Hafez Abu Saeda, a member of the state-appointed National Council for Human Rights and head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) (Photo:Al-Ahram)
A delegation of Egyptian human rights workers visited the newly established 15 May prison on Sunday saying it guarantees the “minimum levels of decent living”.
The 15 May establishment is intended to be the central prison for Cairo Security Directorate made only for housing those in preventative detention pending investigations.
In September 2013 law amendments allowed the authorities to extend preventative detention indefinitely instead of putting a time limit of two years.
The prison’s capacity can hold up to four thousand people and currently 3020 people are detained there.
The delegation included Hafez Abu Saeda, head of Cairo-based Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), and other human rights figures including Alaa Shalabi, Dalia Zeyada, Hazem Mounir, and Mahmoud Badawi.
Abu Saeda commented saying that establishing such a prison is an “important experience” to help reduce “overcrowding” in police stations.
He also pointed out to “the importance of cooperation between the interior ministry and human rights organisations, and called for increased cooperation and communication between them”, saying this “works to reduce violations in prisons and police stations, which will be an important step for human rights in Egypt.”
Egypt has been detaining an increasing number of people pending investigations and more people have been facing lengthy preventative detentions, mainly over charges of illegal protest and violence.
There have been calls for amending the protest law, deemed too harsh by local and international rights organisations, in addition to speeding up investigations and easing release policies to face the quickly rising numbers of “temporary” detainees.
In recent months, alleged accounts of abuses and torture in detention cells surfaced, flashing back to the infamous reports of police assaults during Hosni Mubarak's era.
In its statement, the delegation said the 15 May prison “is designed in a modern style to ensure a minimum level of decent living and health care”. It also inspected the kitchen which it said was designed to provide “healthy food for prisoners”.
It also said the prison included an “administrative section and rooms for advice, as well as prosecutors and lawyers” to renew detentions and facilitate paperwork.
Five new prisons have been opened in Egypt in the past two years raising the number of prisons to 42 around the country. Two more prisons are expected to open within the coming months.