Egyptian security services use mental health hospitals as places of detention

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The mysterious death of researcher and economic expert Ayman Hadhoud inside the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital after his arrest by the National Security Agency (the political security apparatus of the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi) raised many questions about the possibility of the Egyptian security services using these hospitals as places of illegally enforced disappearance.

This hypothesis prompted psychiatrists and human rights advocates to demand the formation of an independent fact-finding committee to determine the circumstances of the hospitalization and death of researcher Ayman Hadhoud (according to the official claim) and examine all deaths that occurred in the hospital in recent months.

A medical source working at the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital revealed that Hadhoud was handed over to the hospital’s forensic medicine department. At the same time, he was alive by an unspecified security authority. He died inside the hospital on the fifth or sixth of last March before being presented to the tripartite committee responsible for examining his psychological condition. The doctor at Abbasiya Hospital added that who informed the committee of the existence of Hadhoud. When one of its members asked to meet him, he told him that he had died without specifying the cause at the time, stressing that only the directors of the Abbasiya Hospital and its forensic medicine department knew the cause of Hadhoud’s death recorded in the books and whether the special legal procedures were Hospital admission intact or not.

Under the laws of mental patient care, penalties and criminal procedures suspects suspected of having a mental illness are placed inside the forensic medicine department in Abbasiya for an additional 45 days, under the guard of the Ministry of Interior, according to a letter from the Office of International Cooperation for Exchange and Prisoner Care, affiliated with the Public Prosecutor, attached It has an approved copy of the case file, to examine the accused by a tripartite committee to determine his eligibility.

The medical source suggested that Hadhoud had been assaulted and seriously injured by the security authority that arrested him before that authority sent him to Abbasiya Hospital for physical treatment away from any oversight, explaining that this security authority “will not be able to send him to a civilian hospital, because he will be Examining him and proving his injury in an official report, but the forensic medicine department in Abbasiya is under their control,” pointing out that Hadhoud may have died as a result of that injury.

The doctor’s statement agrees with what Omar Hadhoud, brother of the late Ayman, said in press statements, that he saw fractures in his brother’s skull when he went to the morgue to receive his body and tried to photograph them on his mobile phone. Still, the hospital staff prevented him and forced him to delete the photos he had taken. The vicinity of the Zeinhom Morgue, to which Hadhoud’s body was transferred for autopsy, witnessed a security presence in conjunction with the procedures for handing over the body to the family. At the same time, sources in the morgue said that an officer in the National Security Sector (the device accused of killing Ayman) was in the morgue before the autopsy began.

Dr Ahmed Hussein, a consultant psychiatrist and neurologist at the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital and a member of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, revealed that “the mortuary in the hospital is for cooling only, not for freezing. Therefore, the body cannot be left in it for more than a week without changes in it,” explaining that What is customary upon the death of any patient is to hand him over to his family within two days at most if his identity is known or to obtain a permit from the Public Prosecution to bury him in charity cemeteries if his identity is unknown. Hussein demanded the formation of committees from impartial bodies such as the National Council for Human Rights and the Medical Syndicate to investigate the facts of Hadhoud’s death and all deaths in the hospital over the past year and that these committees have the right to see the files by a decision of the Attorney General.

The Egyptian journalist Omar Saeed confirmed that “the Abbasid Psychiatric Hospital, the General Secretariat for Mental Health, and the National Council for Mental Health are the main suspects in the Hudhoud case, as the transfer of an accused of psychological evaluation is carried out based on the signal of the prosecution or the judiciary, but that a security apparatus deposits citizens in hospitals for evaluation from his head (without a court order), which means that these hospitals have turned into unofficial detention centres and torture facilities.”

Saeed demanded that the Abbasiya Hospital administration reveal all the details of what happened with Hadhoud, “How did he die? How did he enter the hospital? Who ordered him to be hospitalized? Who was the doctor who agreed to put him in the hospital?”, likening the matter to what was happening in the era of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser when the communists were kept in psychiatric institutions as a form of torture and arrest. Experience after experience tells us that the hypothesis of the Sisi regime’s use of mental health hospitals as places of involuntary detention is vital unless conclusive evidence appears to deny this, as such a criminal regime does not refrain from committing the most heinous crimes without fear or apprehension.