HRW warns of ‘suspected COVID-19 outbreaks’ in Egypt’s prisons


On Monday, Human Rights Watch warned of the possible spread of coronavirus in prisons and police stations in Egypt. The International Organisation for Human Rights (located in New York) said in a report: “Several prisons and police stations in Egypt have witnessed a possible spread of coronavirus in recent weeks, amid a formal and strict blackout.”

“At least 14 prisoners and detainees have died, most likely from COVID-19 complications, in 10 detention facilities as of July 15,” the report added. The report pointed out that “scores of prisoners and detainees, at a minimum, have shown mild to severe COVID-19 symptoms, prisons had insufficient medical care and virtually no access to testing for the virus or symptom screening.”

Joe Stork, deputy director of the organisation’s Middle East and North Africa division, called on the Egyptian authorities to give appropriate medical care to the detainees immediately: “Egyptian authorities should take immediate steps to provide everyone in detention with adequate medical care and measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. It is essential for Egypt to address the spread of the virus by accelerating prisoner releases.”

Human Rights Watch referred to a previous report by the Committee for Justice, a Geneva-based human rights organisation, who have reported more than 190 suspected COVID-19 cases, including 14 deaths among prisoners in Egyptian prisons and detention centres.

Human Rights Watch called for the Egyptian authorities to conduct extensive medical care of prisoners, to speed up their release, and to allow prisoners to communicate regularly with their lawyers and families. Cairo usually denies the presence of political detainees in its prisons.