Medical negligence in Egyptian prisons kills 59 detainees during 2021

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This December witnessed the death of 5 political detainees inside places of detention, due to medical negligence, bringing the number of victims in the prisons of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime during 2021 to 59.

This comes at a time when the regime continues to promote its prisons as the heavens of God in its land, denying the occurrence of any deaths as a result of medical negligence, as it confirms that prisons are supported by medical services and technical devices at the highest level, which contradicts the augmented reality with the accounts of current and former prisoners about the dire prison conditions, especially its medical services.

639 deaths in prisons under Sisi

Al-Nadim Center for Combating Violence and Torture, an independent human rights organization operating from inside Egypt, monitored in its monthly reports the death of 54 detainees inside Egyptian prisons and places of detention from the beginning of 2021 until the end of last November. By adding the 5 detainees who died in Egyptian prisons this December, the total number of deaths so far is 59. The highest months in which deaths of detainees were recorded were February and June, with 9 deaths in each month, while the lowest months in which deaths were recorded were March, April and October, when two detainees died each month separately.

Al-Nadim Center monitored during the year 2020 the death of 79 detainees in Egyptian prisons, 56 deaths in 2019, and 67 deaths in 2018, including 48 as a result of medical negligence and 6 cases due to torture, while 118 detainees died in places of detention during 2017, and 123 cases were recorded. Deaths in 2016, and 2015 recorded a record number of deaths in prisons, with 137 cases. Thus, the total number of deaths in Egyptian prisons during the last 7 years becomes 639, all of which took place during the era of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, whose media praises Egypt’s prisons, which are similar to tourist resorts, day and night.

What are the causes of high prison deaths?

Egyptian prisons are an environment conducive to the proliferation of diseases, with record levels of overcrowding. According to the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, which is affiliated with the government, the overcrowding rate in prisons reaches about 150%, and exceeds 300% in police stations. Independent organizations estimate the situation is even worse. Egyptian prisons are famous for their filth and violation of hygiene and health rules, as they have no running water, no proper ventilation, and most of the time no sunlight enters them. In November 2019, two experts from the United Nations said that abusive detention conditions in Egypt “may seriously endanger the health and lives of thousands of prisoners.”

Above all this, there is a clear shortcoming in the health care that prisoners receive. According to former detainees, prison authorities obstruct medical care procedures for nothing but to intimidate them, as the drugs necessary for patients are refused entry, and prisons managements refuse to leave patients for treatment in hospitals, even at their own expense.

The Egyptian authorities are not afraid of the consequences of medical negligence in prisons. Even the politically motivated detainees locally and internationally were not extradited, led by the late President Mohamed Morsi, who suffered due to medical negligence and died during his trial session. Experts at the United Nations indicated that the conditions in Egyptian prisons directly led to the death of “Morsi”, as the former Egyptian president was suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, and despite this, he was prevented from obtaining life-saving care, and as a result he suffered from poor eyesight. Gradually he lost sight in his left eye and often fell into a diabetic coma and lost consciousness. In addition, he suffered from tooth decay and gum infections, without medical attention.

The Coronavirus pandemic has increased the suffering of detainees and led to the death of some of them, especially those who suffer from health problems. According to Human Rights Watch, Egyptian prisons and police stations witnessed a possible outbreak of the Coronavirus, which led to the death of a number of prisoners, in light of overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and a lack of medical care. All this is taking place under the noses of the Sisi administration, which is believed to be using medical negligence as a weapon to get rid of its opponents without any trouble. It is enough for you to fall ill in prison so that your inevitable fate is death.

Attempts to wash away the reputation

These deaths coincide with the Sisi regime’s announcement of the establishment of new prison complexes on the American system, that take into account all human rights rules, and provide a decent life for prisoners that leads to reforming and disciplining them so that they bring out good individuals into society. The matter reached the Egyptian Ministry of Interior to publish a movie entitled “The Right to Life”, promoting the new Wadi El-Natrun prison complex, which is supposed to replace 12 prisons that currently house 25⸓ of the total prisoners in the country, as the prison appears as a 4-star hotel in which prisoners live A wonderful life, where they study in clean and sparkling classrooms, learn new crafts, practice different types of sports, and it has a library to develop cultural and intellectual skills!

Human Rights Watch refuted that propaganda film, which came with English subtitles, stressing that it came to wash away violations in Egyptian prisons, as it “draws a caricature of an idyllic rehabilitation life in Egyptian prisons, to obscure the catastrophic reality of the miserable prison system in Egypt, which is rife with violations which is a crude attempt to cover up the trauma experienced by thousands of prisoners and their families. The organization added that the film shows a prison hospital “equipped with the latest equipment and technologies”, which is an implicit acknowledgement of the systematic medical neglect experienced by many Egyptian prisoners, which led to the death of many, including former President Mohamed Morsi.

The organization referred to the case of Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (70 years old), the leader of the Strong Egypt Party, who has been detained without trial for 4 years, and whose conditions belie all these allegations, as his family confirmed that he had suffered a heart attack in solitary confinement in Tora Prison. Although he knocked on his cell door for hours, the guards ignored him! It appears from the film that the Egyptian regime’s public relations strategy aims to silence criticism of its appalling human rights record. The film asserts that the regime is interested in criticism of it, but prefers to try to silence it through cheap propaganda, rather than a real commitment to addressing the pervasive repression in the country.