Due to appalling conditions, prisoners-of-conscience continue to die in Egypt’s prisons. Medical neglect, arbitrary solitary confinement, and other human-rights abuses are common – yet the international community remains silent.
Yesterday, Sunday 19 September, the death of 42 years-old Salama Abdulaziz Ashour Barakat was announced. Barakat died in Tora prison the morning before, as a result of deliberate medical neglect. He suffered from asthma and various allergies.
Salama Barakat was from the village of al-Wadi, in the Giza Governorate. He held a degree in commerce from Cairo University. He had been detained since 10 June 2019. He was married, and leaves three children.
With Salama’s death, the number of deaths in Egyptian prisons since the beginning of this year reached 34. The majority died as a result of a combination of medical neglect and poor detention conditions. The total number of such deaths since July 2013 is 901.
Egyptian detention facilities generally do not meet the basic international standards, according to a statement by Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK), which has pointed to massive overcrowding, and detainees suffering from malnutrition, poor ventilation and lighting, pollution and a general lack of hygiene, including even insect infestations.
AOHR UK has repeatedly warned about the Egyptian authorities’ “indifference” to detainees’ lives, despite the fact that various international laws and treaties impose responsibility for their treatment on the government, particularly during times of pandemic.
AOHR UK has called on the international community, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), and other relevant international bodies, to put pressure on the Egyptian regime in order to save the lives of the 10s of 1000s of Egyptian detainees suffering a slow death from the systematic psychological and physical torture they are ceaselessly subjected to. Ultimately the AOHR UK demands the release of all political prisoners in Egypt.
Since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed power, Egyptian authorities have waged an unprecedented crackdown against dissidents and critics. Thousands have been arrested for political reasons; many of them have been convicted and sentenced in unfair trials, or indeed held without trial for years, often on baseless terrorism-related charges, typically in inhumane conditions.