The continued appalling treatment of Gehad el-Haddad in the notorious al-Aqrab prison is cruel, inhuman and unacceptable, said Amnesty International today, in response to fresh information that prison authorities have confiscated his wheelchair and other belongings and moved him back to solitary confinement after spending a month in Liman Tora prison awaiting medical treatment which he did not receive.
“Amnesty International is deeply concerned about Gehad el-Haddad’s deteriorating health and the abusive conditions in which he is being held. The inhumane conditions Gehad has been subjected to since his detention in 2013, including prolonged solitary confinement, have resulted in much of his ongoing suffering, pain and the need for a wheelchair. When he arrived in prison he was a healthy man in his early 30’s. Now he can’t move to perform ablutions or use the bathroom without help,” Said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.
“The first time I saw Hisham after his arrest was in the hospital. He described his solitary cell to me. He could not see anything in the darkness of the cell. It was hard for him to breathe there was no window or source of air. He said it felt like being buried alive. When the prison guards finally moved him from the cell, it felt like being reborn. But after just a few months in the prison’s hospital, he was put back into solitary confinement again.”Said Manar el-Tantawie, Hisham Gaafar`s wife who has been held in solitary confinement in al-Aqrab Prison.
New research by Amnesty International reveals that prisoners detained on politically motivated charges are being held in prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement in Egypt – at times for several years – which in and of itself amounts to torture. They are locked in their cells for 24 hours for weeks at end, denied any human contact and kept in horrific cell conditions.
Crushing humanity: the abuse of solitary confinement in Egypt’s prisons reveals that dozens of detained human rights activists, journalists and members of the opposition held in solitary confinement are being targeted with horrendous physical abuse, including beatings by prison guards and having their heads repeatedly dunked into a container by human excrement. The intentional mental and physical suffering being inflicted on them, results in panic attacks, paranoia, hypersensitivity to stimuli, and difficulties with concentration and memory.
“Under international law, solitary confinement may only be used as a disciplinary measure of last resort, but the Egyptian authorities are using it as a horrifying ‘extra’ punishment for political prisoners – meted out in a ruthless and arbitrary manner designed to crush their humanity and eliminate their hope in any a better future,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.
“Prison conditions in Egypt have always been bad but the deliberate cruelty of this treatment shows the wider contempt for human rights and dignity by the Egyptian authorities.”
Amnesty International has documented 36 cases of prisoners being held in prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement six of them are unlawfully isolated from the outside world since 2013.
On 3 May 2018, the Egyptian authorities sent a letter to Amnesty International responding to the findings of the report that were sent to them before the launch. The authorities argued that placing prisoners in individual cells does not amount to solitary confinement prohibited by International Human Rights Law and that accommodating prisoners in these cells is related to the design of many prisons in Egypt and has nothing to do with punishing prisoners for their political backgrounds. However, the authorities` explanation does not justify confining prisoners to their “individual cells” for more than 22 hours a day for a duration that exceeds 15 days, which is the core definition of prolonged solitary confinement that amounts to torture or other ill-treatment.
Former prisoners interviewed by the organization described being beaten by prison officials for extended periods, then being held in restricted spaces, alone, for weeks on end. Six prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for over four years.
Prisoners also receive insufficient food and water and inadequate sanitation and bedding. Former prisoners who spent a long time in solitary confinement told Amnesty International that such experience has had a fundamental effect on them psychologically. They suffer depression, insomnia and an unwillingness to socialise or speak to other people when released back into the prison population.
Those targeted also include members of a range of opposition political parties and movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the 6 April Youth Movement.
All documented cases followed a pattern of confinement for more than 22 hours a day, with between 30 minutes and an hour of exercise daily. Contact with other prisoners was not permitted, prisoners denied family visits on regular basis and one prisoner has not received a single visit since October 2016. Prisoners also were not told when their solitary confinement would end, leaving them with no hope of an end in sight.
Solitary confinement is at times used to discipline prisoners who complain of ill-treatment, as well as those caught sending letters communicating poor prison conditions.
In some cases, the practice has been employed to coerce confessions from those detained on trumped up charges. In most cases however, Amnesty International found that there are groups of prisoners held in solitary confinement indefinitely purely because of their past political activism.
“Egyptian prison officials are unlawfully applying solitary confinement as a means of stamping out dissent or any perceived misconduct from prisoners, many of whom have been imprisoned on spurious charges in the first place,” said Najia Bounaim.
“Not only are Egyptian human rights defenders, journalists and members of the opposition being targeted for peacefully expressing their views in the outside world; their persecution also continues behind bars.”
Amnesty International conducted 91 interviews with nine former prisoners and with the family members of 27 individuals who are still imprisoned. The interviews were carried out between March 2017 and April 2018.
Amnesty International submitted a memorandum containing a summary of this research to the Egyptian authorities on 16 April.
“The utter indifference shown for the psychological suffering prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement inflicts on human beings already being punished with imprisonment, often just for their political beliefs, is a demonstration of the brutality that permeates many Egyptian institutions today,” said Najia Bounaim.
Since the replacement of former President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013 by President Abdelfattah al-Sisi, who is now serving a second term, the Egyptian authorities have rounded up tens of thousands of individuals on politically motivated charges.
Solitary confinement is a common practice in all Egyptian prisons. However, Amnesty International focused this report on the experiences of prisoners detained for political reasons because research showed that solitary confinement for these types of prisoners was more likely to be prolonged and indefinite.
14 prisons in seven different governorates in Egypt were examined in this report including Liman Tora Prison, Tora Investigation Prison, Tora Maximum Security Prison 1 (more commonly known as al-Aqrab, or the Scorpion Prison). 20 prisoners of the 36 documented in the report have been held in prolonged solitary confinement in Tora Complex Prisons.
These prisons are located in governorates where security forces have arrested and detained thousands of individuals on politically motivated charges
Published on AI on May 7, 2018
Narges Mohammadi Calls on MPs to End the “Illegal” Torture of Solitary Confinement in Iran’s Prisons
Imprisoned prominent human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has called on members of Iran’s Parliament to investigate and end the “illegal” practice of solitary confinement of prisoners.
“As a defender of human rights who has been tortured by this practice, I consider it my duty to take every opportunity to express my protest against solitary confinement, the suffering victims of which I continue to see in Evin Prison,” wrote Narges Mohammadi in a letter from the prison where she is serving a 16-year sentence for peacefully advocating for human rights.
“I am sure you are aware that under the laws and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and based on the opinion of the Supreme Administrative Court, keeping suspects in solitary confinement is not only illegal, but also a clear violation of the constitutional and basic human rights and dignity of prisoners, instituted by the security and judicial agencies without rules or limits,” she wrote.
Article 39 of Iran’s Constitution forbids “all affronts to the dignity and repute of persons arrested, detained, imprisoned, or banished.”
The letter, published by the Defenders of Human Rights Center on October 8, 2017, addressed members of Parliament’s Article 90 Committee, which is authorized by the Constitution to investigate citizens’ complaints against the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state.
In her letter, Mohammadi—a 45-year-old mother of twins who is currently being held in Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward—mentioned 15 other cellmates who she said have spent a total of 140 months in solitary confinement throughout different periods of their incarceration.
Mohammadi also listed examples of abuse and suffering that she said have occurred while prisoners have been held in solitary confinement:
– Death under interrogation (Zahra Kazemi, Zahra Baniyaghoub, Sattar Beheshti…).
– Sexual and other assaults.
– Diseases and ailments, especially psychological disorders.
– Extraction of false confessions under psychological pressure, which are used to justify heavy prison sentences.
Mohammadi called on the MPs to:
“A) Form a committee to study the legal and security aspects of this phenomenon and the continuation of this illegal and inhuman practice by the judicial and security agencies without any oversight.
“B) Investigate the human aspects of this method of torture and its terrible impact and harm on people. Invite the victims who have experienced solitary confinement, listen to their stories and present a report to the public in an open session of Parliament. Then use all your legal authority to put a stop and end to this inhumane method of torture.”
Winner of the 2011 Per Anger Prize for her defense of human rights in Iran, Mohammadi was first arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center,” and “propaganda against the state.”
Upon appeal, her sentence was reduced to six years behind bars and she was released from Zanjan Prison in 2013 on medical grounds.
Mohammadi was arrested again on May 5, 2015, two months after meeting with Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief at the time, at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran to discuss the situation of human rights in Iran.
In September 2016, Branch 26 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld a 16-year prison sentence for “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Center,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.”
Mohammadi will be eligible for release after serving 10 years in prison.
After Hassan Rouhani’s second-term victory in Iran’s May 2017 presidential election, Mohammadi called on him to build the foundations for civil society in Iran.
“As a citizen who voted for you, I should and will be insistent on seeking my demands,” she wrote. “I am an imprisoned civil rights activist, but I am not asking you to free me. I want to see [the dream for] a civil society come true. That is my demand.”
Published on the Center for Human Rights in Iran on October 14, 2017.
The United Nations Committee against Torture on Friday called on Bahrain to release prominent activist Nabeel Rajab from more than nine months of solitary confinement and investigate widespread allegations of ill-treatment and torture of detainees.
Bahrain's mainly Shi'ite Muslim-led opposition has faced a government crackdown since last year in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom. The Western-allied government closed down the main opposition al-Wefaq group, arrested Rajab and revoked the citizenship of Shi'ite spiritual leader Ayatollah Isa Qassim.
The United Nations panel, composed of 10 independent experts, conducted its first review of Bahrain's record in five years at a session ending on Friday.
Abdulla Faisal Aldosari, the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs who led Bahrain's delegation, said it faced national security challenges but was acting on torture complaints. So far 52 cases had been brought to criminal courts in which 101 suspects had been found guilty of torture, he said.
The U.N. experts, in their findings, urged authorities to "put an end to the solitary confinement of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and ensure that he is provided with adequate medical assistance and redress".
His solitary confinement "is reported to have exceeded nine months during which he has been denied adequate medical care".
The U.N. experts cited "continued, numerous and consistent allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in all places of detention" in Bahrain. A "climate of impunity" seemed to be prevailing, with few convictions and light sentences, they said.
The panel voiced concern at reports of coerced confessions obtained under torture, including those of three men executed in January and two men facing the death penalty, Mohammed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa. The panel suggested that the latter be retried.
It also said that Bahrain should ensure that people arrested on criminal charges, including under the terror act, be brought before a judge within 48 hours.
Authorities should also consider repealing provisions that allow civilians to be tried in military courts and improve conditions, especially in Jaw prison where inmates rioted in January.
Human Rights Watch, in a statement, quoted family members of 12 opposition activists held in Jaw Prison as saying the men are shackled whenever they leave their cells, including for medical visits. The men are serving long prison terms in connection with the pro-democracy uprising in 2011.
“Authorities can take reasonable measures to prevent escapes, but shackling infirm patients, many of them torture victims, clearly goes beyond any need for security,” it said.
Published on Reuters' website on May 12, 2017.