CAIRO: Prosecution and other security and prison authorities will not have a say in health care decisions for imprisoned patients, according to new prison regulations announced by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) Wednesday at a press conference.
“The prison’s doctor and medical team will be soley responsible for patients’ health inside prison,” stated Salah Salam, a doctor and member of council.
“Many prisoners faced a problem when they needed to be treated in external hospitals,” said NCHR member Hafez Abu Seada, who was part of the joint committee between the council and the ministry to draft the new list of regulations.
The ministry has assigned staff to training sessions on how to apply human rights standards in their job, Maj. Abu Bakr Abdel Kereem, member of the Ministry of Interior’s department of human rights, told The Cairo Post on the sidelines of the press conference.
“In case jail or prosecution authorities object to a prisoner being treated in a private hospital for security reasons, they must refer to the medical administration in prison, which will make the final call,” Salam said.
The changes follow recommendations of the NCHR, that resulted in the amendment of eleven articles and the addition of six articles to guarantee the rights of prisoners. The main changes concern nutrition improvements and an increased number of visits, in addition to more leisure time.
“We could not accept the way prisons have become,” stated Kefaya movement founder and NCHR member George Ishaak, as co-member Abu Seada explained that the council’s recommendations were based on prisoners’ demands which the council noted during its several visits to different prisons, such as Tora and Wadi el-Natroun.
Seada added the council will rely on prisoners’ complaints and would continue systematic prison visits to follow up on the implementation of the new standards.
Egyptian prisoners are paid 7 EGP per day, and the conditions in jail are risky for their health as basic hygiene services are almost non-existent. The new regulations require prison staff to undergo a medical examination every 15 days. Additionally, it allows prisoners to be transferred to outside hospitals if needed, since the prison hospital could be missing some equipment.
The NCHR also conducted visits to Qanater and Abu Zaabal, two of Egypt’s largest prisons. Members said they interviewed jailed activists such as Abdullah el-Shamy, following claims of horrific conditions and systematic torture. Ishaak had previously denied any systematic torture practices.
“This is the first time the Ministry of Interior and the NCHR work together and this conference marks the beginning of the cooperation between the two bodies,” President of the Council Mohamed Fayek declared at the conference opening, as the rest of members promised more human rights reforms.
The Freedom for the Brave Movement published a medical report in June on the deteriorating health condition of Tora prisoner Mohamed Sultan, in response to a state-affiliated committee’s statements on his health earlier this week.
Sultan has suffered from pulmonary clots for five years, for which he has been receiving treatment and following up with a medical center in the U.S. state of Ohio. Sultan was shot during the dispersal of Rabaa al-Adaweya square and the resultant arm injury required internal surgical wires his family said were removed in prison without proper preparation or anesthesia.
Moreover, Salah Sultan, Sultan’s father, claimed his son at one point in prison lost consciousness for nearly 17 consecutive hours and did not receive any medical care despite being transferred to a hospital, as “there were no doctors,” leaving him to be examined the next morning.