Egyptian prisons are experiencing a sustained period of mounting crises, including an increased death toll due to torture, deliberate medical negligence, deplorable incarceration conditions, the imposition of solitary confinement, and other human rights abuses.
Most recent in the series of fatalities in the country’s correctional facilities, is the case of political prisoner, Mostafa Helwa, aged 43. Helwa tragically succumbed to injuries at a University hospital in Alexandria following an accident.
Helwa, hailing from Shubra Al-Khaimah (Behetim) in the Qalyubia governorate and a father to three daughters, reportedly fell down a flight of stairs, striking his head against the ground. Helwa had been detained since 2015 and was sentenced to five years on accusations of affiliation to a prohibited group. Following the completion of his term, he was further implicated in another case, leading to a life sentence.
Helwa’s death brings the total fatalities within Egypt’s prisons and detention centers since the start of the year to 15. The majority of these deaths are attributed to systematic medical negligence.
The circumstances surrounding Helwa’s demise highlight the life-threatening conditions and mistreatment prisoners endure in Egyptian prisons. His case underlines the imperative need to secure the safety and comprehensive healthcare of all detainees. It also calls for a swift and transparent investigation into his death, and to hold those who allowed such negligence or mistreatment accountable.
In 2022 alone, 52 inmates died in Egyptian prisons, either from deliberate medical neglect, exposure to cold, or natural causes under degrading and inhumane conditions that render any natural death highly unusual. An alarming 194 cases of medical neglect have been recorded across various Egyptian detention facilities.
The situation in Egyptian prisons and detention centers has seen a consistent upsurge in death rates. However, Egypt’s governing authorities have denied the Red Cross Committee access to inspect the conditions of these prisons. This has led to a lack of oversight, with the only exception being the Public Prosecution, which appears complicit in covering up instances of torture.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates that “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” Unfortunately, these words seem to hold little weight in the current state of Egypt’s prison system.