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Egypt: Deaths in Detention and Denial of Medical Treatment: the Authorities' Responsibility

On 11 February 2015, Alkarama wrote to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health (SRH) and the Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT), regarding the cases of three Egyptian citizens who died in detention in late 2014. Abubakar Ahmed Hanafi, aged 46, Zaki Abu Hanafi Majd, 54, and Mahmoud Abdelrazak Shafie Rouby, 27, all lost their lives due to the lack of appropriate medical treatment.

These victims illustrate the dreadful conditions of detention in Egypt and of the widespread phenomenon of torture and ill-treatment in prisons by the security apparatus. According to Alkarama's Egypt Researcher, Ahmed Mefreh, more than 200 individuals have died in detention in 2014 because of torture and/or denial of medical treatment, an issue to which the authorities have turned a blind eye, ultimately making themselves complicit in their deaths.

"The Egyptian authorities use the numerous dysfunctions of the prison system – overcrowding, lack of hygiene, violence – as a means to pressure and destroy all people who express their opposition to the regime," explains Rachid Mesli, Alkarama Legal Director. The three victims were alleged political opponents who were subjected to particularly harsh conditions of detention because of their supposed political affiliations. Despite the numerous pathologies they developed during their respective detentions and the several calls to the authorities to authorise them to see a doctor, none of them received an appropriate treatment.

It is only when their respective conditions aggravated dangerously that the prison administration urgently evacuated them to public hospitals. However, due to their status of prisoners, they were not given proper medical attention. Alkarama strongly condemns this unethical behaviour that violates these individuals' fundamental right to health and which amounts to ill-treatment according to the 2013 report of the SRT. Indeed, although the authorities were aware of their health conditions they refused to provide them with the appropriate medical care or to take the necessary measures to ensure it, encouraging their cruel and inhuman treatment.

This deliberate and calculated conduct from the authorities, which ultimately led to the deaths of the three aforementioned individuals, is not only a clear violation of international standards – particularly of the UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners of 14 December 1990, which states that "Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation" (Article 9) – but also of the Egyptian legal framework on the medical care of prisoners.

Considering that the Egyptian authorities' negligence has made them responsible for the three victims' deaths, Alkarama solicited the UN Special Procedures, and in particular the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (SRH), Mr. Dainius Pūras, to alert him about the multiple wrongdoings of the Egyptian prison administration regarding the provision of healthcare in detention centres, as well as to ask him to intervene with the Egyptian authorities so they investigate these three victims' deaths and take effective measures to guarantee the mental and physical integrity of detainees.

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team at (Dir: +41 22 734 1007 Ext: 810)