Rights group resorts to UN, African commissions as investigation into prisoner mass killings drags

4 Min Read

CAIRO: The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights called on the United Nations and African commissions to intervene in the cases of the mass killing of prisoners during the January uprising, as the general prosecutor is yet to take action.

EIPR sent letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

It also sent letters to the African Commission Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on Summary, Arbitrary and Extra-Judicial Executions in Africa.

“We call on [the commissions] to urge the Egyptian government to take urgent action and inquire about the investigation and push for it to be swifter and more impartial,” Magda Boutros, Criminal Justice Reform director at EIPR, told Daily News Egypt.

Boutros said that EIPR’s repeated calls for action to the government since last February were ignored. "We have called on the authorities to stop the abuses while they were happening; we have since been calling for a prompt and impartial investigation to bring perpetrators to justice. Both calls have been ignored," she said.

A report issued in April by an official fact-finding commission created at the behest of then prime minister Essam Sharaf estimated that 189 prisoners were killed and 263 injured since Jan. 25.

The report suggests two possible scenarios for the chaos that ensued inside the prisons during that period; either due to the security vacuum or as a result of armed attacks on facilities to help prisoners escape.

Both scenarios, along with the estimated number of causalities, were however challenged by a report titled “Martyrs Behind Bars” issued by EIPR.

EIPR had said that the commission only visited five prisons, whereas EIPR collected evidence that suggested violence occurred in at least nine. EIPR’s report also stated that it is likely that by the time the fact-finding commission’s report was issued, not all corpses had been identified.

EIPR condemned the failure of the state’s institutions to take prompt action against the violations or prosecute those responsible.

Complaints have been filed by EIPR at the general prosecutor since Feb. 9, however, none of the cases were referred to trial.

EIPR’s letter stated that “the general prosecutor’s office has been grossly negligent in investigating the abuses, unduly delaying the investigations and showing bias,” according to a statement issued by the rights group.

EIPR criticized the investigations conducted by state institutions saying they were “inadequate.”

EIPR called on the special rapporteurs to take urgent action to express their concerns to the Egyptian government regarding the violations against the prisoners.

According to the EIPR report that was issued in August, water and electricity were also cut off inside the prisons, no food was delivered, and visits were prohibited.

“Injured prisoners were denied medical care and in some cases, corpses were left to rot among prisoners in their blocks for days,” the report said.

Boutros told DNE that EIPR is preparing a complaint against the prosecutor in charge of investigations of the violations in Al-Qatta prison.

“We have a lot of information about the incidents inside Al-Qatta prison, this is where the most prisoners died and this is where the prosecution is being the most biased,” Boutros said.

None of the suspects in the case of Al-Qatta prison have even been questioned, she added.



Share This Article
Leave a comment