Amid information blackout and communication loss with prisoners: We demand to enforce article 38 of Prisons Regulation Law
Egyptian Front for Human Rights condemns violations committed by the Ministry of Interior against defendants regarding their right to communicate with their families. A huge number of defendants have suffered from complete isolation since the Ministry of Interior announced visits suspension as of March 2020 in order to avoid Coronavirus breakout. The ministry embarked on such action without providing other alternatives which have led to complete loss of communication with prisoners. This has created a state of complete information blackout regarding the health condition of the defendants as well as violated their rights to communicate with the outside world. Egyptian Front assures the defendants’ right to communicate with the outside world as stipulated by article no. 38 of Prisons Regulation Act “Every convict has the right to keep up a correspondence and to be visited by his relatives twice a month under the surveillance of prison administration”
Over the years, the government has promised to enforce article no. 38 of Prisons Regulation Law allows defendants to make phone calls. In 2008, the public prosecutor approved of giving defendants access to make two calls a month from inside the prison. In 2011, Minister of Interior, Adly Mansour, assigned the prison affairs to discuss providing detainees with access to phone calls two times a week and to start installing phone cabins inside prisons.
In 2015, the government repeated its unfulfilled promise to install phone cabins inside the prison as Assistant Minister of Interior for Prison Affairs assured collaborating with the Ministry of Communication to install telephone lines across all prisons and thus enforcing bylaw amendments approved by president El-sisi. Currently in 2020, while all prisoners and their families needed such promises to have been fulfilled, it appears that it hasn’t been more than mere “statements”.
Amid coronavirus situation, the government has enforced a series of precautionary measures including visits suspension that started the last march and continued until now. Even though, the government is taking action to reduce curfew hours and restore work inside the court, the issue of restoring family visits is not addressed until now.
Since visits suspension, families have lost communication with their beloved ones inside prisons. Also, there has been total information blackout regarding the number of coronavirus infections and deaths inside. For example, there has been total blackout regarding the situation of journalist Solafa Magdi inside al Qanater prison for four months now. This is according to her mother who goes once a week to al Qanater in a failed attempt to get a letter from her daughter.
Also, the family of Alaa Abd el Fattah has suffered intransigence regarding letters exchange as well as allowing medicine and personal belongings inside. Alaa’s family has been subjected to several violations from arrest, detention, and were physically assaulted by women in front of Tora prison in plain view of prison security officers. This until Sanaa Seif- Alaa’s sister- was abducted from the area of the general attorney’s office as she wanted to file a report regarding the physical assaults that she and her family were subjected to. She was then transferred to al Qanater prison against the backdrop of spreading false news, promoting for a terrorist crime, and misusing social media platforms. Since then, Sanaa’s family lost all forms of communication with her.
The rights of the prisoners are used as a tool of torture as they are subjected to inhumane living conditions, over-crowdedness, medical negligence, solitary confinement, ill-treatment, physical assaults, visits suspension, and deprivation, and letters exchange suspension between detainees and their families.
The Egyptian government violates rule no. 3 of The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (The Nelson Mandela Rules) which stipulates that “Imprisonment and other measures that result in cutting off persons from the outside world are afflictive by the very fact of taking from these persons the right of self-determination by depriving them of their liberty. Therefore the prison system shall not, except as incidental to justifiable separation or the maintenance of discipline, aggravate the suffering inherent in such a situation.
Amid Coronavirus spread, Egyptian Front emphasizes the prisoners’ rights to adequate livelihood conditions and medical care access to combat coronavirus inside the prison. We also call upon the Ministry of Interior and prison administration to enforce and adhere to article no. 38 of Prisons Regulation Law that stipulates the defendants’ rights to communicate with their families.
In the course of suspending family visits, Egyptian Front demands enforcing alternative modes of communication such as letters and phone calls. We also call upon the prison administration to be transparent and announce the number of infected prisoners and deaths inside the prison. Egyptian Front renews its request to release all prisoners held in pre-trial detention to protect their lives since there are other alternatives to pre-trial detention such as compelling defendants not to leave their homes according to article no. 201 of Criminal Procedure Law.