HRW urges Egypt to probe ‘dozens’ of deaths in custody
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth - AP

CAIRO: Human Rights Watch called on Egyptian authorities Wednesday to investigate the deaths of detainees over the past year in a report titled “Egypt: Rash of Deaths in Custody, Holding Police Accountable Key to Saving Lives.”

“The authorities should investigate deaths in custody and prosecute police officers and other officials suspected of negligence or abuse. Egypt’s prosecutor general should release all detainees held solely for exercising their constitutionally protected rights to peaceful protest or political expression. The prosecutor should create a process to review pretrial detention practices, with a presumption against pretrial detention in all cases, and ensure the immediate release of all those who need medical care unavailable in detention,” the HRW said in a statement Wednesday.

The organization documented nine deaths in Egyptian jails since mid-2013, based on witnesses from the “victims’” relatives and lawyers and medical reports.

Based upon a report issued by the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, 35 detained persons died during the first 100 days of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s term. The report also cited information given by the Egyptian Forensic Medicine to Al-Watan newspaper published on Dec. 11, in names, that more than 90 detainees died in the jails.

The HRW said that the authorities did not allow medical care for the detainees, nor improve “overcrowding” in cells.

“Many appear to have died because they were held in severely overcrowded cells or did not receive adequate medical care for serious ailments,” the organization continued.

The general prosecution has just filed only one lawsuit against the police.

“Egypt’s prisons and police stations are bursting at the seams with opposition supporters rounded up by the authorities. People are being held in grossly overcrowded and inhumane conditions, and the mounting death toll is the wholly predictable consequence,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director said in the statement.

The Egyptian Minister of Interior assistant for the human rights affairs Abu Bakr Abdel-Kareem told Ahram gate that the HRW report is “not accurate at all,” adding that all prisons provide the “full health care” and all prisons have hospitals for the immediate examination for the detainees.

Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian government have had a tense relationship since a delegation from the organization was denied entry to Egypt in August 2014, near the anniversary of the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square dispersals. HRW had planned to release a report with death toll figures nearing 1,100, nearly twice the official toll announced by Egyptian authorities.

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