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Dear Secretary of State Antony Blinken September 28, 2021


I am writing to you today about the dire situation of medical treatment and care in Egyptian prisons.


Human rights organizations have decried the inhumane conditions present in detention facilities across Egypt, citing torture and abuse (including sexual abuse); lack of access to necessary medicine, treatment, or care; inadequate facilities that do not allow proper light or air circulation; and extreme overcrowding. These conditions exacerbate detainees’ medical conditions and led to the deaths of at least 100 individuals in 2020.


This situation is particularly appalling given the extreme degradation in the rule of law in Egypt and the overwhelming number of cases of arbitrary detention or violations of due process. In March 2020, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the release of prisoners who were detained arbitrarily, particularly those held in pretrial detention or with politically motivated allegations, as well as those at high risk for COVID-19.

Dear Secretary of State Antony Blinken

September 28, 2021


I am writing to you today about the dire situation of medical treatment and care in Egyptian prisons.

I also recognize the unique role of the United States in exerting influence for a positive outcome in this situation due to the robust military, economic, and political support that the US extends to Egypt as an ally. Thus, I am appealing to you directly to intervene for the sake of those in dire need, and I am asking you to urge the following with your Egyptian counterparts:  

  • Address overcrowding in prisons by releasing the high numbers of prisoners held unjustly in pretrial detention, on politically motivated allegations, or who are at grave risk of contracting COVID-19, in line with standards recommended by international bodies; and 
  • Call for immediate investigation into prison conditions, with oversight from international bodies, including allowing access to representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross.  

The following lists ten urgent cases experiencing medical negligence in detention facilities:

  • Hoda Abdelmoneim
  • Hussein Mahdy Hassan
  • Ziad el Eleimy
  • Ola Al Qaradawi
  • Ahmed Al Waleed
  • Hisham Abdelaziz
  • Aisha al-Shater
  • Gehad El-Haddad
  • Hoda Abdelhamid
  • Mohamed Zaki Abdelhamid


Thank you for your urgent attention to these issues.

Sincerely,  

Human rights organizations have decried the inhumane conditions present in detention facilities across Egypt, citing torture and abuse (including sexual abuse); lack of access to necessary medicine, treatment, or care; inadequate facilities that do not allow proper light or air circulation; and extreme overcrowding. These conditions exacerbate detainees’ medical conditions and led to the deaths of at least 100 individuals in 2020.

This situation is particularly appalling given the extreme degradation in the rule of law in Egypt and the overwhelming number of cases of arbitrary detention or violations of due process. In March 2020, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the release of prisoners who were detained arbitrarily, particularly those held in pretrial detention or with politically motivated allegations, as well as those at high risk for COVID-19.


I also recognize the unique role of the United States in exerting influence for a positive outcome in this situation due to the robust military, economic, and political support that the US extends to Egypt as an ally. Thus, I am appealing to you directly to intervene for the sake of those in dire need, and I am asking you to urge the following with your Egyptian counterparts: 
 

  • Address overcrowding in prisons by releasing the high numbers of prisoners held unjustly in pretrial detention, on politically motivated allegations, or who are at grave risk of contracting COVID-19, in line with standards recommended by international bodies; and 
  • Call for immediate investigation into prison conditions, with oversight from international bodies, including allowing access to representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross.


The following lists ten urgent cases experiencing medical negligence in detention facilities:

  • Hoda Abdelmoneim
  • Hussein Mahdy Hassan
  • Ziad el Eleimy
  • Ola Al Qaradawi
  • Ahmed Al Waleed
  • Hisham Abdelaziz
  • Aisha al-Shater
  • Gehad El-Haddad
  • Hoda Abdelhamid
  • Mohamed Zaki Abdelhamid


Thank you for your urgent attention to these issues.

Sincerely,  

The Impact of COVID-19 on Detainees

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the daily pains of illness, isolation, and the inability to access urgent and necessary care. Prisons are often crowded to several times their capacity, and there is no protection against the spread of the virus.
IN OTHER WORDS

In Egyptian prisons, hospitals are considered to be only for the dying.

SINCE 2018

Deaths Due to Medical Negligence

Ahmed Abdelnabi Mahmoud
1956 - 2020
The 64-year-old had been arrested with his family in late 2018; his wife and son were later released but Mahmoud was held in pretrial detention. Mahmoud suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma, and he developed kidney stones in prison, all of which went untreated. Mahmoud was severely beaten and held in inhumane conditions before he died on September 2, 2020.
Ahmed Elsayed Youssef Khater
1960 - 2021
The former parliamentarian died at 61 on May 7, 2021 after his family’s request that he be transferred to a private hospital was denied several times until it was eventually too late. When he was eventually transferred he was denied necessary surgery.
Alaa Khaled
1998 - 2021
Alaa Khaled was a 23-year-old university student who was arrested due to his alleged participation in a commemoration of the death of Ultras fans at Port Said. Khaled suffered from heart complications that went untreated in prison, and he died in his prison cell on May 9, 2021.
Mohamed Makram
- 2018
Makram was a young detainee with Down syndrome and who experienced difficulties with verbal communication. Despite his special needs, he was incarcerated in a general male detention facility as opposed to a special needs one. Makram died of tuberculosis in 2018; prison officials were informed that he was ill and denied him treatment.
Shady Habash
1995 - 2020
Habash was a young Egyptian filmmaker, who was imprisoned for having participated in making a music video. Habash died of alcohol poisoning after drinking a bottle of hand sanitizer on May 1, 2020. He was left to suffer for hours despite his cellmates repeatedly calling for help.
Tony Hasan Khalifa Farghal
- 2020
After experiencing unknown pain, he was transferred to a prison hospital but subsequently denied an examination. His health continued to deteriorate and he eventually died on March 13, 2020.
Magdy Taha Mohamed El-Qalawy
- 2020
Before his arrest, El-Qalawy had undergone surgery and was seeing a specialist. During his detention, he began to experience serious pain. He was denied access to outside hospitals multiple times and the prison hospital did not allow him to take required medication, eventually leading to his death on February 8, 2020.
Ibrahim Hassan Abdel Ghany Al‑Batea
- 2020
After suffering a bone fracture in prison, he was denied medical treatment, which eventually left him unable to move. As his condition worsened, a request for treatment at the family’s expense was eventually granted, but the hospital refused to admit him several times, leading to his death on February 9, 2020.
Moustafa Kassem
1965 - 2020
Moustafa was a US citizen and a businessman from New York. Kassem was wrongfully detained in 2013 and engaged in a series of hunger strikes after 2018. A diabetic, Kassem was denied critical medical care and died as a result of complications from his hunger strike on January 13, 2020.
Mohamed Morsi
1951 - 2019
Egypt’s former democratically elected president was held for lengthy periods in solitary confinement and denied access to critical medicine for high blood pressure and diabetes. He collapsed on the floor of the courtroom during a hearing, where he died of a heart attack when the judge prevented emergency medical responders from reaching him.

Detention-related medical issues do not end with release.
This public health and human rights crisis must come to an end.

Detention-related medical issues do not end with release.This public health and human rights crisis must come to an end.

Critical Cases

To learn more about the individuals suffering unjustly due to these conditions, please read their stories below.

Hoda Abdelmoneim
A human rights lawyer, Abdelmoneim has been detained without charge since November 2018. Her family has been prevented from contacting her directly but learned that she had experienced kidney failure in late 2020, a condition they believe she developed while in detention.
Hussein Mahdy Hassan
The father of US-based influencer Aly Hussein Magdy was detained on February 2, 2021 in order to pressure his son into silence. He was tortured so severely that he lost function in his right leg, and he has been denied treatment or any medical attention. His current place of detention is unknown.
Ziad el Eleimy
The former member of parliament and human rights activist suffers from sarcoidosis, asthma, hypertension, and diabetes, and he has consistently been denied the medical evaluations he needs to monitor and treat his conditions. While in prison, el Eleimy has also developed pericardial effusion.
Ola Al Qaradawi
A US legal permanent resident and grandmother, Qaradawi and her husband were detained in June 2017 as a reprisal against her father, Qatar-based preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi has spent nearly all of her detention in solitary confinement, despite a court order for her release in July 2019. Qaradawi’s health has significantly declined due to her mistreatment, and she has been denied critical medical care.
Ahmed Al Waleed
Al Waleed has been on death row since September 2015, when he was handed a death sentence in a trial that has been condemned for its many violations. Prior to his detention, he had a brain tumor removed, and his family fears that the tumor has returned. He has lost motor function in his right arm and is beginning to lose function in his right leg. To date, Al Waleed has been denied access to critical tests, including an MRI.
Hisham Abdelaziz
Abdelaziz, an Al Jazeera Mubasher journalist, was detained in June 2019 and has been held in pretrial detention since that time. He suffers from glaucoma and had previously undergone glaucoma surgery; since his time in detention, his eyesight has continued to deteriorate, and his family fears he may go blind without urgent medical attention.
Aisha al-Shater
The 40-year-old activist and daughter of prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater was arrested in 2018 and has been held in solitary confinement for months at a time since then. She suffers from aplastic anemia and bone marrow failure, which requires critical medical care to keep her alive, medical care that she has been denied and which puts her at grave risk of death.
Gehad El-Haddad
The former spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood was arrested in September 2013 as a healthy young man. After prolonged torture, denial of medical care, and solitary confinement, Gehad has completely lost his ability to walk. He has been denied access even to a wheelchair and other detainees, including activists Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed El Baqer, have had to carry him to court appearances.
Hoda Abdelhamid
Hoda was arrested on April 26, 2021 after filing a complaint and posting publicly about the torture and sexual assault of her detained son, Abdelrahman al-Showeikh. She was transferred to al-Qanater women’s prison, where she has not been allowed to receive visitors and has been deprived of her diabetes medication.
Mohamed Zaki Abdelhamid
The former deputy director of Al-Ahrar hospital in Zagazig and an advisor to Morsi, Abdelhamid was shot in the back during the Rabaa massacre, paralyzing him. After his paralysis, he was arrested and now suffers from muscle atrophy in prison. He also suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. Both of his hands were fractured as a result of his poor detention conditions.
Ahmed Mohamed Abdelmotalib Sadiq
The 27 year old was detained in Wadi Al Natroun prison. He suffers from hemorrhaging in his kidneys which leads to severe renal colic, sometimes even rendering him unconscious and causing severe urinary bleeding. He has also been suffering from anemia recently which also causes him to lose consciousness.
Amer Sobhy Abdelazim
Abdelazim has been imprisoned in Aqrab maximum security prison since 2013. He was eventually moved to the International Medical Center and has been in a coma for over two years. He has undergone several operations to break up clotting in the brain and his condition is deteriorating. His family has been made to bear all the expenses of his treatment.
Hatim Abdelmoneim Alsayid
Alsayid is a cancer patient in critical condition. He is forced to take chemotherapy injections in his cell, where he lacks proper medical supervision.
Ahmed Shahat Abdelaal Ali Algindi
Algindi si a 60-year-old detainee in Wadi Al Natroun prison, where he is suffering from heart failure, liver failure, and asthma. He also has a tumor in his legs and has become immobile.
Yousuf Mohamed Alshater
Alshater is detained in Wadi al Natroun prison, where he has been suffering from severe pain and dizziness and has a benign tumor inside of his nose. His weight has decreased significantly but he has been refused discharge to a hospital for a CT scan and so that he can be treated.

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Physical Torture

Torture is a systematic practice in Egyptian detention facilities. Torture is used both as a coercive measure to force “confessions,” as well as a method of punishment or suppression of the prison population. Physical torture has been documented even against minors, and includes electrocution, sodomy, hangings, burnings, and other forms of brutality.

Abuse

In addition to physical torture, detainees are also subjected to a number of other abuses, including verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. Sexual abuse, including fake “medical practices” like forced vaginal and anal exams, has been documented against men, women, and trans detainees.

Lack of Access to Medicine

Prison clinics often lack the ability to provide adequate and necessary care, yet detainees are frequently denied transfers to external hospitals. Even if their transfers are approved, it is often after a long bureaucratic process during which their conditions substantially worsen. Detainees with chronic conditions that require medicine are often denied their medication as a disciplinary tactic or a method of torture, even when that medicine is provided by the detainee’s family. Even simple hygiene products like maxi pads or sanitizer are routinely prevented from reaching detainees.

Inadequate Facilities

Cells may be infested with insects and detainees are not provided with enough hygiene products, such as toothbrushes and towels, often forcing them to share. Facilities do not allow for proper light, heat, or air circulation and detainees are often denied the opportunity to exercise, leaving them without access to sunlight and fresh air. Furthermore, detainees receive food with little nutritional value and which may be spoiled or pest-ridden.

Extreme Overcrowding

Egypt’s prisons are extraordinarily overcrowded and unhygienic, with some prisons holding double the building’s stated capacity. Detainees have less than 1/3 of the amount of space per person than is recommended by experts. This was especially a problem in the context of COVID-19, as detainees who showed COIVID-19 symptoms had no ability to socially distance; the spread of the virus in prisons remains underreported.

Trauma and Mental Health Crises

Denial family visits, solitary confinement, and indefinite detention periods take not only a physical toll but have a significant impact on detainees’ mental health. Torture leaves enduring mental health crises and trauma, including acute post-traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, prisons are not able to treat prisoners suffering from mental health conditions, and the government has cracked down on NGOs that provide support upon release.