Egypt: Following assault on prisoners of conscience in Badr 1 Prison, wife of detained human rights lawyer Mohamed El Baqer arrested this morning from her home

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

In a serious escalation of violence against activists and human rights defenders held in Badr 1 Prison, security forces arrested Mrs. Neama Hesham from her home this morning; her whereabouts remain unknown at the time of this statement’s publication. Neama is the  wife of human rights lawyer and political prisoner Mohamed El Baqer, who is detained at the prison.

The signatory organizations of this statement call for the immediate release of Mrs. Neama Hisham, who did not commit a crime. She only sought remedy to the violence inflicted on her husband by the Badr 1 prison administration. She visited Baqer a day prior to her arrest, and saw that he was injured in the mouth, ribs, and wrist as a result of the assault on him and his cellmates.

Brutal incidents are not uncommon at Badr I Prison, and the signatories condemn the violence and ill-treatment of Mohamed El Baqer, and of political activists Ahmed Douma and Hamid Siddiq and journalist Mohamed Oxygen, in this latest incident of violence at the hands of the Badr I Prison administration.

The signatories demand the opening of a speedy official and independent investigation into these incidents and attacks, including an investigation of the warden of Badr 1 Prison, and call for an independent committee to be formed, comprised of jurists and representatives of civil society organizations,  to examine  conditions at the prison and investigate the allegations of torture and collective abuse. The organizations also call on the Public Prosecutor to promptly investigate the communication submitted to him by the lawyer of Mohamed El Baqer’s family (No. 385866).

The events surrounding the prison administration’s assault against Baqer and his cellmates date back to Monday, 10 April 2023, when detained activist Hamid Siddiq refused to leave his cell to attend his detention renewal session, citing mental distress due to the recent death of his wife and his inclusion under charges in a new case under the illegal practice of ‘recycling’ or ‘rotating’ cases wherein detainees are kept indefinitely behind bars without trial after the expiry of two-year legal limit for pretrial detention.

The prison warden disproportionately responded to Siddiq’s intransigence with anti-riot level force, pulling him out of his cell, beating him with a club and kicking him in the face until he was unresponsive and wrapped in a blanket, with the warden then ordering his transfer to a disciplinary cell. Fellow political prisoner Mohamed Oxygen had intervened to protect his friend and called for help from Ahmed Douma and neighboring cellmates, including Baqer,  in the ward. The warden assaulted them and gagged their mouths with a piece of cloth, which, according to Baqer’s wife, caused serious injury to his wrist and mouth; Mohamed Oxygen also sustained injury to his neck and ribs. The warden transferred all of them to disciplinary cells wearing nothing but their underwear, where they were kept without any food, drink, or medication until Wednesday morning. On Thursday, Baqer, Oxygen, and Siddiq were returned to the prison ward, but in solitary cells and without any of their belongings, in addition to being deprived of exercise and time outside of the cell.

The undersigned organizations express their deep concern about the Ministry of the Interior’s policy of cruel and degrading treatment of detainees, including torture, assault and abuse,  despite the constant stream of official pronouncements, such as that of the National Dialogue, claiming state affinity to reform and the opening of public space. Yet such ‘reform’ remains limited to the development of prison system infrastructure without any consideration for reforming the institutional culture of prison personnel and administration.

As we the undersigned organizations affirm the right of detainees to be treated with dignity and humanity in accordance with their rights as stipulated in international covenants and the Egyptian constitution, including the rights to healthcare and bodily integrity or freedom from abuse and torture, we demand the following:

  1. The immediate release of Mrs. Neama Hisham, wife of human rights lawyer and prisoner of conscience Mohamed El Baqer, and an immediate cessation of harassment and intimidation against the families of detainees
  2. An immediate cessation of the policy and practice of the crime of torture and ill-treatment in Egyptian prisons, whatever the intent of such practice may be, whether it be a means of extracting confessions or punishing detainees. Perpetrators of such crimes and abuses must be brought to justice and held to account.
  3. The improvement of prison conditions, including those of modern prisons or the so-called ‘Rehabilitation and Correction Centers’ in which violations are practiced in the same manner as they were in older prisons, together with the reform of the judicial system to ensure that those complicit in violations and crimes do not evade justice.
  4. Allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to inspect prison conditions in Egypt, and allow specialized national and international non-governmental organizations and experts to visit Egypt, , especially the Special Rapporteur on Combating Torture.
  5. Form a national preventive mechanism, such as a committee comprised of jurists and representatives independent human rights organizations, which organizes unannounced visits to places of detention to oversee their conditions; in cooperation with the National Council for Human Rights and the Public Prosecution and with priority given to periodic follow-up of conditions in solitary and disciplinary cells.

Signatory organizations

  1. Till the last prisoner
  2. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
  3. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  4. El Nadim Center
  5. Sinai Foundation for Human Rights
  6. Refugee platform in Egypt
  7. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
  8. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  9. Committee for Justice
  10. Freedom Initiative
  11. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

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