Egyptian Interior Ministry security forces stormed into prison cells attacking and injuring hundreds of political prisoners at Borg al-Arab Prison in Alexandria during the week of November 13, 2016, Human Rights Watch said Saturday.
The attacks came after prisoners protested poor conditions and humiliating treatment, according to HRW, adding that Egypt’s prosecutor general should order a prompt and transparent investigation into the events and hold those officers responsible for abuse to account.
Families and lawyers of prisoners said that prison guards attacked the inmates in their cells with batons, sticks, teargas, and pepper spray, causing burns and fractures. One prisoner appears to have sustained some form of brain trauma, causing memory loss. Lawyers said the prisoners believed the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Forces probably provided support.
“Instead of investigating complaints of abusive treatment and poor conditions, Egyptian authorities attacked and beat the prisoners” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Egyptian authorities are responsible for the wellbeing of everyone in their custody and have a duty to investigate if prison or security officials cause them harm, and to hold those responsible to account.”
Following the attacks, on at least three days, prison authorities transferred at least 250 inmates, including some who were injured, to three other prisons – Minya, Gamasa, and Wadi al-Natroun – all far from Alexandria, which inmates and their families consider a punishment.
Human Rights Watch spoke with the sister of one inmate, the father of three other inmates, lawyers for 10 inmates, and a lawyer who is also a prominent Alexandria rights activist and reviewed Facebook posts by family members of several other inmates who had been beaten. The family members said that the authorities threw away inmates’ belongings, including utensils, hygiene products, clothes, and medicine, and then transferred them and dozens of other inmates, in batches to other prisons. The prison authorities handcuffed and blindfolded inmates in their cells before forcing them into transfer vans. The family members and lawyers told Human Rights Watch that security forces beat inmates when they arrived at the prisons in Gamasa and Minya.
Neither the Interior Ministry nor the Prosecutor General’s office released any statement on the events and the prosecutor general has not responded to a December 16 letter from Human Rights Watch requesting information.