Amnesty International calls on Egypt to allow visits for all detainees

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Amnesty International (Amnesty) has called on the authorities in Egypt to allow all detainees to receive family visits and enable them to communicate regularly with their families and their lawyers, including telephone calls.

This call came in a statement by the organization, in which it expressed its fear of detainees being facing unfounded “terrorist” charges, including human rights defenders, journalists, and political activists, would be excluded from receiving visits in prisons.

The organization pointed out, “The concerns stem from the authorities’ history in depriving dozens of individuals detained, for politically motivated cases, from family visits.” And she stressed the need to fulfill its domestic and international obligations to guarantee prisoners’ rights to communicate with the outside world. The organization said, “For years, the authorities have prevented dozens of detainees, including political opponents, critics, and human rights lawyers, from communicating with members of their families or their lawyers.”

It continued, “The Egyptian authorities have not yet complied with prison regulations, which stipulate that every two-week phone calls to detainees should be made.” She pointed out that the lack of telephone contact mainly affects detainees from poor backgrounds or those held in prisons far from their homes, whose relatives cannot afford the lengthy and expensive trips. On August 15, the Ministry of Interior announced that prisons would resume family visits on August 22, after a five-month suspension due to the outbreak of the Covid-19. However, Amnesty International is concerned that individuals detained in politically motivated cases run the risk of being excluded from visits, the statement said.

The Ministry of the Interior published the phone numbers of 44 prisons across Egypt but excluded some of the most notorious prisons in Egypt, including Tora High-Security Prison (known as Scorpion) and Tora High-Security No. 2, both of which are part of the Tora Prison complex. The organization quoted relatives of people held in these two prisons as saying that when they contacted the prison sector of the Ministry of Interior, officials claimed that they were not aware of the order to resume family visits in Tora’s high-security prison.

The announcement of the resumption of family visits comes a few days after the death of the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, “Essam El-Erian,” in detention on August 13th. Since the visits were suspended in March 2020, the prison authorities at Mazraa Prison in Tora have not allowed members of his family to contact him by phone or exchange messages.