Human Rights Watch.

Ibrahim called an ambulance, he said, but when he went to the station the next morning, the police told him that Ahmed had died while being taken by ambulance to a hospital only a short distance from the station. At the morgue, Ibrahim saw blood on his son’s lips and bruising on his face and head – injuries noted in a forensic medical report that also found that Ibrahim’s lungs were swollen and had hemorrhaged.

Ibrahim told Human Rights Watch that he suspects police beat his son. He said he had filed a complaint with the local prosecutor, who has not filed charges. According to the December investigation by Al-Watan newspaper, eight detainees died at the Matariya Police Station in 2014, the most of any location in Cairo or Giza.

Dr. Tarek Mahmoud al-Ghandour: Refusal to Provide Life-Saving Care
Dr. Tarek Mahmoud al-Ghandour, a dermatology professor at Cairo’s Ain Shams University and local leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, died on the morning of November 12 in the intensive care unit of the National Liver Institute at Monofiyya University, where he had been moved only hours before.

His death from liver disease occurred following nearly a year of detention during which prison authorities denied him access to necessary medical care, according to al-Ghandour’s family and friends.

Police arrested al-Ghandour on December 18, 2013, at his home in Cairo’s Nasr City neighborhood. Prosecutors charged him with several offenses related to his membership in the Muslim Brotherhood and, in April, a judge convicted him of participating in an illegal protest and sentenced him to five years in prison, despite evidence that he had been at the headquarters of the national Doctors Syndicate throughout the day of the protest in question, his wife told Human Rights Watch.

Though al-Ghandour suffered from Hepatitis C, liver cirrhosis, and other problems and needed a liver transplant from a donor that his family had identified, the authorities kept him detained pending his appeal of his five-year sentence and did not transfer him to a hospital where he could receive the transplant. 
According to the EIPR and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Egyptian prison hospitals are not equipped for surgery, and authorities often put pressure on regular hospitals to return admitted prisoners as quickly as possible, sometimes preventing follow-up treatment or recovery time.

Al-Ghandour’s family informed the prosecutor about his medical condition and requested his release for the liver transplant, and his wife wrote similar appeals to the presidency and the quasi-governmental National Council for Human Rights (NCHR).

On April 28, the office of the East Cairo General Prosecutor wrote to prison authorities requesting that al-Ghandour undergo medical examinations to see if he needed to have surgery and that further steps be taken “in accordance with the law,” according to a letter provided by al-Ghandour’s family.
On May 4, a prison doctor sent a medical report to prison authorities recommending that al-Ghandour be transferred to Ain Shams University Specialized Hospital to receive a liver transplant and warning that his health would deteriorate if he was not. The report was smuggled to al-Ghandour’s family, who provided it to Human Rights Watch.

Eventually, prison administrators said they would investigate, al-Ghandour’s family said, but by then they had moved al-Ghandour first to one prison, then another. In late October, authorities moved him to Shibin al-Kom Prison in the governorate of Monofiya because of its proximity to the National Liver Institute. 
The prison authorities allowed him to have an operation in the Liver Institute necessitated by his cirrhosis but insisted that he be immediately returned to prison after surgery without allowing time for recovery. Al-Ghandour’s cousin, also a dermatologist, told Human Rights Watch that he should have stayed longer.

“I know that all hospitals in general don’t admit political prisoners easily. They receive instructions not to admit them,” he told Human Rights Watch. “The doctor at that time said it’s difficult for them to admit political prisoners because it means a lot of problems for them and the hospital.”

On November 9, nearly a year after his arrest, a prison medical committee reviewed al-Ghandour’s case and asked for an ultrasound of his cirrhosis, his wife said. Al-Ghandour received the ultrasound on November 10. Early the next morning, he began to vomit blood. 
Prison authorities transferred him to the Monofiyya University Hospital, where he was placed under police guard and for roughly three hours received little treatment aside from a blood infusion, family members who saw him there told Human Rights Watch. Al-Ghandour’s brother and cousin, who arrived at the hospital from Cairo after the family received a call from a doctor, said they found him conscious and that he told them, “I threw up a bucket of blood.”

Police refused to transport al-Ghandour to the Liver Institute, so his brother and cousin helped him make the roughly 10-minute walk. A manager agreed to admit him, and doctors began giving him an endoscopy, but he continued to bleed heavily, suffered cardiac arrest, and fell into a coma. Doctors transferred him to the intensive care unit, where he died the next morning.

Two days later, Hafez Abu Saada, a member of the NCHR, called on the interior minister and prosecutor general to investigate al-Ghandour’s death. Neither has announced an investigation.

Mahmoud Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi: Repeated Heart Attacks
Mahmoud Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi, 51, a government employee, died in custody at Suez General Hospital on November 3 after being held for months in an overcrowded prison cell and suffering apparent heart attacks.

National Security officers arrested al-Mahdi, a supporter of the ousted president, on January 19, 2014, at his office in Suez. Prosecutors accused him of carrying firearms, inciting violence, and belonging to a banned group – the Muslim Brotherhood. 
They ordered him detained for 15 days pending investigation and repeatedly renewed the order until August, when a judge acquitted him. The prosecutor appealed, and the judge ordered al-Mahdi released on a 10,000-pound (US$1,400) bail. However, National Security officers made new allegations that led prosecutors to file new charges against him and keep him in pretrial detention.

Authorities held al-Mahdi in Ataka Prison in Suez, in a cell with nearly 50 other inmates that was so small they had to sleep in shifts, al-Mahdi’s daughter told Human Rights Watch. Al-Mahdi began suffering chest pains and was transferred to Suez General Hospital three times, his daughter said. The family arranged for a Health Ministry inspector to visit al-Mahdi in prison, and the inspector recommended his immediate transfer to a hospital, though the hospital declined to admit him. Many doctors seem reluctant to admit those viewed as political prisoners because they do not want to be legally responsible, al-Mahdi’s daughter said.

“Actually, in the last period my father sometimes refused to go to hospital when he felt sick because he thought it would be a lot of useless effort,” she said.

One afternoon in late October, a few days before he died, al-Mahdi’s pain became so severe that fellow prisoners began banging on the cell bars to attract help, his daughter said, but it took 10 hours before prison officials moved al-Mahdi to Suez General Hospital, where doctors diagnosed high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar and said he was probably having a heart attack. 
They admitted al-Mahdi to the intensive care unit for fewer than 12 hours and then transferred him to the hospital’s prison ward, a facility that seemed to lack basic equipment, including an oxygen mask, al-Mahdi’s daughter said.

On November 2, al-Mahdi suffered another bout of chest pain, and doctors took him to the intensive care unit for an oxygen mask and electrocardiogram. Though al-Mahdi said he was sick and could not breathe, nurses and others told his daughter, doctors returned him to the prisoner ward, where he died a few hours later.

Under the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, sick prisoners who require specialist treatment must be transferred to specialized institutions or civil hospitals. The refusal of a hospital to admit a sick prisoner does not relieve prison authorities of their duty to provide the prisoner with adequate care, such as transferring the prisoner to another hospital, Human Rights Watch said.

Abu Bakr Ahmed Hanafi: Continued Detention Despite Terminal Illness
Abu Bakr Ahmed Hanafi, an accountant and Brotherhood leader in the Qena governorate, died in Assiut Prison on November 13 after more than 10 months in detention. Police arrested him on January 1, 2014, at his office in Qena governorate and charged him with involvement in a riot that damaged Qena’s main train station in July 2013.

Prosecutors ordered him held, pending trial. In July, while at Qena Prison, he began suffering stomach pain and vomiting, his wife told Human Rights Watch. After several weeks, a prison doctor sent him to Qena University Hospital for tests. A doctor there said his symptoms were psychosomatic and ordered him returned to prison.

Prison authorities moved him to the prison hospital when he continued to vomit and fed him intravenously because he could not eat, his wife said. They then returned him to the university hospital, where doctors diagnosed liver and pancreatic cancer, and estimated that he had only three months to live, his brother, a prisoner in the same facility, told Hanafi’s wife.

On September 7, prison authorities approved Hanafi’s transfer to Assiut University Hospital for an MRI scan, but his transfer took 10 days. The MRI confirmed the earlier tests, but doctors asked for a biopsy. Meanwhile, Hanafi’s lawyer requested that Hanafi, likely suffering from a terminal illness, be released for treatment. 
At a September 20 court session after trial began, the judge ordered further medical examination. On October 26, rather than release Hanafi, he ordered him transferred to a hospital.

Two days later, authorities sent him first to Qena University Hospital and then to Assiut University Hospital, where the doctor kept him for 13 days in the prisoners’ ward, where he was under guard and almost always handcuffed, his wife said. He underwent a biopsy, but because prison officials confused his results with those of another prisoner, Hanafi had to return for a second session. This delayed the release of the biopsy results until the second week of November.

On November 12, doctors discharged Hanafi, prescribed medication, and ordered him transferred to Qena University Hospital. But a prison officer insisted on taking him first to Assiut Prison where, according to Hanafi’s wife, the officer and the warden debated whether he should still be held. Eventually, the warden ordered him held while awaiting transfer to Qena.

On November 13, prison guards told Hanafi’s wife that she could not visit him. The next day, they allowed Hanafi’s nephew to enter, and he discovered that Hanafi had died. Hanafi’s brother, the prisoner, said guards had found Hanafi dead in his cell and moved his body to an ambulance. On his death certificate, they wrote that he had died in a hospital.

Returning a critically ill prisoner like Hanafi to prison despite doctors’ recommendations to send him to another hospital likely amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment under international law.

Abd al-Rahman al-Razahi: Failure to Allow Care in Prison

Abd al-Rahman al-Razahi, a 43-year-old school employee and Muslim Brotherhood leader from Assiut governorate, died on or shortly before October 13, 2013, in Tora Prison in Cairo.

Police arrested al-Razahi on August 17, 2013, three days after security forces brutally dispersed pro-Morsy sit-ins in the capital and killed more than 800 people, mostly Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Prosecutors accused al-Razahi of spying for the Palestinian movement Hamas and of escaping during the 2011 revolution from Wadi al-Natroun Prison – where many Muslim Brotherhood leaders had been held during the January 2011 uprising.

The authorities initially held him in solitary confinement in a high security section of Tora Prison. When his wife saw him more than a month after his arrest, al-Razahi had lost weight and was ill and vomiting, she said. She said that Khairat al-Shater, a top Brotherhood leader detained with al-Razahi, had asked the prison authorities to let a doctor see al-Razahi but that the warden had refused, and she added that prison guards sometimes threw away medicines taken to al-Razahi by his brother. 
As al-Razahi’s health deteriorated, his wife said, an ophthalmologist sharing his cell asked the authorities to transfer al-Razahi to a hospital. The authorities refused and only allowed the ophthalmologist to order blood tests for al-Razahi. The tests did not reveal anything abnormal, she said.

His wife told Human Rights Watch that she believed prosecutors would release al-Razahi because they had no evidence that he had ever been a prisoner in Wadi al-Natroun but that National Security officers provided testimony to prevent his release. 
On October 12, 2013, the investigating judge ordered al-Razahi released without bail for health reasons, and an ambulance arrived to transport him back to his home in Assiut. But the prosecutor appealed the release order, and the judge ordered al-Razahi held for another 45 days pending investigation, his wife said.

On October 13, al-Razahi’s brother arrived at the prison for a visit and found the facility in chaos. Guards told him that a prisoner had died and ordered him to leave. Al-Razahi’s brother called the family’s lawyers, who discovered that al-Razahi had died and that authorities had already transferred his body to Cairo’s Zeinhom Morgue. 
Al-Razahi’s brother said that morgue workers told him that National Security officers had instructed them not to confirm that the body was there. When al-Razahi’s brother was finally allowed to take the body, morgue officials asked him what he wanted written as the cause of death. He responded that it did not matter, and they wrote “acute circulatory failure.”

Al-Razahi’s wife told Human Rights Watch that Tora Prison officials had never conducted medical tests on her husband, but the prison doctor told her that he suspected he suffered from a stomach ulcer.