Nat’l Council for Human Rights announces visit to Qanater prison
women’s prison in Qanater - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: The National Council for Human Rights announced Thursday it would visit the women’s prison in Qanater.

The recent hunger strike of Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah el-Shamy and accusations of poor treatment prompted calls for inspections of prisoner treatment in detention facilities.

The visit by the 25-member council, established in 2003, follows spot inspections by the Civilian Collaborative for Human Rights, El Naqeb organization, the Arabian organization, and 3 other human rights movements, last month, to the Tora prison complex.

The National Council for Human Rights has performed inspections in the past, however the results have not been made public.

“These kinds of visits are among the several duties of the council, but they should write reports to clarify the conditions that have changed in the jails since the previous visits,” Mostafa Mahmoud, a lawyer for the Nazra for Feminist Studies center, told The Cairo Post.

He said that announced visited probably will not document irregularities  in the living conditions or other areas of the prison.

Nazra for Feminist Studies recently signed a joint statement with 16 other NGOs condemning what it said was a continuing pattern of abuse of detainees inside jails and police stations.

“It’s not part of our duty or job responsibilities to reply an offending statements, or clarify our actions, we do what we are supposed to do: arrange visits, make statements, and observe any  violations that could happen to any Egyptian citizen,” Abd el-Gafar Shokr, the council’s vice president, told El Bawaba news.

Other organizations have expressed frustration with the council; a member of Nazra said in a press conference about recent sexual assaults in Tahrir Square said that a member of the council had asked her to stop protesting, and instead come and talk with her.

“When I was standing in front of the opera house and during our a protest that condemned rape and harassment, I found a women coming towards me, asking ‘what do you want from us as an organization, why don’t you want to work with us, I’m working inside the National Council of Human Rights, and we just need a chance to communicate and work with you,’” the member said.

Following the sentencing of activists Ahmed Doma, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel for violating the protest law,  Kamal Abas, one of the council’s members, threaded a mass movement of resignation, if the authorities didn’t listen to the council’s demands to reconsider the controversial law, but none have resigned.

Following the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, a number of activists as well as journalists were arrested and detained, and many claimed they had either witnessed or been subject to abuse and beatings while in detention. Sixteen human rights organizations released a statement in February decrying what they said was a systematic pattern of torture in detention. The Ministry of Interior responded soon after, but denied the existence of any policy of torture, saying instead that any incidents were individual cases.

The ministry’ assistant for public relation and media, Gen. Abd El Fatah Osman, said  in a phone call to Manshet TV show Tuesday evening “Egyptian prisons have become more like hotels, and all the accusations of any torturing inside jails are not even close to the truth.”

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