NCHR requests another visit to infamous Scorpion Prison
Egyptian army soldiers guard Torah Prison Complex, which hosts the Aqrab or Scorpion Prison. AP

CAIRO: The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) has requested to pay another visit to the maximum-security prison “Scorpion” to inspect complaints about the facility’s continuing bad conditions.

“We move in the light of reports and information available mainly on the media about the prison,” Nasser Amin, head of the Bureau of Complaints at NCHR, told The Cairo Post Friday.

Short family visits reaching only few minutes, ban on sending blankets and winter clothes to prisoners and lack of medical follow-up to patients with chronic diseases are among the most complaints circulated by families of inmates visiting Egypt’s infamous  prison.

Following similar complaints reported in August, NCHR visited the prison and released a report that met wide criticism by rights groups who saw the state-run council was “complimenting authorities”

Among the findings, the report showed that prisoners enjoyed medical and nutrition services, while complaints about banning family visits were found not true.

“The report said that medical check-ups are provided, while on the other hand, inmates are suffering health deterioration; how come if they were truly receiving their medicines on a regular basis?” said Madeha, the daughter of a 63-yr Magdy Qorqor, who is currently at the prison hospital after developing lung fibrosis.


What is it like inside?

Located in the Torah Prison Complex in south Cairo, the Scorpion prison (a translation to its Arabic word Aqrab,)  is officially called Prison 992, and hosts many Islamists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The facility is famous for being a bleak and notorious place for basic human rights, called in the media the “Graveyard .” A cell inside the prison is basically dark with a thin beam of light coming through a steel window, according to Madeha.

“My father suffers respiratory allergy, and the air inside the cell is not renewed. He does not go for sporting,” Madeha told The Cairo Post Friday.

Her request to send in an allergy spray was repeatedly denied by prison authorities, and was only accepted few days before her father was admitted to hospital over high blood pressure.

During 2015, Madeha has visited her father only five times, with two to three months separating each visit.

“The visit only lasts for three minutes in a small room resembling a cabin. I only can see him through a sound proof glass and talk to him through the phone while an officer keep shouting behind me ‘hurry up’.”

In a March interview with The Cairo Post, the recently pardoned Al-Jazeera Journalist Baher Mohamed described his two-month solitary confinement at the Scorpion Prison as the worst days in his imprisonment period that lasted for over a year.

He used to sleep on the floor in a “small, cold cell” and “cannot see sunlight or even have a watch to know the time.”

NCHR’s head of the Human Rights committee, Hafez Abu Seada told The Cairo Post Friday that the prison told the council’s delegation in August that complaints like: withdrawn beds off the cells, lack of blankets and heavy clothes and requests for face-to-face family visits will be considered.

Madeha criticized  NCHR’s August report as not reflecting the reality inside the prison. “I still submit complaints to the council because it is the body that is assigned to follow up on human rights, but I am not waiting for results.”

Qorqor, Madeeha’s father, has been in remand since a year and a half pending investigations over charges of belonging to an outlawed group and disrupting the constitution.

Egypt has not approved a UN protocol that would have allowed independent observers to visit prisons. Rights groups have spotted dozens of cases of torture and inhumane treatment in detention places, including the Scorpion prison. The Nadeem Center documented some 625 torture cases among prisoners in 11 months in 2015, including 37 deaths.

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