CAIRO: The Cairo Security Directorate Sunday started installing air conditioners and water coolers inside detention rooms at police stations after a number of suspects in police custody died of heat-related causes, Youm7 reported Monday.
The installation of air conditioners came after a decision by Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim to end deaths in custody, and according to the ministry, prevent the spread of disease. The directorate has installed air conditioners at two police stations in Cairo, and the ministry plans on installing more at all police stations.
Six prisoners reportedly died in the last two months due to either illness or overheating, according to Al-Watan newspaper.
However, Arab Penal Reform Organization head and lawyer Mohamed Zarea described the decision to install air conditioners as “propaganda” more than a real attempt to “adjust the conditions of the police stations.”
He said air conditioners may be a good first step, but do little to address the problems of mismanaged, overcrowded detention centers in police stations.
Zarea told The Cairo Post Monday, “The police stations are supposed to be places where detainees are locked for 24 hours, and then referred to the prosecution, but this does not happen.”
As prisons are already full, police stations are now playing the role of prisons, where they receive detainees who are pending investigations and on remand that may have their detention extended by 15-45 days, Zarea said.
Furthermore, he noted that unlike prisons, “police stations offer neither good food, nor doctors.”
During July, temperatures rose to over 40 degrees Celsius, “which equals 70 degrees Celsius in locked detention rooms,” according to Zarea.
Overcrowding in police station detention became widespread after mass arrests following the January 25 Revolution. Many human rights organizations issued reports condemning the poor conditions of detention rooms, which are frequently maxed passed capacity.
Youm7 reported Monday a number of prisoners have died of suffocation due to overcrowding in detention rooms.
Egypt is obligated to protect the health of prisoners and detainees under the Constitution, prison regulations and international agreements.
Additional reporting by Ahmed Marei and Abdullah Mahmoud.