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3 members of Egypt Council for Human Rights say Aqrab prison report 'distorts reality'

Ahram Online , Wednesday 2 Sep 2015
Rajia Amran
Human rights lawyer Rajia Amran (Al-Ahram)

Three members from Egypt's semi-governmental National Council for Human Rights withdrew from the council’s meeting on Wednesday in objection to a report issued by the council praising treatment of inmates by jail authorities after an inspection visit by council members to the prison last Thursday.

The three dissenting members added in a statement they issued after they walked out of the council's meeting that they had repeatedly asked the council leadership to include them in the delegation which was formed to inspect the prison, but were excluded.

They said that they requested to take part in the delegation in order to verify first-hand claims by families of detainees and prisoners that they were being treated badly during visits, which reportedly last only three minutes, as well as other  allegations prisoners were being tortured and abused.

The members who withdrew from the meeting, human rights lawyer Rajia Amran, political activist George Ishaq and labour rights advocate Kamal Abbas, issued a statement said that they also objected to the procedures that were followed during the visit to the maximum-security facility.

Numerous rules were broken by the members that inspected the prison, the statement said, the most significant of which was allowing the interior ministry to film the visit.

The was published on Wednesday morning by Al-Ahram Arabic news website and featured council members along with interior ministry officials showing approval after checking the prison's kitchen and tasting the food.  

The statement said that the film "is misleading and hides real conditions inside the prison."

The inspection committee included council members Salah Salam, Hafiz Abu Saeda and Mohamed Abdel-Kodous.

Abdel-Kodous had earlier issued a separate statement that also criticised the council's report, saying that "it does not reflect the true situation at the prison."

Last Thursday, however, the President of the National Council for Human Rights, Mohamed Fayiq, said that the committee found no evidence of abuse or torture at Al-Aqrab.

Critics say Fayiq's comments contradict reports from the prisoners’ lawyers, their families and human rights activists.

Four deaths have been documented in the past two years in the prison, with reports saying that other prisoners were denied medical treatment and subjected to harsh living conditions.

Al-Aqrab, which is located in Torah south of Cairo, holds political prisoners including jailed members from the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Human rights activists have called for the closure of the prison since the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

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