Amnesty International has reported that Egypt keeps political prisoners locked up in “prolonged” and “indefinite” solitary confinement and subjects them to “horrendous physical abuse,” saying such treatment amounts to torture under international law.
The London-based rights group released the results of a new research dubbed “Crushing humanity: the abuse of solitary confinement in Egypt’s prisons” on Monday, saying dozens of detained journalists, rights activists and members of the opposition are “unlawfully” being “held in prolonged solitary confinement under horrific conditions.”
In the 56-page report, Amnesty said those held in solitary confinement farce “horrendous physical abuse, including beatings by prison guards and having their heads repeatedly dunked into a container filled by human excrement,” which in many cases results in “panic attacks, paranoia, hypersensitivity to stimuli, and difficulties with concentration and memory.”
Upon returning to the prison population, the report added, those tortured in solitary cells “suffer depression, insomnia and an unwillingness to socialize or speak to other people.”
The research, based on dozens of interviews with former prisoners and with family members of the current prisoners, also found other forms of abuses such as food deprivation, humiliation and restricted movement for years on end.
“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,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa campaigns director.
“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,” Bounaim said.
The study also revealed in most cases, prisoners are being held behind bars solely because of their “past political activism.”
“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,” it added.
Amnesty had sent a memorandum containing a summary of its latest research to the Egyptian authorities last month, but it has received no response.
Authorities have not yet commented on the report, but the Interior Ministry has in the past denied allegations of systemic torture. It blamed abuse in prisons on individuals, saying they are held accountable. It claimed that several officers have been tried and convicted of torture, while others have been acquitted.